Valuing Nature Business Impact School March 2017

The NERC-funded Valuing Nature Programme Business Impact School aimed to support development of a research community with a broader understanding of how Valuing Nature research can be translated into private sector decision-making and innovation. 

The three-day Business Impact School drew speakers from the Valuing Nature Programme Business Interest Group and other relevant businesses. A workshop session explored the business need for evidence and how to communicate with businesses. The School provided fully-funded places for 25 early career researchers who each gave presentations focused on the business impact of their current research activities. The final day included the real world examples of natural capital accounting at Windsor Great Park.  

Background information available HERE


Presentations are available here:

Business speakers

Early career researchers

See the Twitter Story of the event  STORIFY LINK 

The next Valuing Nature Business Impact School is being planned for Edinburgh for November 2017 - to run back-to-back with the World Forum on Natural Capital.  The call for applications for the Business School is not out yet, but you can apply for a bursary to attend the WFNC here.   Make sure you've signed up to the Valuing Nature Network to receive updates on future opportunities. 

Valuing Nature Annual Conference 2017 - Travel


The John McIntyre Conference Centre is located within Edinburgh University’s Pollock Halls Campus; this campus is well served by public transport and is accessible by car. The building can be accessed from Holyrood Park Road and is within three miles of the city centre.

The nearest railway line is at Waverley Station in the city centre.

The nearest bus stops are located on Dalkeith Road approximately 500 metres from the JMCC building. Numerous bus services stop on Dalkeith Road. Details of timetables are available from Lothian Buses, from their offices within the city and online from

Persons with mobility difficulties arriving by vehicle can access the JMCC building from Holyrood Park Road.

Valuing Nature Conference 2017


Conference Outline






Session G - Business Challenges

Valuing Nature – What am I really thinking?

Guy Duke, Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team (moderator)

  • Mat Roberts, Interserve PLC
  • John O’Neill, University of Manchester
  • Mike Packer, Ecosystem Assets Ltd
  • Alister Scott, University of Northumbria

This session offered some provocative views on valuing nature and business, and stimulated lively debate. Two speakers from business and two from academia addressed questions such as: What does business really think about valuing nature? Is business only interested in the bottom line? Will business only value nature if it pays? Is valuing nature a convenient means for business to perpetuate the exploitation of nature? Are academics jumping on the valuing nature bandwagon falling in to a trap set by liberal economists? What are the problems with valuation of nature? Can valuing nature really help business, and the world, move towards environmental sustainability?


Mat Roberts noted the continuing decline of nature, despite significant resources invested in conservation. He suggested business is doing little with the new valuation approach, but maintained that business is interested. He called for a greater focus on creating and restoring nature, rather than on valuation, and for business models that make it work, in terms of providing a return on investment.



John O’Neill argued that valuing nature is ineffective, unjust and fails to capture values that people properly place on nature. He suggested that the concept of ecosystem services places value only on what produces the service, not on a particular place or set of living things. He distinguished between valuing nature de re (valuing the particular nature of particular places) as opposed to de dicto (valuing the generic services that nature provides) and suggested that the current emphasis is on the latter. He suggested that ‘prosperity ecology’ – valuing nature to secure a return – is a big mistake. He criticised the involvement of conservation groups in questionable offsetting schemes.

Mike Packer suggested that we are working with flawed economics and advocated a move to ‘doughnut economics’. He agreed business does not need ultra-accurate valuation of nature. Rather, business needs to find ways to invest in and trade in nature. Valuing nature can help with this. He argued that businesses change when there is a market, and will build new business models and take risks – this is what business does. But business needs appropriate enabling regulation, appropriate constraining regulation and finance to do this.  He acknowledged that there are risks and pitfalls in this, for nature, but suggested that these are not insurmountable. There are lots of codes and growing experience on how to avoid the pitfalls and mitigate risk. It is possible both to generate a return for business and a return for nature.

Alister suggested that there is a big gap between, on the one side, science and evidence, and on the other, business practice. He suggested there is a bewildering proliferation of tools, an artefact of research commissioning. He argued for more spaces for these two communities to interact, more co-design and research and impact, farming messages better in the language of business and planners, public funding to de-risk business innovation in relation to protecting and valuing nature, and enabling regulation to create new markets and standards for business to protect and value nature. He argued that innovation in business and planning to protect and value nature required ‘conductors’ to guide the various stakeholders, or better, ‘jazz conductors’ because it requires a lot of improvisation.

