Abstract The concept of Ecosystem Services (ES) is relatively new to environmental policy. ES provided by the natural environment are recognised as an important contributor, directly and indirectly, to human well-being. These include the ecosystem’s provision of natural commodities (e.g. ag- ricultural products, forest products etc.), its ability to regulate environmental quality (e.g. by providing clean water, pollination, regulating climate, etc.) and the ability to provide cultural services in the form of attractive landscapes, settings for recreation, and spiritual enrichment. This guidance explains how the Ecosystem Services Approach (ES Approach) can be used to secure better public input into planning and policy design at local, and potentially regional or national, level. Many national or EU policies and laws as well as local level plans and strategies can have an influence (positive or negative) on the quality of the natural environment. Policies and plans can also interrupt the flow of ES or enhance them. Valuation of ES (socio-culturally or economically) can demonstrate the benefits of these services to people and therefore indicate how policy or plans may affect them positively or negatively. Increasingly, there is interest in how economic activity, land-use and development can affect the ability of ecosystems to continue to provide important services to people. Dealing with these complexities is familiar territory for policy decision makers. The ES Approach introduces a new perspective which explicitly demonstrates our dependence on the natural environment and how it should be managed in a way that recognises its service capabilities. Under this new model, decision makers must not only consider the impact of change on environmental quality, but also how it affects the ability of the environment to continue to provide essential ecosystem services to people. This, in essence, is the ES Approach to decision making. This guidance is based on outputs from the EU-FP7 funded OPERAs research project (2013- 2017) on the Operational Potential of Ecosystem Research Applications (www.operas-project. eu).