global perspectives

Harnessing data for nature: how businesses can lead with natural capital accounting

25 May 2024 / WORDS BY Pollination

As businesses increasingly prioritize local and landscape-scale approaches to manage the risks and opportunities related to nature, the need for high-integrity data and synchronized measurement has become a top priority. Now more than ever, it is critical that key stakeholders are utilizing similar frameworks to track, report, and understand changes in biodiversity and ecosystems.

Drawing on expertise from various sectors, Pollination’s Head of Nature, Dr. Carter Ingram, recently co-led the development of a new peer-reviewed paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, exploring how businesses can leverage natural capital accounting to evaluate, manage, and report their impacts and dependencies on nature. We sat down with Carter to learn more about this growing body of work and how it will enable more informed nature-related business practices and investments.

Pollination: In the paper, you and your co-authors talk about the importance of high-quality data and harmonized measurement approaches when managing nature-related risks and opportunities. Could you provide examples of how businesses can effectively utilize these frameworks to track and report changes in biodiversity?

Dr. Carter Ingram: High-quality data is important because, with guidance from the TNFD, organizations are increasingly integrating the value of nature into their business decisions, strategies, and investments, and they need credible data to do that. In addition, if they are implementing decisions that will directly affect the landscapes in which they’re operating, businesses must make sure their data and measurement approaches are harmonized with other companies and organizations who are also sourcing or operating within those same landscapes.

For example, if multiple companies depend on and impact wild pollinators that are critical for food production in a region or on a shared watershed that provides water quality and quantity for variety of different users, it is important that these businesses are using harmonized data and tools to ensure a common understanding of what’s happening to the biodiversity in that ecosystem over time. This will best inform effective management, conservation, restoration, and business decisions.

Pollination: Can you elaborate on the central challenges businesses currently face in accessing, utilizing, and interpreting nature data? What are some recommendations for overcoming these barriers you outline in the paper?

Carter: Considerable data on biodiversity and ecosystems exists, but a lot of the existing data on nature has not been collected with the intent to support or inform business decisions. Datasets related to nature may not be updated regularly in alignment with the temporal or spatial scales that businesses need for decision-making. In addition, many of these datasets are not collated, organized, managed, or tracked in consistent and consolidated ways over time.

Natural capital accounting, aligned with the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), provides a framework for managing, tracking, and reporting nature data. The resulting accounts offer consistent information on natural capital and ecosystems, allowing for comparisons over time. However, as we acknowledge in the paper, in order for natural capital accounts to be useful for business decisions, they must be prioritized, resourced effectively, and regularly updated and produced at temporal and spatial scales that are relevant to business decision-making.

Pollination: In what ways do you anticipate the insights from the paper supporting business leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders in their efforts to integrate nature considerations into their decision-making processes?

Carter: Our paper emphasizes the importance of natural capital accounts and the information they can provide to support business decisions around protecting nature and developing disclosures. The paper also encourages greater alignment between government-led and private-sector accounts to support better management of the natural capital upon which many businesses, organizations, and communities depend. Ultimately, if we can start tracking and managing natural capital in the same way we track financial balance sheets, we will be better equipped to facilitate societal, environmental, and economic well-being.

Pollination: How is our organization well-suited to help corporates manage the risks and opportunities related to nature?

Carter: Pollination helps a range of businesses understand, measure, value, and manage their financial risks around nature loss and identify the strategic opportunities that will result in positive outcomes for nature. Where available, we leverage natural capital accounting data and information to understand dependencies and impacts, identify opportunities and risks, and assess the degrees to which businesses’ actions impact nature.


To access “Leveraging natural capital accounting to support businesses with nature-related risk assessments and disclosures,” click here.


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