Natural Capital Initiative

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Logo of the NCI

The Natural Capital Initiative (NCI) is a partnership of UK organisations which promotes and supports decision-making across government, business and the private sector that results in the sustainable management of our natural capital.[1] Formed in 2009, it is a partnership between two of the UK's learned societies and two of its scientific research institutes,[2] namely:


Its stated mission is "to support decision-making that results in the sustainable management of our natural capital based on sound science".[3] It aims to provide decision-makers from UK government, academia, business, and civil society with a high-level forum for cross-sectoral dialogue on how to realise the UK government's stated objective of embedding natural capital thinking in policy and practice, and it does this based upon sound evidence from across the natural and social sciences.[1]

The four main objectives of the Natural Capital Initiative are to:

  • Inform the Government's implementation of the ecosystems approach - a framework for looking at whole ecosystems in decision-making and valuing the services they provide.
  • Identify gaps in science, policy and implementation that inhibit an ecosystems approach.
  • Work with government, parliament, agencies, NGOs, the private sector, scientific bodies and the wider public.
  • Inspire the next generation to engage in the sustainable use of the natural environment.


Natural Capital provides us with essential functions and ecosystem services.The NCI supports the UK government and policy-makers in putting natural capital at the heart of economic decision-making.

The NCI was established in 2009 in response to the increasing global awareness of the need for more sustainable management of the world's limited natural resources,[4] as highlighted by the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.[5] It was launched in April 2009 at a three-day symposium held in London, entitled Valuing our Life Support Systems. Its conclusions were published in August 2009.[6][7][8]

In 2012 the James Hutton Institute announced it was joining the partnership.[9]

In November 2014 the NCI held a second major symposium/summit, entitled: ‘Valuing our Life Support Systems’ with the aim of pushing forward the shared natural capital agenda.[1]

The Chair of the NCI (as at 2016) is Professor Alison Hester of the James Hutton Institute[10]


The Natural Capital Initiative has been recognised as one of the key groups or organisations in the UK now examining the main issues surrounding the depletion of natural resources and in encouraging the preservation of natural capital.[9]

Its 2009 symposium recommendations are included in the UK government own recommendations and resource documents to senior policy-makers.[8]

In recent years the NCI's support for the development of high-level policy based on sound science, and in line with an ecosystems approach to decision-making, has transferred into reality in a number of ways. In particular, the Natural Capital Committee, supported by DEFRA, evolved out of the UK Government's 2011 'Natural Environment White Paper', as did the 48 Local Nature Partnerships now established across England which focus on sustainable land management, greening economic growth and human health and wellbeing.[4]

In 2014 the NCI called on the UK government to introduce a natural capital accounting element into its national accounting framework, and supported the Natural Capital Committee's own proposal for a 25-year Government plan for the UK Natural Environment, which is now under development.[11][12]

In 2015 the NCI published a symposium report, entitled 'Valuing our Life Support Systems', which was launched at a parliamentary event on 25 June.[13] The launch was chaired by Barry Gardiner MP. The report spelled out the need for a methodology to be established for valuing natural capital. It also raised concerns there was a danger that natural capital could be treated as a commodity unless an ethical framework was in place to ensure the process of natural capital valuation was applied fairly and evenly. It urged that all natural capital concepts needed to be clear, evidence-based and robust, and it welcomed the Government's proposal to extend the life of the Natural Capital Committee until at least the end of that current parliament.[14]

I love this report...I shall steal shamelessly [from it]...I thought the phrase "The UK is a world leader in environmental science and in writing policy; it is not a world leader in taking subsequent action" was just gorgeous; it should be written in capital letters over the entrance of DEFRA!...There has been avoidable failure by government. If government had included natural capital in their decision-making processes right from the beginning it would not have failed in the way that it has to deliver all those things.

— Barry Gardiner MP 25 June 2015[15]




  1. ^ a b c "The Natural Capital Initiative". Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Natural Capital Initiative". British Ecological Society. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "Our Mission". National Capital Initiative. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Educating human capital for the preservation of natural capital". Conscious Communications. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "Overview of the Milliennium Ecosystem Assessment". Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "Valuing Our Life Support Systems: Symposium Report" (PDF). 1 May 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "Valuing Our Life Support Systems: Symposium Report Executive Summary" (PDF). Natural Capital Initiative. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "What nature can do for you" (PDF). DEFRA. January 2015. p. 23. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  9. ^ a b "James Hutton Institute joins the Natural Capital Initiative". 17 October 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  10. ^ "NCI Chair". Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "Natural Capital Initiative urges Government act now to reverse decline in natural capital". Royal Society of Biology. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "Government will produce a 25 year plan for the natural environment". ESI. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "Valuing our Life Support Systems Report Launch". UK Parliament. 25 June 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  14. ^ "Natural Capital Initiative: Valuing our Life Support Systems Report" (PDF). Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  15. ^ Gardiner MP, Barry. "Valuing our Life Support Systems Report Launch: Chair's welcome (mp3)". Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  16. ^ "Natural Capital Initiative Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018 (Mid-term review 2016" (PDF). NCI. Retrieved 7 March 2016. 

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