Discussion following the speakers touched on a wide range of issues, including the (non-)viability of the prevailing growth imperative, the need to adjust to living within Planetary Boundaries, the need for a new definition of prosperity, the extent to which the state has abdicated the role of protecting nature and whether markets can take on this challenge, the questionable dependence of conservation groups on business funding, post-Brexit opportunities to enhance nature conservation, the need for the 25 year Environment Plan to be a cross-government as opposed to a Defra plan, and the opportunity to exploit a number of relevant ‘hooks’ in the Government’s Green Growth Strategy,

Summary Points


  1. Valuing nature / natural capital concepts DO work for business
  2. There is a big gap between science / evidence and business practice


'Prosperity ecology’ – valuing nature to obtain a financial return – comes at a huge risk!


Mat Roberts is Group Director of Environmental Strategy, Interserve PLC. He leads Interserve’s sustainability strategy and lead on the development of the Interserve SustainAbilities Plan with a specific focus on the social and natural capital. He is a Trustee of the Price’s Countryside Fund, a Non Executive Director of Cynnal Cymru Sustain Wales and the National Association of AONBs. John O’Neill is Hallsworth Chair in Political Economy at Manchester University and has just published the paper Life Beyond Capital, which considers the increasing domination of environmental valuation by the language of business-of capital and markets – and problems with the financialisation of nature to ‘make nature pay’. Mike Packer is a Director of Ecosystem Assets, providing consulting services on valuing nature and financing conservation, was Director Impact and Operations, Global Canopy Programme (2013-15), previously worked in trading (sustainable) timber and is a Trustee of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. Alister Scott is Professor of Geography at Northumbria and a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow working on mainstreaming of green infrastructure. He is a self-confessed ‘pracademic’ bringing together research and business to work on environmental challenges.


Valuing Nature attends the British Ecological Society Ghent

The Valuing Nature team traveled to Belgium in Dec 2017 to attend the Ecology Across Borders (#EAB2017) conference where 1,200 of the world’s leading ecologists representing academia, business, NGOs and professional bodies converged on the International Convention Centre in the historic city of Ghent. 

The conference was organised by the British Ecological Society (BES) in partnership with: Gesellschaft für Ökologie (GfÖ) the ecological society of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, NecoV the ecological society of the Netherlands and Flanders and in association with the European Ecological Federation.

The opportunity was used to showcase the Valuing Nature Programme through presentations and discussions on delegates' research in relation to the Programme. A Call for applications for Natural Capital Synthesis Reports was launched at the confernce.



C1: Valuing Nature for Marine & Coastal Decisions

Bringing together new research findings, insight into the changing policy landscape and lessons from practical projects that recognise the huge public interest in marine and coastal environments.

Jonathan Porter, Countryscape  –  Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team

Exploring intangible values associated with saltmarshes & their relation to human health & wellbeing
Erin Roberts, Cardiff University  -  Valuing  Nature CoastWEB project

Revealing values at the coast: narratives from socio-economically deprived areas
Cheryl Willis, Natural England

Using Q-sort methodology to understand plurality in social values & interests around a Marine Conservation Zone in North Norfolk
Carole White, University of East Anglia

A global review of the ecosystem services provided by bivalve aquaculture
Andrew van der Schatte Olivier, Bangor University

The Marine Pioneer: Testing Approaches for the 25 Year Environment Plan in Suffolk & North Devon
Aisling Lannin, Marine Management Organisation

Natural Capital Assessment Tools for the North Devon Marine Pioneer
Sian Rees, University of Plymouth

Valuing Nature International Summit

Building Valuing Nature Network members’ capacity to participate in international research collaborations

The Valuing Nature International Summit will enhance connections between the Valuing Nature Network and relevant international research and innovation opportunities and networks. The summit will consider different approaches to valuing nature and integrating different forms of knowledge into assessments. Participants and international experts will share knowledge of existing projects and initiatives and identify opportunities to support international research collaboration. The summit will take place in early 2020.

Learning outcomes

  • You will understand global approaches to valuing nature and incorporating different forms of knowledge.
  • You will understand the needs of international research initiatives and platforms.
  • You will have a clear career research plan to work towards successful international collaboration.

Who should attend?

The Valuing Nature International Summit is intended for researchers based at UK research institutions that are eligible for UKRI funding. It will benefit people who have made a start on building their international research network. It is not intended for researchers who have already been in leadership roles in research projects or who have extensive international experience.

Application process

There is no charge to attend the summit and food and accommodation will be provided. Delegates will pay their own travel expenses. The applications process will be managed by the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team, ensuring that candidates that have the most potential to benefit from the summit will be selected. To apply to participate complete your application and include details of your existing international activity, describe what you hope to gain from participation in the summit, and attach a 2 page CV and letter of support from your research institution. Further details about applying.


The Summit will include presentations and facilitated interactive sessions. There will also be video links established with potential collaborators around the world.

  • Day 1 Morning – Learning from others
    Presentations from national experts and experienced researchers
  • Day 1 Afternoon – Learning together
    Interactive group work with country and topic experts
  • Day 2 Morning – Building your network
    Opportunities to meet potential collaborators face-to-face and globally, via video
  • Day 2 Afternoon – Working together
    Developing your career research plan and sharing lessons with the Valuing Nature Network

Further information

For enquiries you may contact the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team

This International Summit is funded by NERC as part of the Valuing Nature Programme.


Joint Symposium: Multiple Values of Nature

We are very excited to announce a Joint Meeting of the British Ecological Society Journal, People and Nature, and the Valuing Nature Programme. The meeting will be an international, broad-scope, interdisciplinary event reflecting the ethos of both People and Nature and the Valuing Nature Programme. It will cover many aspects of the multiple values of nature and will broadly fall under three themes as outlined below. The meeting aims to foster cross-disciplinary research collaborations and inform the agenda in this growing and fast-moving research area.

The event will be held at Bristol’s We The Curious from 2 - 3 March 2020.

Abstract submission & registration 

Meeting Topics

Balancing Multiple Values: Opportunities and challenges

Differences in the way humans conceptualise and value nature arise through diverse disciplinary, theoretical, cultural, and political contexts. In recognition of the varied ways nature is valued, this theme focuses on the tensions, contestations and opportunities occurring when multiple values of nature come into contact, and what, if anything, to do about it. Papers that explore aspects of ethics, governance, disciplinary developments, and the different forms of politics that might be required to balance or accept multiple nature values, are particularly encouraged. In the environmental sciences this has been an area of active research for the last few decades, resulting in a range of mathematical models and tools aimed at examining the consequences of land management choices on environmental or cultural resources, exploring the trade-offs that result. Papers that explore the challenges of blending quantitative approaches with qualitative values, for instance through deliberation and participation, and drawing on interdisciplinary approaches are also of key interest. In focusing on the dynamics of balancing multiple values of nature in a range of contexts, the session aims to generate ways forward regarding how and when multiple values might usefully and respectfully be brought together

Values in action: Exploring processes of change and transformation

How do values linked to the natural world relate to wider processes of change and transformation in social-ecological systems? A long standing and persistent thread of sustainability and resilience discourse is concerned with the relationship between values and action, and indeed, much has been written about the challenge of variously translating, communicating and embedding affirmative visions and mandates for nature into the messy world of practice. Relational approaches to people and nature encourage us to explore the practical contexts in which values take shape and exert influence, be that through the institutions we build, the landscapes we plan, the businesses we create, or the communities we grow. In this session, we invite consideration of the many and diverse ways values are fostered, enacted and enabled, but also impeded, as they move through different sites and arena of state and civil society action.

Beyond the Usual Suspects: Finding Diverse Support for Nature Protection

Globally many populations are becoming increasingly detached from nature as the populations become more urbanized and indoor recreation displaces outdoor recreation. Interaction with the wild is now no longer necessary, normal, or possible for many people. These changing relationships with nature have dealt a blow to conservation, as evidenced by the shrinking and aging memberships of many Conservation NGOs. To reverse this trend and expand the base of conservation beyond the mostly-white, educated core, conservationists must utilize new methods that engage with a changing public. This symposium will showcase diverse ways that conservation practitioners have successfully motivated a new cadre of conservationists in novel ways in a variety of settings and with diverse populations. It will also explore the emerging values research that underpins such engagement—research that addresses and integrates values, identity, finance, motivations and inclusion in a sustainability context. Collectively, the symposium will elucidate how and why engagement techniques have evolved from those used in recruiting the ‘old guard’ of conservation. By embracing novel motivations and approaches, perhaps conservation can become more inclusive, imaginative, and successful.

We welcome abstract submissions for both posters and talks to these themes.

Horizon scanning workshop 

We will be conducting a horizon scanning exercise of emerging issues in the values of nature, looking to identify important issues that are not presently well understood.

We encourage all those interested in this research area to contribute to this workshop of emerging issues in the multiple values of nature, by completing a form to suggest issues to be discussed. We welcome contributions from anyone, whether they plan to attend the meeting or not. The form will be available soon.

Abstract submission & registration are now open on the British Ecological website



British Ecological Society