McKinsey report reveals the benefits of valuing nature

A report published by McKinsey and Co. today has created a methodology for identifying the benefits of conserving nature to the climate, economies and health.

Photograph: Sanjay Gubbi

Nature provides us with the vital assets we need to live: air, water, food and medicine. Collectively these assets are known as “natural capital” and we rely on them for physical, mental and economic health. Whilst benefits such as air in our lungs or food in our stomach are easy enough to recognise, the complexities of the natural capital which provides us these benefits can make them difficult to quantify.

In providing a methodology by which the benefits of natural capital can be measured, the report hopes to engage numerous stakeholder groups and encourage them to find methods of sustainable development. It is hoped that in understanding the value of nature and by conserving it, we can also learn not to exploit it whilst we consume its resources.

McKinsey & Co. created this methodology by building a map of the earth’s surface and highlighting key areas (both marine and terrestrial) where nature is of high value. The researchers conducted a cost-benefit analysis of this data in order to identify the benefits that might come from conserving these areas.

The highlighted terrestrial and marine areas amount to effectively double those which are currently being conserved, to 30%, a figure previously identified as a target by the United Nations as they set global goals for sustainable development.

These are the quantified benefits of reaching this target, found by the report:

  • Reduction of atmospheric CO₂ by up to 2.6 gigatons annually
  • Creation of up to 650,000 jobs in nature conservation
  • Support of around 30 million jobs and $500 billion of GDP in ecotourism and sustainable fishing
  • Expansion of the conserved habitat of threatened species by up to 2.8×
  • Help to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19

Beyond identifying the benefits of valuing natural capital, the report also offers guidance to stakeholder groups including that which Elephant Family falls into as a Conservation Practitioner:

  • Consider forming cross-stakeholder alliances to pool resources and expertise, potentially taking the role of a “project accelerator.

The good news is that Elephant Family has already been, and continues to follow such guidance to ensure that the impact of our conservation work is as efficient and beneficial as possible, to both humans and wildlife. Our recent merge with the British Asian Trust has enabled Elephant Family to broaden the remit of conservation work, and create a greater, more sustainable achievements in doing so.

As humanity has hurtled through modern eras of development and industrialisation, valuing nature is something that we have forgotten how to do. But we are now living through the direct impact of our own actions of exploiting natural resources and taking nature for granted.

In the “year for nature” we desperately need to change our attitude towards how we value the natural world, and this report provides a helpful tool for doing so.

Read the full report here.