During the I Natural Capital Summit held in Madrid last October 2016, we had the opportunity to measure the degree of interest on natural capital developments of Spanish business sector in a more direct and broader way. Outcomes were clear: there is a growing interest to keep up to date with solutions that allow companies to take control and reduce their environmental impact.
Outcomes were clear: there is a growing interest to keep up to date with solutions that allow companies to take control and reduce their environmental impact.
Why is it that inspite of all this interest Spanish businesses are rarely seen in the Natural Capital arena? The answer has nothing to do with the lack of knowledge of what is at stake. We are perfectly aware that each year, 15 billion trees and 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil are lost worldwide, and future water security faces a multitude of risks from a scarcity perspective.
We Spaniards have the priviledge to live in one of the countries with the richest biodiversity in the European Union, but at the same time, the ecosystem services and natural goods provided by our nature are amongst the EU member states most vulnerable.
Some of the reasons behind this situation are the socioeconomic characteristics and the geographical position of Spain —it is one of the EU country at most risk to climate change effects such us droughts, land degradation, soil erosion —12 % of the country (6 million hectares) suffers from erosion process, and desertification can be considered serious in 17.86 % of the Spanish surface area—. It is also remarkable the increasing demand for water (by tourism, agriculture and industry sectors) and the need to improve water and natural resources management.
Consequences of all these impacts to human well-being and business performance are not unfamiliar to Spanish business players. In the last years, they have undertaken crucial progress in terms of environmental management: 90% of medium and large firms have at least one person responsible for environmental issues; 76% have introduced an environmental management system; 95% are monitoring the consumption of natural resources and energy, waste generation (93%) and waste water effluents (85%). However, only 56% gauge local or regional air pollution and 55% measure soill contamination.
It is unquestionable that Spanish companies are committed to promoting a circular economy that results in the improvement of human welfare and social equity while reducing environmental risk and ecological scartity. Then, why are there hardly any Spanish front-runner when striving to become a reference in the field of natural capital?
We have identified a number of reasons for this. Among them: the lack of understanding about the potential benefits of integrating natural capital considerations into decision-making and reporting; absense of data, inputs, case studies and pratical applications within Spain; skills gap; lack of institutional references; failure to understand what´s needed to assess and how much does it cost; and ignorance about what approach is more adequate.
With the aim of filling this gaps and make possible that Spanish companies contribute to natural capital momentum, we feel that the existance of a common platform to stay informed of everything that is currently going on in the natural capital world, to share critical information about the latest policy developments, to meet other professionals with common interests and find guidance, references and a comprenhensive view of the natural capital landscape is necessary at national scale.
This is the reason why we have conceived the Natural Capital Factory, a place to channel all Spanish businesses efforts in terms of natural capital assessment and accounting, whose mission is to coordinate and show our potential making progress towards a sustainable development.
The Factory will be a knowledge and capacity building space, a network to provide technical assistance, a hub to put questions, examples and ideas on the table and find solutions. Its vision is to boost the visibility of all Spanish companies committed to address the international goals we all share in the most effective way and to place Spain in the position it deserves in the global natural capital arena. Will you join us?
By David Álvarez, Executive Director of Ecoacsa.
Article originally published in the blog of the World Forum on Natural Capital 2017.