Draft natural capital protocol launched

24th November 2015

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Stuart Bodsworth

The first draft of a tool to help businesses account for their impact on natural capital has been published for consultation.

The preliminary version of the natural capital protocol was launched at the World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh, along with draft guides for the clothing and food and drink sectors.

The protocol, which has been developed by the Natural Capital Coalition (NCC), aims to harmonise several existing methods of accounting for natural capital risks and lay the foundation for a standard. The NCC has members in industry, science and academia, consultancy, accountancy, professional bodies, government and non-governmental organisations.

The coalition says the protocol seeks to improve decision-making rather than being a formal reporting framework.

Many businesses rely heavily on natural materials and services that nature provides for free, such as pollination of crops and flood prevention. However, there is currently no generally accepted way of including information on non-financial values in board papers or management decisions, leaving decisions on environmental and social issues to be presented as moral arguments, says the coalition.

The protocol aims to help businesses:

  • identify the natural capital impacts or dependencies that are most important for business and its stakeholders;
  • use scientifically and economically correct information, data and methods;
  • ensure that all assumptions, data, caveats and methods used are transparent, traceable, fully documented and repeatable to allow for eventual verification or audit; and
  • ensure data and methods used for an assessment are compatible with each other and the scope of the analysis, according to the overall objective.

The sector guides show companies how to apply the protocol to their businesses and give detailed information on how common industry activities are dependent on natural capital as well as how they can damage it.

The guides were developed with coalition member Trucost, as part of a consortium led by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other independent experts.

Both the protocol and the sector guides are being tested by a group of over 50 businesses, including Dow Chemical, Hugo Boss and Kering.

The consultation ends on 26 February and the coalition hopes to launch the final version in July 2016.

Richard Mattison, chief executive of Trucost said: "The consultation period offers a great opportunity for companies and other stakeholders to understand how applications of the protocol can drive better decision making."


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