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RBS Group to support ground-breaking event on natural resources

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group is the headline sponsor for the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital in November.The United Nations-backed event aims to help business and sustainability leaders identify the economic value of our natural capital – the world’s natural resources such as water, forests and fish stocks – from which we get services vital to economic activity and human well-being. These include pollination, carbon storage and natural flood defences. Progress in accounting for natural capital will help governments, businesses and other organisations to address the growing challenge of resource scarcity, which is already causing price volatility as well as a host of other negative social and environmental impacts.

Impact on businesses

It will also allow investors to make better assessments of the impact that the depletion of natural capital will have on a business, leading to more transparency and improved investment decision-making.

The World Forum on Natural Capital will build on private sector interest in the fast-emerging concept of accounting for natural capital that came out of the Rio Earth Summit in June 2012.

It will bring together business leaders and leading experts in natural capital accounting and sustainable investment to help businesses identify the value of natural capital and the cost to them if that capital is depleted.

Accounting of biodiversity values

The UN is targeting 2020 for the incorporation of biodiversity values into national accounting and reporting processes. RBS has produced a detailed sustainability report since 2003 and has continued to evolve its approach to measuring its own environmental impact - and that of its customers - as best practice.

Andrew Cave, Head of RBS Group Sustainability, said: “Our interest in natural capital accounting is an extension of the work we are already doing on supporting sustainable business.  We are excited to play a part in bringing the discussion forward to a point where we start to see agreement about how natural capital accounting should best be done.”

RBS has developed sector-leading support for clients wishing to embrace sustainable energy - from operating renewable energy systems to installing energy efficiency measures. For the last two years, the bank has been ranked by Infrastructure Journal as the biggest provider of finance to the UK renewable energy sector, and offers extensive support to business and corporate customers in improving their own energy efficiency and developing renewable sources of energy.

Natural capital accounting

Many of these customers are now thinking more broadly about their environmental impacts and resource use, and natural capital accounting is a way for them to better understand the ways in which their organisation is dependent on the natural environment.

“Achieving progress in natural capital accounting will be of great value to many of our business and corporate customers,” said Cave.

“We are seeing an interest in natural capital accounting across the full range of businesses we lend to. Many companies are going beyond just managing their energy use to get a wider understanding of the role that natural services like clean air, water, biodiversity and raw materials play in contributing to their bottom line.  As a lender and a long-term partner of our business customers, we want to support the development of better ways to account for these costs and benefits.”

“We also see better reporting on the environmental impact of our own activities as an important part of creating a business that plans carefully to reduce risks and meet the expectations of society.”

Recent estimates published by TEEB for Business Coalition suggest that the global economic cost of the loss of natural resources as a result of environmental damage is $4.7 trillion annually.

Jonathan Hughes, World Forum Programme Director, and Council Member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, added: “We are delighted to have the support of RBS in organising this important event.”

“As a major lender they have an interest in gaining a better understanding of the long-term interests of the businesses they lend to.”

“Their support adds another powerful voice to the call for a progress in natural capital accounting.”

The World Forum on Natural Capital is organised by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the UN Environment Programme, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the TEEB for Business Coalition and The Wildlife Trusts are all associate partners.

The event will take place on 21-22 November at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

To find out more visit naturalcapitalforum.com.

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