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


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. The main insight is that not all jobs provide positive societal value. Jobs at all costs might not be the best strategy for creating shared societal value and this methodology allows to measure it.

Jobs are at the core of every political campaign, in all economic discourse and indicators used, as well as in the mind of everybody. Jobs are here to provide us with what we need, food, shelter, clothes, etc. They are here to make us climb the social ladder and to give sense to our lives sometimes. When talking about jobs in general, we associate to them a positive societal impact.


However, we heard too many times that economic development or even a protectionism policy will provide jobs to the many, only to experience that they were short term, sometimes unsafe and degradant jobs, without talking about the unfair wages. Inequalities are increasing in all part of the world and the society is challenging the private sector more and more about jobs’ impact. Measuring the number of jobs, or their aggregate economic value, is not a good indicator of societal benefit, to the same extent that GDP does not correlate with social benefit.


Jobs can have both positive and negative effect on our lives, influencing even our health and life expectancy. The research field called “social determinants of health” covers those relationships extensively, with a first revealing publication in 2008 from the World Health Organization. The studies published show that health inequities are driven by social inequalities along our lives, including income inequalities. It has been shown that the absolute level of income of a country is a poor indicator of social benefit. In some developed countries, such as the USA, health inequities between the poorest and the richest are beyond ten years of life expectancy, without even considering life quality issues. In Western Europe, we observe about a few years of life expectancy differences between the poorest and the richest, while in eastern European countries we find similar results than in the US. And those differences are coming solely from social determinants, not from behavioral patterns, environmental factors or even genetic predispositions.


In order to answer the question “what is the social impact of jobs and employment in general?”, a model was developed using the finding of the social determinants of health studies and applied to the private sector context. Nestlé agreed to explore this topic, to support its sustainability strategy on human rights and to move beyond too simplistic economic indicators showing jobs’ impact as only positive.


To start with, we had to define what we measure. The goal of any person is to live a good and long life, so the ambition of the model is to measure exactly this despite the challenge it represents. This is well known as DALYs, or Disability Adjusted Life Years, an indicator often used in public health and policy. DALYs encompass two concepts which are “years of life lost” (early death) and “years of life disabled” (years with injuries or diseases). Measuring the impact of employment and income on our lives is the ultimate measure of social impact for a company.


The model developed is based on Eurostat and WHO statistics. It shows that for selected European countries, one year of equivalent wage in the private sector, for the 1st decile (the 10% the poorest), would result into 0.1 to 0.2 DALYs (10 or 20% of a year of life lost), while it drops well below 0.05 DALYs for the 5th decile (median income) and to 0 above the 8th decile. Those results are then applied to all the wages delivered along the value chain of a company, classified per income decile classes, leading to different health impact.


Those results show the link between income and health of employees, which is totally new in the private sector and in social capital impact valuation as well. The underlying assumption is that employment conditions and environment’s inequalities are a key health determinants in the world on which the private sector has an important influence. Within employment conditions we find the income elements of course, but also the reward and control elements which are important aspects on which to build to create better jobs. It is not always about the money.


A white paper published summarizes the finding of this model applied to the case of a brand of Nestlé. The scope of the case study encompasses the value chain of an agricultural product from field to the final product. The figure below shows different indicators (from left to right): jobs created (in Full Time Equivalent, FTE), economic impact (which is simply the aggregated economical value of the jobs reflected by the respective wages) and social impact (using the model developed and described in this article). The results are presented per income decile (each decile represents 10% of the population, from the poorest to the richest which are included in the 10th decile).

Nestle social impact of employment

Economic impact and jobs are correlated, with the former giving usually more weight to high wages. However when looking at the social impact, we observe very clearly than impact can be positive or negative. Note that in this graph, positive results represent negative impact. Workers at the farms represent the highest negative impact in this case, while factory workers at Nestlé have relatively good conditions which translate into a positive impact. The baseline against which the social impact is measured is the living wage, baseline which is discussed more in details in the white paper and that is an element of further research as well.


The main insight provided by this new model is that not all jobs provide positive societal value. Jobs at all cost might not be the best strategy for creating shared societal value however leverages exist in the form of income, control and rewards, in addition to all the other social benefits and work environment that a company can provide.


This model also provides the ability for companies to identify where they provide positive and negative societal value related to employment. This insight is key to support any sustainability strategy in line with the SDGs, and to mitigate risks (e.g. license to operate, reputation, employees’ engagement, etc). This model represents a first step towards better sustainability metrics in the private sector, leading to better decision-making. It supported as well the development of the Social Capital Protocol, which has been published this year.


The white paper can be downloaded here.

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