Prosperity, economy and environment

Forum for the Future's five capitals model

There is increasing interest in the many ways that the environment underpins the economy at both the national and local level.  This goes beyond calls for 'green growth'. It is about how the environment in particular geographical areas can be shown as central to long-term prosperity for all.

Our focus

The Ecosystems Knowledge Network's focus is how to put the ideas about the importance of the environment for the economy into practice in particular places.  We highlight local and regional initiatives that show the positive role of the environment in people's prosperity, taking into account their values. We show how the ecosystem approach, a set of principles adopted in the Convention on Biological Diversity, is being applied.  Principle 4 speaks of managing the environment in an economic context.

Natural capital and green infrastructure

Some organisations find the concepts of 'natural capital' and 'green infrastructure' helpful in making the case for the environment's role in their work, or in society as a whole.  These two terms can help ensure that environment is considered and accounted for alongside traditional factors such as built infrastructure and finance. It is the reason why England has a Natural Capital Committee and Scotland has a Natural Capital Index. Groups such as the Scottish Natural Capital Forum and Irish Forum on Natural Capital have arisen to connect the work of different sectors interests in putting the idea of natural capital into practice. 


  • Natural Economy Northwest was a regional partnership programme led by Natural England, the NWDA and the SITA Trust between 2007 and 2010. It's vision was a prosperous economic future with a thriving natural environment for the Northwest. 
  • Lewes & Ouse Valley eco-nomics (L&OVe) is a community group formed under the umbrella of Transition Town Lewes (Lewes is a town in East Sussex, England).  The group is looking into the benefits that the local community and the local economy receives from the local environment.
  • Local Nature Partnerships in England are playing a part in promoting the role of the environment in the development of local economies. An examples is found in the investment strategy of the West of England Nature Partnership.

Tools and other resources

Natural England has produced a Linking Environment and Economic Development toolkit to help Local Enterprise Partnerships (in England) and their partners do economic development in ways which gain growth benefits from the natural environment and avoid future costs to growth that could arise from the natural environment.  It has also produced published a literature review entitled the Micro-Economic Benefits of Investment in the Environment Review. It was designed to help Natural England staff make the case for the natural environment to decision makers such as local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, but provides a resource for use by many organisations across the UK.

Other computer based tools, such as InVEST (developed by the US-based Natural Capital Project), allow for evaluation of the economic implications of the natural environment.

Valuing ecosystem services

Within the overall frame of linking the economy and the environment across any one locality, there are a wide range of methods for valuing specific aspects of what nature does for people