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 renewable 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


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 set of companies on related topics of biodiversity, water, soil, land use and forests.

Release date: 22.11.2015
Category: Data

- Adapted from the original publication on: blue&green tomorrow


You are probably now aware of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were published by the UN earlier this year. They are composed of 17 goals and 169 targets, each single one having been discussed at length in news articles in the past months.

Some called it a plan and even a list of priorities, however I had a hard time figuring out what the priority was when I looked at those 169 targets. I decided to have a closer look at them to answer the many questions that arose in my mind about the role of natural capital in the SDGs, the relative importance of targets, the role of natural capital, the connexion between targets and so on.

The first quick analysis showed that 19 targets are primarily about natural capital, and this number rises to 36 when more than just natural capital is considered, such as built or financial capital. By extending this analysis, which took me a bit longer this time, I identified that these 36 targets contribute to more than 50% of all SDGs targets, through more than 180 direct and positive links. By “direct” I mean that a clear impact can be assessed, such as investing in water-related ecosystems will help reach the target to have access to water for all. More surprisingly, I identified also 152 negative links, as some targets may be reached at the expense of natural capital. This result shows that you cannot just pick the target which works best for your business sustainability strategy and move on, as seen many times recently in corporate communications. Systemic thinking is what is required here. To create a positive impact, and possibly avoid collateral damage, you must understand the system dynamic, as we will see below, and focus on the targets that will unlock the highest value, for society and for your business.

Speaking about system thinking, are there targets which are more connected than others? Using the links identified, I observe that sustainable agriculture (target 2.4) and in water-related ecosystems (targets 6.6) are the two most connected targets. Other targets requiring the sustainable management of forests, land and soil (15.2 and 15.3) are just corollaries. The single target that I could connect even more to other targets is the 15.9, which recommends integrating ecosystem and biodiversity values into all management systems and decisions. It shows the relevance and importance of the work of the Natural Capital Coalition, which is currently developing a Natural Capital accounting Protocol for the private sector. It will be at the basis of the business case of sustainable development.

So which targets of the SDGS are benefiting the most from an investment in natural capital? These are 6.1 targeting access to water, 13.1 focusing on resilience and adaptation to climate change and 2.3 requiring to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small scale food producers. The link is quickly done with natural capital. If you are serious about access to water, don’t just build water wells, but invest in water-related ecosystems too. If you are serious about climate change resilience and adaptation, don’t invest only in energy efficiency and renewable energy, but invest as well in green infrastructure. If you are serious about feeding the world together with smallholders, then let’s start thinking about investing in soil quality and ecosystem-based solutions, such as agro-forestry.

Businesses and our economy have been shown to rely heavily on natural capital. I will not repeat again the many evidences and reports around it here, but I will highlight again the findings above which identified 152 negative links affecting natural capital, which are mostly related to the economic development targets. We know now that if we lose natural capital, it is the entire wealth of society, including economic value, which we are losing. We have no choice but to protect and develop our economy and natural capital should hand in hand.

The engagement of the private sector is crucial. To illustrate what remains to be done, I use a recent study I have done, that reviewed all CSR reports from 174 multi-national companies, all members of the WBCSD. I found that less than 40% of companies identified biodiversity (at the core of natural capital) as a material issue. It falls under 20% for topics such as land use, soil and forests. Natural capital is only mentioned by 9 companies out of the 174 reviewed. Although water has been identified as material by 75% of companies, this figure drops to 20% when we consider supply chain exposition to water related risks, which is the principal issue in the many sectors.

Those observations lead me to tell you: Start valuing natural capital! And let’s solve more than half the world’s problems with it.


If you are interested to get the data behind this analysis and more statistics, please contact me.

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