Business Impact Conference 2020



THE ROYAL SOCIETY, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG


Stop-press: New reports and pledge

UKCEH has issued a press release today, 2 June 2020, on the release of two reports on the emerging Natural Assets Research and Innovation Agenda in Support of Business: a report on the January policy consultations, and a report on the February cross-sector workshop and conference. The press release calls on interested businesses and other interested organisations to sign a pledge form in support of this R&I Agenda. Signatories to the pledge can be reviewed here.

Conference Ambition

The Conference offered both a retrospective and a forward-look.  It critically reviewed the business impact of R&I implemented under the Valuing Nature Programme, and looked forward to future collaboration between the business, research and policy communities on a major new Natural Assets R&I Agenda in Support of Business and Policy, plans for which are currently being formulated.

Conference Programme

The Conference Programme can be downloaded here and click here to access previously livestreamed video.

Welcome/Keynote Speakers

Sir Duncan Wingham is Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council since it became part of UK Research and Innovation in April in 2018 and was previously Chief Executive of NERC from January 2012. Duncan joined University College London in 1986, where he held lecturing posts at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory and the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. He was appointed as a Chair in the Department of Space and Climate Physics in 1996,
and was Head of the Department of Earth Sciences from 2005 to 2010. From 2000 to 2005, he was founder and Director of the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), which, among other things, discovered the widespread mass loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and its origin in accelerated ocean melting. He was Chairman of the Science and Innovation Board of NERC and, since 2000, the Lead Investigator of the ESA CryoSat and CryoSat-2 satellite missions. He received a B.Sc. from the University of Leeds in 1979, and a Ph.D from the University of Bath in 1984, both in physics.

Sir Ian Cheshire is Chair of Barclays UK. Sir Ian is a key advocate of sustainability in business and green finance. He has been instrumental in pushing forward uptake of natural capital thinking by business and in government, including as CEO of Kingfisher Group plc, Chair of the 2012-13 Ecosystem Markets Task Force, Chair of the Advisory Board for the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Chair of the recent RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Chair of the Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund, Chair of the Global Resource Initiative Task Force, and  lead Government Non Executive Director.

Alastair Johnson is currently the head of Natural Environment Economics within Defra and leads the team that has recently launched the on-line resource ‘Enabling a Natural Capital Approach’ or ENCA. Since 2002 he has worked across various policy areas within Defra including rural, strategy and agri-environment. Before then he worked in the Forestry Commission and what was then called the Scottish Executive.

Sir Charles Godfray is Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Population Biology at Oxford University. He has broad interests in science and the interplay of science and policy, and has spent his career at Oxford University and Imperial College London. His research has involved experimental and theoretical studies in population and community ecology, epidemiology, and evolutionary biology. His current main research projects are on the control of malaria-vectoring mosquitoes using novel genetic interventions, and on the role of meat in the food system. He has a strong interest in food security policy and chaired the Lead Expert Group of the UK Government Office of Science’s Foresight project on the Future of Food and Farming and is currently chair of Defra’s Science Advisory Council. He is a member of the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001 and knighted in 2017.

Conference output

Conference report 

A report on the Conference on 21 February and the preceding cross-sector workshop of 12 February (see Context, below) is available here: Towards a Natural Assets Research and Innovation Agenda in support of UK Business and Policy.

Conference programme

Conference presentations

Conference Session 1: Keynote session - video

Conference Session 2:

Business Impact under the Valuing Nature Programme video

Interviews with conference participants

  • Bill Bidell, Hampton Estate
  • Tom Butterworth, Technical Director for Natural Capital & Biodiversity, WSP
  • Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, Chief Executive Officer, Surrey Wildlife Trust
  • Chris Dodwell, Director, Head of Policy & Advocacy, Director, Impax Asset Management
  • Andrew Griffiths, Nestlé UK&I
  • Stephanie Hime, Director, Little Blue Research Ltd
  • Kerry ten Kate, Director, Biodiversity Initiative, Forest Trends Association
  • Matt Smith, Ecosystems and Natural Capital Manager, Joint Nature Conservation Committee 

Who attended?

The conference was attended by c.120 participants including:

  • sustainability, risk and operations executives in businesses seeking to address impacts and dependencies on nature and grasp emerging opportunities, by working more closely and effectively on relevant R&I with academia
  • academics seeking to enhance the business-relevance and enhance the ‘reach and significance’ of their work (including in relation to periodic Research Excellence Framework assessments)
  • policy-makers seeking to catalyse business and academia collaboration to accelerate policy implementation in relation to natural assets (environmental public goods)
  • consultants and analysts operating at the interface between the knowledge communit, business and policy in relation to natural assets


