‘Don’t just do nature costing, add nature profiting to balance damage’

The International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) has launched a digital platform to continue the critical conversations about how we can improve the global food and flora system. Peter van Bodegom has participated on this forum to shed light on the quantification of the benefits of nature.

ifamaWhat is the exact role and value of nature in human society? Van Bodegom tries to this answer using quantitative modelling within his discipline of Environmental Biology, which links nature and human society. The discipline tries to understand the impact of human beings on nature, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning, and how - at the same time - they depend on nature for their own wellbeing. Watch the interview below to learn more: 

Van Bodegom is straight forward: nature costing - paying for the damage done to nature - justifies negative effects. It won’t encourage people to do better. When externalizing the impacts on nature “we kind of agree that we have negative effects on nature, but we just pay for it to get away with it".

   We should develop a relationship with our environment by thinking of nature profits."

Make nature profitable

Van Bodegom proposes the concept of nature profits. Positive impacts on nature should be stimulated by quantifying them. “We should develop a relationship with our environment by thinking of nature profits". A good example is in water management: "The farming system could be such that it maintains water in the soil system for a longer period, avoiding floods downstream or irrigation demands later on. This provides added value for water storage. The ones experiencing this value - water managers for instance - might be willing to pay for those additional services."

How can we achieve this? “One of the instruments is natural capital accounting, which provides the balance for natural capital." Natural capital is anything that is around in nature that can provide added value to society.” Ecosystems services can be acknowledged with money or through certification, awareness, and respect.

Van Bodegom sees many opportunities for accounting and certification schemes. To put them into practice, all parties in the food system need to be on board, including consumers. “They need to be aware of the nature costs and benefits of their behavior. In some cases, you might need to change legislation.” And that is where Marttin and Van Bodegom meet. “Indeed, it demands going back to the drawing table.”

peter van bodegomProf.dr.ir. Peter van Bodegom is professor, board member of LDE Centre for Sustainability and head of the department of Environmental Biology within the Institute of Environmental Sciences of Leiden University, in The Netherlands. Van Bodegom enjoys working at the interface of disciplines; the impacts of human society on ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, and vice versa. He is an international authority in multidisciplinary modelling of environmental gains and losses.

More information
IFAMA goes digital 2020