Briefing, Podcast

Briefing: National Environmental Economic Accounting

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In 2016 Australia’s Environment Ministers agreed that Commonwealth, state and territory governments would collaborate to develop a strategy for a common national approach to environmental – economic accounting by December 2017.  This important work will ensure accurate and reliable information is available to governments, communities and business to better understand the condition of the environment and its relationship with the economy, as well as a platform to make better and more informed decisions.

The strategy for this common national approach is to build on the United Nations System of Environmental – Economic Accounting (SEEA) and will articulate the business case for a national approach to environmental-economic accounting by describing the context, objectives, benefits and uses across a range of stakeholders and jurisdictions. The strategy will also provide a roadmap for development of the common national approach, including identifying what further work is needed, and governance and stakeholder engagement processes to facilitate this work.

This workshop brought together environment and natural resource management organisations, academia, business and government to inform the development of the strategy for a common national approach to environmental-economic accounting.

SBA led the business engagement at the Workshop highlighting key global and Australian  business actions and solutions on natural capital and ecosystems services, including:

  • An overview of the 20 plus year role business and finance sectors have contributed in raising awareness and encouraging action on natural capital and ecosystems;
  • An explanation of the development and implementation of the Natural Capital Protocol;
  • A demonstration of the Natural Capital Protocol Toolkit, co-developed by the WBCSD and the Natural Capital Coalition; and
  • Facilitation of a business panel with representatives from Asia Pulp and Paper and the National Australia Bank, highlighting their role in multi-stakeholder alliances including the Australian Business and Biodiversity Initiative and the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership, including its Private Sector Roundtable.

Next Steps

  • Australia’s Environment Ministers agreed that Commonwealth, state and territory governments would collaborate to develop a strategy for a common national approach to environmental – economic accounting by December 2017

Further information


Case Study

Great Barrier Reef (Source: The Conversation)

Deloitte Access Economics has valued the Great Barrier Reef at A$56 billion, with an economic contribution of A$6.4 billion per year. Yet this figure grossly underestimates the value of the reef, as it mainly focuses on tourism and the reef’s role as an Australian icon.

When you include aspects of the reef that the report excludes, such as the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs, you find that the reef is priceless.

Putting a price on the Great Barrier Reef buys into the notion that a cost-benefit analysis is the right way to make decisions on policies and projects that may affect the reef. For example, the environmental cost of the extension to the Abbot Point coal terminal can be compared to any economic benefits.

But as the reef is both priceless and irreplaceable, this is the wrong approach. Instead, the precautionary principle should be used to make decisions regarding the reef. Policies and projects that may damage the reef cannot go ahead. (Perry 2017)

Further information


Perry N., 2017, The Conversation, What’s the economic value of the Great Barrier Reef? It’s priceless. Accessed: 25 July 2017


Australian Government

Natural Capital and Ecosystems

Business impacts and depends on natural capital. Yet over the past 50 years, 60% of the world’s ecosystem services have been degraded. Deforestation alone equals US$2-5 trillion in lost value. This is not good news for business.

Measuring, valuing and managing interactions and relationships with nature helps businesses make better – more successful – decisions. It also helps them address the risks associated with natural capital impacts and dependencies. 

Natural capital is the stock of natural resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people.

Ecosystems are part of natural capital. They are what enable the natural environment to function properly – wetlands, forests and oceans, for example. 

The Natural Capital Protocol

The Natural Capital Protocol offers a standardized framework for businesses to better identify, measure and value their impacts and dependencies on nature.

The Protocol helps inform business decision-making and presents the first step towards creating an agreed-upon approach.

The Natural Capital Protocol Toolkit

The Natural Capital Protocol Toolkit sorts through the wealth of tools, methodologies and approaches available for natural capital measurement and valuation and maps them against the Natural Capital Protocol framework.

Photo credit

Updated: 26 September 2017


2 thoughts on “Briefing: National Environmental Economic Accounting”

  1. This was a useful post and I think it is rather easy to see from the other comments as well that this post is well written and useful. I bookmarked this blog a while ago because of the useful content and I am never being disappointed. Keep up the good work.


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