Understanding the value that ecosystems contribute to the economy is central to efforts to promote sustainable business. Monetising the costs of biodiversity loss and climate change, for example, translates such issues into language that makes sense to corporate decision-makers, helping to justify investment and regulation. Global programmes such as the Natural Value Initiative are developing tools to enable this, and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment will give such approaches a boost in this country.

Nowhere is the crucial part nature plays in production more apparent than in farming and the food sector, where talk of ‘environmental externalities’ and ‘ecosystem services’ is now commonplace. But do those of us working in this sector really understand the implications of these efforts to put a price on nature? What do they mean in practice for large and small food businesses? What are the potential problems and alternatives? Does putting a price on nature actually devalue it?

The May 2011 meeting of the FEC Business Forum addressed these issues. We are very grateful to our speaker, Annelisa Grigg, project director for the Natural Value Initiative, Flora & Fauna International. Prof. David Pink, a member of the FEC, chaired the event.

Download a report of the meeting