Supporting the business case – why members of the Alliance for Water Stewardship should adopt the SEEA as a measurement and evaluation tool

A strong, robust evidence base that is easily shared and communicated between stakeholders is critical to support the objectives of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS). Communicating the impacts of AWS certification to public sector agencies, green investors and philanthropists has the potential to generate benefits to implementers that will enhance the business case for water stewardship.

During 2018 IDEEA Group built on past work with the AWS to demonstrate the practical application of the System of Environmental Economic Accounts in two of China’s industrial parks. The project report finds that there is great potential for the adoption of environmental-economic accounting but also underlines the importance of working with local experts who have access to data and local knowledge. IDEEA Group Director, Carl Obst, presented this work at the October AWS Global Conference in Edinburgh.

IDEEA Group will continue to work with the AWS in 2019 and beyond. By building a common language that is easily understood by all AWS stakeholders, we hope to provide a basis for collaboration and maximise the benefits of AWS water stewardship. Stay tuned!

Accounting for ecosystem services in the forest sector – Forico, Tasmania

Since 2016, Forico and IDEEA Group have worked together to apply the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) in the Forico Estate. Phase 1 of the work program explored the feasibility of applying the SEEA framework to the Forico estate, while Phase 2 put the concepts developed during Phase 1 into practice. It is understood that these efforts are the first to employ the UN SEEA principles to account for the environment and ecosystems at the business level.

Completed in September 2018, Phase 2 of the work program involved:

  1. accounting for the stock and condition of ecosystem assets held by Forico
  2. accounting for the flow of ecosystem services supplied by these ecosystem assets
  3. developing a method to integrate this information with financial information

A key outcome of the work was a set of environmental accounts that enable Forico to recognise the value of the ecosystem services that it delivers. Incorporating environmental-economic accounting into standard financial accounting approaches and business processes provides several benefits for Forico including:

  1. improved operational decision-making by using a more complete set of financial accounts;
  2. improved communication to stakeholders through the recognition of a wider range of environmental values; and
  3. improved strategic allocation of financial resources to maximise the flows of ecosystem services.

Additionally, the accounts could be used to report on requirements under the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) newly released FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard for Australia

Combining Forces – Natural Capital Coalition

Natural capital has both private and public dimensions that are reflected in different perceptions, management and decision-making approaches. These differences often lead to overuse and poor management of natural capital – often referred to as the tragedy of the commons – at both global and local scales.

A key feature of the differences between public and private approaches to natural capital concerns the language that is used to describe and discuss the relevant environmental stocks and flows. Central to improving the management of natural capital is having a common language to define, measure and report on it.

There is now an opportunity to combine forces natural capital thinking and assessment, leverage the strength of the support from the public and private sectors for two key approaches, the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) and seek to understand the opportunities and synergies of these approaches both with each other and with the wide range of other approaches in this space.

This workshop is one part of a broader program of work to engage widely on the subject of natural capital. The primary objectives are to:

  • Broaden the understanding of the breadth of different approaches to natural capital
  • Establish the benefits that might be obtained from combining forces on natural capital
  • Identify the barriers to combining private and public sector approaches to natural capital thinking and assessment
  • Identify opportunities and activities that can be undertaken in the short to medium term to overcome those barriers and demonstrate the benefits of combining forces to both the public and private sector.

Workshop participants are encouraged to visit the Natural Capital Coalition’s Combining Forces page for additional background and resources, especially concerning the potential linkages between NCP and SEEA.

Linking Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) and the SEEA

Around the world there are tremendous challenges surrounding the use and management of water resources. The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) was established in 2008 to promote the stewardship of water resources, and in 2014 they released the first International Water Stewardship Standard. It is premised on the idea that improved management of water resources must be context driven, i.e. considering site (farm) and catchment level issues and solutions.

In the wake of the advancements in the development of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), AWS saw an opportunity to use an internationally comparable measurement approach as the basis for measurement and transparency in the implementation of the AWS Standard. To this end, AWS engaged IDEEA Group to describe the potential ways in which the SEEA could be applied in the six steps of the AWS Standard.

This introductory report outlines a variety of ways in which the SEEA could support implementation including; ensuring coherence of data across scales and enabling site; catchment and administrative level narratives can be aligned; and providing a common language for the communication and framing of management responses and outcomes. The report identifies seven key benefits from linking the AWS Standard and the SEEA and recommends undertaking case studies to demonstrate the potential opportunities for firms, catchment managers, industry and sector leaders.