ARUP, Black & Veatch, Kier Highways, Mott MacDonald, National Grid, WSP, Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), Transport for London (TFL), Nestlé UK&I, Unilever, Suez UK, United Utilities, Thames Water, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), BNP Paribas Real Estate, Barclays UK plc, Impax Asset Management, KR Capital, Conservation Capital, Green Purposes Company, Environmental Finance, British Standards Institution (BSI), Willis Towers Watson, The Country Land & Business Association (CLA), The Crown Estate, Hampton Estate, Aldersgate Group, , Big Sky Science Ltd, Building with Nature, ClimateCare, eftec, Environmental Policy Consulting, GD NatCap Ltd, Global Garden Ltd, Intelligent Health,  Little Blue Research Ltd, Middlemarch Environmental Ltd, Robert O’Connor Ecology, Savills, Sustain Value Ltd, , Vivid Economics, Satellite Applications Catapult, AmbioTEK CIC, Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA), City Hive, Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Business, Innovation and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), HM Treasury, Office for National Statistics, Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology, Green Party Executive, Green Party of England and Wales, Environment Agency, Forestry England, Forest Research, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Marine Management Organisation, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Scottish Natural Heritage, Bee Watch, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, Ecosystems Knowledge Network, , Forest Stewardship Council UK, The Geology Trusts, Green Economy Coalition, National Forest Garden Scheme, The Parks Alliance, Plantlife International, , Surrey Wildlife Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, , Surrey Wildlife Trust, Norfolk County Council, Suffolk Marine Pioneer, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Grantham Research Institute, Imperial College London, Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Queen Mary University of London, Open University, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Martin School, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK CEH), University College London, University of Aberdeen, University of Hull, University of Lincoln, University of Manchester, University of Stirling.

Summary Report on Consultations with the Policy Community

A separate summary report on consultations with the policy community on the emerging Natural Assets Research and Innovation Agenda is available here.


Trends in policy and business in addressing natural assets

Issues around ‘natural assets’ – including their measurement and valuation – are increasingly of interest to business, policy-makers and society. The term ‘natural assets’ is taken here to incorporate the concepts of natural capital (stocks), ecosystem services (flows) and biodiversity. Numerous reports, notably the recent IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, highlight the severity of the decline in natural assets and the need for ‘transformative change – a fundamental system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.

Governments are increasingly addressing natural assets in policy, regulation and related initiatives. At international level, relevant developments include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), and increasing attention to the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services in national accounts and in financial disclosure requirements. 2020 is billed as a ‘Super Year’ for nature with governments and businesses gearing up to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in China in October.

At UK level, since the Natural Environment White Paper of 2011, key contributions include the work of the Ecosystem Markets Task Force, the Natural Capital Committee, and the RSA Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, the Industrial and Clean Growth Strategies, the 25 Year Environment Plan and proposed new Environmental Land Management Schemes. In 2019, the Green Finance Strategy, the draft Environment Bill (including mandatory biodiversity ‘net gain’), the 2050 net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions and the launch of the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity kept up the pace. Policy and legislation at the level of the devolved administrations has shown a similar trajectory.

In response, businesses are increasingly seeking to integrate consideration of natural assets in their strategies, operations and value chains.  Current activity includes work on: biodiversity assessment, accounting and biodiversity ‘no net loss’ / ‘net gain’; natural capital assessment and accounting; generating relevant datasets; developing relevant indicators and metrics; developing tools for valuing and measuring natural assets; modelling natural assets; developing relevant standards; implementing green infrastructure / nature-based solutions; developing financial instruments; developing markets for natural assets; quality assurance and certification; and capacity-building.

Research and innovation are vital to underpin further progress by business in these activities, helping business respond to policy trends and meet the need for transformative change.

Towards a Natural Assets R&I Agenda in support of Business and Policy

The Valuing Nature Programme – commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council – has been carrying out work to identify the research and innovation (R&I) needs of business related to measuring and valuing nature.

The purpose has been to assess the opportunity for the community to come together on a major new Natural Assets R&I Agenda in support of business and policy.

Work to date has involved high-level sector round tables with three broad business sectors (infrastructure, land management, finance) and cross-sector analysis of findings.

The 3 Round Table Reports, together with an Analysis and Options Paper, are available on the Valuing Nature Programme website here.

Consultation with c.20 organisations across the policy community (central government, devolved administrations, arms-length bodies, and relevant committees/commissions) took place in January 2020, to assess the extent to which the R&I needs identified by businesses align with policy, which needs resonate most strongly with the policy community, and appetite across the policy community to collaborate in taking forward the emerging Natural Assets R&I Agenda. A report on these policy consultations is available here.

An invitation-only  High-Level Workshop took place on  12 February 2020 in London – in advance of the Business Impact Conference – to bring together the three sectors with relevant policy-makers and academics to further test the opportunity for, and to articulate, a new Natural Assets R&I Agenda. Workshop output was tabled for discussion at the Business Impact Conference and is incorporated in the Conference report (see link above).

A presentation by NERC on UKRI and NERC funding instruments for research and innovation is available here.

Business impact work under the Valuing Nature Programme (2014-19)

Considerable business impact work has taken place within the Valuing Nature Programme, guided by a Business Interest Group. This work has included:

Relevant work was also carried out under the precursor Valuing Nature Network (2011-13) including in support of the Government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force.

The conference heard case studies and extract lessons from this wide range of work on how to enhance business impact of R&I related to measuring and valuing nature.


This conference was organised under the auspices of the Valuing Nature Programme.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.