Getting to Grips with Natural Capital – trap or tool for transformation to sustainability?

Session organisers: Chris Short (CCRI, University of Gloucestershire, and Kerry Waylen (James Hutton Institute,

Proposed format: 1) Paper session with 4-5 papers plus discussion (possibly hybrid) 2) followed by
world café workshop. 2 time slots requested.

A discourse on Natural Capital promises that it will help society move beyond conventional ‘business
as usual’, to help better embed sustainability considerations in the decision-making across sectors.
But will it? Natural capital – the world’s stocks of natural assets, and the services that flow from them
– has a variety of potential interpretations and implications. Natural Capital is becoming commonly
cited in policy and other discourses, so now is the time to constructively engage with it, to
understand if and how it can help enable just responses to the climate and biodiversity crises.

In this session we seek to promote informed reflection on the conceptualisation, consequences and
methodologies for studying and engaging with natural capital. We seek contributors bringing
conceptually or empirical insights, from planning, business, policy or third sector. We especially seek
insights from rural landscapes, where management practices and land transactions are already
beginning to change in response to new perspectives on what land is ‘for’.
We propose a two-part session to foster discussion and incorporate multiple perspectives. Note this
session is organised with the support of NICRE where Short is a Co-I
Proposed themes across both sessions:

  • In what ways can natural capital be interpreted, what are the pros and cons of doing so?
  • Insights, theories and methods to unpick Natural Capital and improve future understanding.
  • Examining the disruption associated with natural capital
  • Concepts which help, or hinder, transformation to sustainability
  • Governance changes to facilitate socially just and environmentally sustainable change