Natural capital in the Netherlands: Recognising its true value

16-09-2016 | Publication

Nature provides all kinds of goods and services that offer economic opportunities, such as a water, food, building materials and recreation areas. However, this 'natural capital' is under pressure due to the growing world population and increased economic prosperity. Businesses, civic organisations and governments are therefore looking for sustainable ways to profit from natural capital, now and in the future. While this is leading to various innovations, many opportunities are still being overlooked. It is time to step up the effort.

This is concluded by PBL in its report Natural Capital: Recognising its true value. During the past two years, at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, PBL conducted a number of practical studies to explore how society can keep profiting from the goods and services provided by nature, without negatively affecting natural capital.

Still a long way to go in the sustainable utilisation of natural capital

The PBL studies show that initiatives aimed at creating synergy between nature and economy lead to innovation. Smarter, more sustainable use of natural capital results in gains for society (increased benefits, in some cases decreased costs).

However, there is still a long way to go. Front-runners among companies, organisations and governments often have to pioneer to find their way. Existing nature conservation regulations focus on protecting nature from overexploitation, leaving little room for experimentation with sustainable utilisation.

There is a lack of knowledge on how to protect natural capital while at the same time capturing its economic and societal benefits – for example, through sustainable harvesting of resources or sustainable extraction of drinking water.

In order to strengthen the connection between financial and natural capital the barriers identified above must be addressed. Only then will companies, nature organisations and citizens be able to expand on the opportunities for natural capital conservation and sustainable utilisation.

Overview of case studies: