Mission (gray bloc)

Valuing Nature
Samuel Vionnet
Sustainability Expert and Founder
+41 (0)76 372 90 27

I support organisations to integrate the value of natural and social capital into decision making, by providing innovative methodologies, data and expertise.

780% return on investment

For every US dollar invested by Novartis in each of the four carbon-sink projects, an average of USD 7.8 worth of societal value is created thanks to climate change mitigation, ecosystem services,...

How sustainable is hydroelectricity?

The Las Cruces hydroelectric project in Mexico might lead to a negative outcome for the Mexican if built. A natural and social capital accounting method has been used to assess the project's impact,...

There is no sustainability without a balance sheet

Measuring social and natural capital only makes sense when we consider balance sheet. So far, very few organizations have managed to do this. We only see P&L published. But P&L is like GPD, it only...

Jobs at all costs

The private sector is exploring new ways to measure its societal impact, moving beyond traditional economic indicators. We developed an innovative model based on social determinant of health studies....

Achieving net positive impact using the SDGs

If not already done, you will have to use SDGs for defining your net positive impact. But how to measure it? I discuss four steps to support you in this difficult task: your theory of change, your...

Honey is worth more than you think

The Association mellifera is developing a high impact social project around honey bees. Valuing Nature sponsored the creation of one bee colony and calculated the societal value created by the...

Solving half the world’s problems

This article explores the role of Natural Capital within the SDGs and addresses in particular the connexions that exist between SDGs targets. It provide as well some statistics on the maturity of a...

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Mont Blanc

An innovative analysis of the SDG’s targets is unlocking barriers and triggering efficient actions to reach these goals by 2030. By understanding that these targets are inter-connected and that...

The wider benefit of water recycling in a water scarce region

ENGIE, a global energy company, used a water valuation approach to assess the benefits of a water recycling project with the help of Valuing Nature. It showed that the overall benefit generated per...

Water scarcity is not a problem… Undervalued water is

This article summarizes the outcome of a session held at the World Water Week 2015, managed by Valuing Nature, which explored the benefits and limitations of the use of water valuation metrics and...

And now what? The future of Natural Capital Accounting

This article presents the results of a survey, of executives working for private companies and consultancies, on the trends and future challenges of the Natural Capital Accounting approach.

Valuing Water – The Basics

The basic concepts of water valuation as an ecosystem service are presented in this article. Water valuation can fulfil the need for a Natural Capital Accounting method for the private sector. This...

Why is Investment in Watershed Services the future of conservation?

Successful conservation projects have mostly targeted low opportunity cost areas in remote locations until now. Conservation has now entered a new phase by competing with humans needs. Investment in...

The Opportunity Cost of Biodiversity Loss in the Swiss Plateau

Measures to maintain the biodiversity on the Swiss plateau would generate 136 millions CHF of benefit for the society. It is urgent that we realize that the sharp decline in biodiversity in...

Global Land Use Dataset

Data is critical to assess the reliance of companies on natural capital. A new model is available to fill this data gap with a global coverage of land use related externalities.

The Value of Rain

A study showed how to link water footprint and ecosystem services valuation to identify the value of rain and freshwater in Santa Cruz (Bolivia) region. This study was done in partnership with Forest...

Natural Capital Accounting - An Introduction

Recognizing the benefits we obtain from nature is key to ensuring long term profit while creating shared value. This article presents shorty the interest for the methodology, illustrated by a case...

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Valuing Nature
Samuel Vionnet
Switzerland - Guatemala
CH: +41 76 372 90 27
GT: +502 4490-5633‬

Valuing Nature is member of


The Opportunity Cost of Biodiversity Loss in the Swiss Plateau

Measures to maintain the biodiversity on the Swiss plateau would generate 136 millions CHF of benefit for the society. It is urgent that we realize that the sharp decline in biodiversity in Switzerland is impacting our economy.

Release date: 04.06.2015
Category: Ideas

A recent report from the FOEN (the Swiss environment agency) on the status of biodiversity in Switzerland observed that almost 50% of habitats are threatened and that 36% of all species assessed are categorized as threatened on the Red Lists (IUCN). The report mostly summarized observations while making no reference to potential solutions. Switzerland is not recognized as a country neglecting biodiversity, although the latter is nevertheless in sharp decline.

Speaking of solutions, I explored the potential to apply changes at a landscape level on the Swiss plateau (the region in between the Alps and the Jura, which are two mountain chains), in particular the change of agricultural practices towards tree-based intercropping systems. This system uses trees species planted in between fields, similar to the UK or French “bocage” typical agriculture landscape. It has the advantage of protecting the biodiversity in agricultural landscapes while providing additional ecosystem services including (Dupras and Reveret 2015):

  • Soil nutriments control
  • Water quality
  • Soil quality
  • Pollination
  • Biological pest control
  • Air quality
  • Wind control
  • Wood production
  • Climate regulation (carbon storage)

Using a conservative assumption for the potential conversion of the agricultural land on the Swiss plateau using the system in question, the benefit for society would reach 136 million CHF per year. Alternatively, we can turn the result around and realize that we are losing 136 million CHF each year due to the externalities, linked to the lack of biodiversity and green infrastructures in relation to this partiuclar system. As a comparison, the current national subsidy for ecological compensation (which is an obligation for farmers) reaches a sum of approximately 84 million CHF for the Swiss plateau and 140 million CHF for all of Switzerland. 

A change to this system of compensation would therefore benefit the biodiversity while at the same time paying for itself. However, the breakdown of the benefits indicates a reduced agricultural net production, while greatly improving non-marketed services. This situation of shared benefit between the communities, authorities, farmers and society in general is not easy to manage. Tools involving investments in ecosystem services will need to be discussed among the different stakeholders and a solution will need to be negotiated. The most important ecosystem services that would be improved are: water quality and filtration, air quality, climate regulation and soil quality (representing 90% of the non-marketed benefits). 

This estimation is based on a small and limited study using data from the Swiss Office of Statistics, as well as on a specific study of tree-based intercropping systems published in Dupras and Reveret 2015. I transferred, with some adaptations, the results of the study carried out in Québec to Swiss conditions.

Although the results display many uncertainties, the objective is to raise awareness and inform decision makers that landscape or system thinking in biodiversity can lead to increased benefits for society. We lost in ten years (2003-2013) the equivalent of two times the area occupied by the town of Lausanne on the Swiss plateau (in term of agricultural land). It is urgent to act to maintain the quality of the biodiversity within the remaining areas. The implementation of ecological compensation was an important milestone for Switzerland, however a better integration of this measure within the landscape is necessary to tackle biodiversity losses while maintaining our economic system.

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