The Natural Asset Framework

Posted by Daniel Allen on 26/11/2019

 

A new way to generate value from land

 

Today we are at an important juncture in land and natural area management. Brexit is prompting a rethink of farm payments, political leaders are increasingly supporting a new restoration agenda, advances in ecology are inspiring “wilder” approaches to nature conservation, and new markets are emerging for authentic products and experiences.

 

The Natural Asset Framework is a response to these changing times. Intended for land owners, managers and investors looking to generate new value from the management and restoration of the natural assets on their lands, it offers a creative and systematic approach for transitioning towards nature-based income streams, based on rewarding and meaningful land management practices.

 

The framework comprises three interacting system elements: land and natural assets, value-generating practices, and value accrual. An examination of the relationship between these elements leads us to four critical questions:

 

  • What forms of value are land/natural assets currently generating and for whom?
  • What forms of value could natural asset recovery generate and for whom?
  • What forms of value are wanted, how soon will they materialise, and what are the trade-offs?
  • How can natural asset restoration be financially viable?

 

All lands are open systems that interact with political, cultural and economic forces. While these forces may act as constraints, they also present opportunties for innovation. As such, the Natural Asset Framework is both pragmatic and progressive, founded on new visions and models that are rooted in reality, yet located at the intersection of restored natural forces and emerging trends in society.

 

 

A case in point: a new pastoralism

Our approach helps catalyse new thinking on ways to generate revenue from natural asset restoration and recovery, which could help revitalise the land economy. The graphic imagines that a land owner is interested in transitioning from tradditional agriculture to to a natural grazing and wood-pasture system. It presents a mixed revenue model that is inspired, in part, by the famous Knepp Wildlands project in East Sussex described so beautifully in Isabella Tree’s book Wilding.

 

 

Natural grazing has the potential to generate three types of value that can generate financial returns:

 

1) Regulating value (ecosystem services) that are paid for by public bodies, companies and for which markets (e.g. carbon) are emgerging.

2) Material value (products such as meat and timber) that can be sold into premium and ethical markets.

3) Non-material values (experiential recreation) that can be marketed directly or generate concession/license fees from specialist enterprises.

 

This model recognises that technology both empowers landowners and enhances the financial vaibility of nature-based enterprises and the vibrancy of rural economies. Among other things, technology can faciliate clustering of activities, reduce management costs, support place branding and product marketing, and create new forms of value. Viewing natural asset recovery and value generation as a system creates connections between land-based enterprises and the wider rural economy. This strengthens the case for investment and the potential to develop and sustain thriving enterprises.

 

Natural asset thinking as illustrated in the graphic above helps land owners to think creatively about nature-based enterprise opportunities and develop different business scenarios that can be assessed, costed and presented to potential partners and investors.

 

Want to know more?

To learn more about how natural asset restoration and management can generate value returns, please contact Dr. Paul Jepson, Ecosulis Nature Recovery Lead, for an informal, no obligation discussion (Paul.Jepson@ecosulis.co.uk / 01225 876 974).