Access the report here



Natural Capital Protocol – System of Environmental Economic Accounting Toolkit

This draft Toolkit which examines the links between the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) is intended to form the basis for a discussion about the ways in which these two tools for natural capital accounting (NCA) might be combined to further support advances in this important area of work. The Toolkit focuses specifically on placing the accounting framework and approach of the SEEA within the broader natural capital assessment process articulated in the NCP.

The Toolkit was a discussion paper for a workshop titled “Combining forces on Natural Capital” held in London on 31 August, 2017. The workshop was supported by the Natural Capital Coalition, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and IDEEA Group.

Access the report here



Aligning Poverty and Environment efforts – UNE and UNDP

The Need

Across the developing world, reducing levels of poverty and protecting natural environments are closely connected challenges, reflected in the concept of the Poverty-Environment Nexus (PEN). However, institutional efforts to address these challenges remain largely unconnected. For example, poverty initiatives may respond to the loss of local water quality by arranging for transportation of potable water. But in the long run, the only sustainable way to raise the living standards of people in affected communities is to address the environmental factors underlying the decline in water quality.

The United Nations Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) ( seeks to address the need for better integration of work on environmental protection and poverty reduction across international agencies, INGOs and governments. PEI research has determined fundamental principles to guide more effective and more integrated policy and investment decision making. The challenge now, is to create shared frameworks for data collection, analysis and reporting that will guide and enable application of these principles across the range of institutional initiatives.

The Project

The PEI engaged IDEEA Group to integrate PEN insights into a SEEA aligned data collection, analysis and reporting framework. Through publication of the Poverty-Environment Accounting Framework (PEAF) Working Paper IDEEA Group is helping to engage stakeholders from all areas involves in poverty and environment to bring them into alignment for data collection, investment analysis and reporting at the local level.

The key building block of the PEAF is application of the SEEA’s small-scale spatial units as the integration point for data relating to different aspects of the PEN. This approach enables spatial location of key areas of environmental risk and opportunities for improvement, linking them directly to patterns of land and water use that affect the capacity of ecosystems in each location to sustainably deliver services to poor and vulnerable populations.

The Outcomes

By linking local changes in the condition and extent of environmental assets to local changes in poverty, PEAF provides a new way forward to meet the complex challenges arising from pursuit the of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

PEAF creates an opportunity to improve current approaches to poverty measurement by linking poverty indicators to underlying environmental factors. The newly derived indicators can be used to better target regional and sub-national development policies, programmes and projects.

PEAF will also serve as a decision-support tool to assess the performance of public policies and private investments. Macro-level policy makers can use PEAF as a globally standardized way to anticipate and assess micro-level impacts on people and the environment and hence make smarter investments in reducing poverty and improving the environment.

Measuring Sustainable Tourism – UNWTO

The Need

World-wide, tourism is worth $US 7.2 trillion, which represents almost 10% of global GDP. While tourism depends heavily on the continuing flow of ecosystem services, including places for recreation such as beaches, reefs and forests, it can also place great strains on these fragile natural ecosystems.

Tourism represents a significant opportunity and challenge for sustainable development across some of the world’s most impoverished and ecologically vulnerable regions. This is reflected in a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (8, 9, 14 & 15) and in its declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) is leading the industry to adopt more sustainable practices, building on 25 years of research since the 1992 Rio Convention. One of today’s most critical challenges is to create destination based reporting standards that effectively integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions of local tourism impacts, to assess whether sustainable development principles are being effectively applied in practice.

The Project

The Measurement of Sustainable Tourism (MST) project was established by UNWTO in 2015. Since then they have relied on IDEEA Group to help establish and articulate MST work streams, and to facilitate engagement with a wide range of experts. IDEEA Group has been instrumental in the planning and delivery of key MST initiatives, including:

The 6th International conference on tourism statistics to be held in June 2017 will focus on measuring sustainable tourism, and aims to secure ministerial level commitment to a Manila Declaration of MST principles. IDEEA Group will once again play a leading role to facilitate the success of this conference.

The Outcomes

Applying SEEA principles to the integration of economic, social and environmental information to establish a statistical framework for MST at the local destination level has already delivered significant results in terms of participation and growing commitment from industry and government stakeholders at all levels.

Key tourism stakeholders are beginning to take MST principles into account, such as when planning transport infrastructure development, and for standardising and coordinating collection and publication of relevant data at the destination based level.

Another key outcome has been to provide a cross-functional platform for discussing the interactions and dependencies between economic and social development, environmental protection and mitigation of potential risks for the sustainable growth of tourism.

Finally, MST provides the potential to directly compare policy assumptions and outcomes across regions and countries, and so lead to more coordinated and equitable commitments to achieve sustainable development goals.