OPERAs webinar 3 question by Liz O'Brien

A focus on natural capital accounting is making it more difficult to highlight the importance of non-monetary values. What key approaches do the presenters suggest for highlighting the importance of non-monetary values?


Craig Bullock: Natural Capital Accounting is becoming more popular now especially amongst companies that want to demonstrate some of their environmental credentials. And hitherto they’ve tended to use rather quantitative methods of natural capital. That means conventional economic methods, such as cost based methods. For instance to estimate the cost of replacing natural capital that’s been damaged. So for businesses, such as, for instance a forestry company might want to demonstrate the merits of the business by taking into account the benefits the forests provide for air quality, for flood moderation, for water quality etc. You might also want to take into account the number of visitors to the forest, the spending that they engage in. And those methods can lend themselves to a lot of quantitative estimates using environmental economic approaches. It’s more difficult when it comes to non-monetary methods. There are some benefits a forest might provide, for example, that you can’t really explain using quantitative economic methods. So how do we do that? The strongest argument for the socio-cultural valuation is it helps to explain why those values are there. Why people hold values for things such as forests. And that data isn’t provided by the quantitative techniques that are available. But that doesn’t make it easy still to include in Natural Capital Accounting. And there are big debates going on, even about the use of various environmental economic methods in Natural Capital Accounting to take account of utility values. So it’s even a step further to go and include social and cultural values. It’s a tricky one. I think you almost have to it on a parallel level. And those social and cultural values, they become very important when you consider any kind of development options. They become very important where you want to consider any change. But if you’re just trying to produce a Natural Capital Accounts for an organisation or company, it’s more tricky because accounts by their nature tend to be a more quantitative nature.

Any such accounting should at least list, research and discuss socio-cultural values because sometimes they could be at least the most important.

Posted on: 3 Oct 2017 - 11:58