Natural capital is another term for the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people. All this means is that any part of the natural world that benefits people, or that underpins the provision of benefits to people, is a form of natural capital.

Natural capital is a stock, and from it flows ecosystem services or benefits. These services (where service is defined as ‘a system supplying a public need’) can provide economic, social, environmental, cultural, spiritual or eudemonic benefits, and the value of these benefits be understood in qualitative or quantitative (including economic) terms, depending on the context.

The model: Natural capital thinking for better decision making:

At the heart of a natural capital approach is the understanding that nature underpins human health, wealth, culture, identity and happiness, and that the ways in which it does so can be complex and little understood. A natural capital approach works to illuminate this value and helps decision-makers to understand the complex ways in which natural, social and economic systems interact, impact, and depend upon one another.

Without an understanding of their relationships to natural capital, many decision-makers will be at least partly ‘flying blind’, and can consequently make decisions that are ineffective, inefficient or counterproductive. Decision-makers often do not have the luxury of being able to make decisions based purely on their beliefs, opinions, or gut feelings. Decisions in these contexts must be based on information. A natural capital approach broadens the quantity and quality of information available to decision-makers, leading to better-informed decisions with co-benefits for economies, societies and the natural world.

We understand the relationships that organizations have with the natural world in terms of their impacts and dependencies on nature. The fundamental question for organizations to ask themselves is; how dependent is my business model on the health of the natural world, and how are my actions impacting on nature’s ability to provide what I am dependent on?

This simple exercise can be a watershed moment for management teams, who often realize that their success, and ultimately their profitability, is dependent on the health of a number of natural organisms, ecosystems and phenomena that had never been considered before.

A Caribbean Natural Capital Lab

The Caribbean is defined by its Natural Capital, from its coral reefs to tropical forests. However, the Region does not have a stellar track record in the sustainable management or consideration of these resources in its development. Only recently, with the growing realization of the existential threats of climate and environmental change, have Caribbean actors begun to incorporate nature into decision making, primarily at the State level.

However, this incorporation still does not fully account for the contribution of nature to our human well-being, either through policy perspectives or even public opinion. Even more so, the contribution of nature to economic and social sustainability is rarely considered, in a proactive way, within the private sector of Caribbean countries. In many cases, nature’s contribution is still seen as a ‘free’ or public asset to be exploited towards economic performance, and not factored into business sustainability for the long term.

A Natural Capital Lab for the Caribbean would aim to:

  • Increase the understanding and inclusion of natural capital approaches, in business planning and decision-making, in key business sectors in T&T and the Region, primarily through the localisation and application of the Natural Capital Coalition Protocol;
  • Create a case for integrating natural capital approaches into decision-making and planning at the policy level; and
  • Raise the awareness of the importance of natural capital to human well-being in the public.

Natural Resource Governance


Natural Capital, Data for Development, Civil Society Leadership