The House of Commons debate yesterday evening on the state of natural capital in England and Wales has highlighted the urgent need for Government to bring natural capital into the mainstream and work with businesses to develop best practice in accounting for their use of natural capital.
Zac Goldsmith MP highlighted the UK's leadership in this field but warned that the Government must do more to incorporate this thinking across all its departments.
Speaking during last night's debate the MP for Richmond Park said: "The UK is providing real leadership —that is not in doubt—and I know that other countries are watching our progress.
"My one request to the Minister is to persuade us, and anyone watching this debate, that the Government as a whole really are ready for the challenge and really have incorporated this thinking across all the Departments."
The debate took place exactly one month before the World Forum on Natural Capital, the first major global conference devoted to natural capital, which will take place in Edinburgh on 21 and 22 November. The UN-backed event will help business and sustainability leaders to identify the economic value of natural capital – the world's natural resources such as water, forests and biodiversity, which provide vital goods (such as food and medicines) and services (such as flood protection and carbon capture) to businesses and society.
It will build on the significant private sector interest in the fast-emerging concept of accounting for natural capital that came out of the United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012.
Jonathan Hughes, Programme Director for the World Forum, and Council Member of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), added:
"The natural capital debate is gaining some serious momentum within both corporate and state sectors. There is a growing understanding that the overdraft we are running up with the natural environment cannot be sustained, and that a 'circular economy' approach to the management of the Earth's natural resources is essential to future social stability, ecological health, and economic profitability. Businesses themselves are increasingly realising that corporate sustainability is not just a responsible course of action, but one increasingly essential to the bottom line in a changing world where resource scarcity and climate change are now very real and immediate challenges.
"We have a diverse and stimulating line-up of speakers at the World Forum and a programme of breakout session designed to equip business leaders with the tools and practical techniques required to shift towards more sustainable business models."
The line-up for the World Forum on Natural Capital in November includes:
• Professor Dieter Helm, Independent Chair of the Natural Capital Committee and member of the Economics Advisory Group to the UK Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change
• David Jones, Global CEO of Havas and Co-Founder One Young World
• Sir Philip Hampton, Chairman, The Royal Bank of Scotland
• Jochen Zeitz, Director of Kering and Chairman of the board's sustainable development committee and Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the B Team
• Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
• Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature
Jo Confino, Executive Editor of the Guardian, Chairman and Editorial Director of Guardian Sustainable Business
• Katherine Garrett-Cox, CEO of Alliance Trust
And many more: http://www.naturalcapitalforum.com/speakers
The event will bring together business leaders, environmental experts and government representatives to help businesses identify the value of natural capital and the cost to them if that capital is depleted. Participants include Coca Cola, Nestle, Rio Tinto, PwC, KPMG, YES Bank – India's fourth largest private sector bank – and Kering, the parent company of bands including Puma and Gucci. The headline sponsor is The Royal Bank of Scotland.
In addition to introducing the subject of natural capital and why interest is growing so rapidly, four conference streams will include workshops, case studies and panel sessions on topics including how the financial sector is engaging with natural capital, likely trade-offs in the supply chain, implications for international trade, the trend towards integrated reporting, the relevance of natural capital to sustainable cities and how collaboration is taking place between sectors.
The World Forum on Natural Capital is organised by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in association with the United Nations Environment Programme, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, International Union for Conservation of Nature, TEEB for Business Coalition and The Wildlife Trusts.
The event will take place on 21-22 November at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Full details can be found at naturalcapitalforum.com.