Who should value nature? Interview with Richard Mattison
Is valuing nature as natural capital the way to reduce environmental degradation or a dangerous distraction that will commodify the environment? Alongside debates on if we should value natural capital is another question that is very rarely asked: who should value nature?
This exclusive interview with Richard Mattison is from the report Who should value nature? by Dario Kenner (Why Green Economy?) published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in December 2014. The report explores how different stakeholders value the environment (ranging from consultancies firms, academics, conservation NGOs to indigenous peoples) and the challenge of identifying who should be involved in valuation in developing countries. Read the report © ICAEW 2014
Trucost was setup in 2000 and is a leading consultancy firm working with companies, investors, governments, academics and thought leaders to understand the economic consequences of natural capital dependency.
1) Explain why you think nature should/should not be valued?
Valuing the services that ecosystems provide to the economy allows companies and governments to understand the reliance we have on nature and develop strategies to mitigate the economic consequences of environmental degradation. Natural capital accounting is an important tool for companies to measure, manage and reduce environmental impacts. It allows environmental performance to be fully integrated into management processes alongside more established business performance indicators.
2) Who should be involved in valuing nature in your country? Who should not be involved? e.g. government, accountants, business, indigenous peoples…
We need a collaborative process that includes all stakeholders. Governments need to conduct natural capital assessments of their ecosystem services and implement environmental policy measures that minimise environmental degradation and reward preservation of natural capital. Businesses need to reduce natural capital impacts in absolute terms, investors need to engage with company boards to ensure environmental risks and opportunities are being managed effectively, and society needs to purchase greener goods and services and adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
3) How do you think different stakeholders including governments, companies, and indigenous peoples will value nature? e.g. are certain stakeholders more likely to use monetary or non-monetary values?
All companies depend on the natural resources and ecosystem services that the planet provides. Natural capital valuation helps companies understand in objective, business-like terms, the environmental risks and opportunities they face and to optimise for these. It allows different impacts to be compared to each other, and also to the regional availability of resources, so that companies can become more sustainable businesses.
4) To make a successful business case to protect nature do you think a monetary value has to be placed on nature? Would a non-monetary value be as effective?
A business case needs to contain quantified data on the effect of a proposed project so it can be compared to other options. Natural capital valuation means the environmental benefits of projects, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from constructing renewable energy generation, can be fully accounted for alongside financial benefits. This will allow us to progress to a more sustainable future.
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