Mar 8, 2018 / by David Hughes / In Latest News

Announcing the culmination of the Natural Capital Lab

The Natural Step Canada is today announcing the culmination of its Natural Capital Lab (NCL) – a project launched in 2015 to catalyze and galvanize work on issues related to natural capital.

Since its inception TNS Canada has used the synergistic power of the science of sustainability, systems thinking, and collaboration to help others accelerate the transition to a truly sustainable society. We were very excited, therefore, when we were approached by the Ivey Foundation and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada to mobilize, coordinate and shine a light on the important, but largely fragmented work of those trying to incorporate the measurement and management of natural capital into the decision making of public and private sector organizations.

Early outreach yielded a highly informed and engaged network enthusiastic about the prospect of scaling natural capital approaches in Canada. This network evolved into a dedicated and ambitious cohort of Natural Capital Innovators, 32 leaders from across Canada’s business, government, and non-governmental sectors.

Today we celebrate the foundational work done by the Natural Capital Lab and its Innovators, who over the past two years have:

  • Identified and built a community of ‘natural capital’ leaders, champions and subject matter experts as referenced above;
  • Explored and documented the existing body of knowledge and opportunities as it relates to natural capital in Canada and abroad;
  • Collaboratively developed and mobilized behind a bold vision for how natural capital can and should be valued and used to drive strategic decision making in Canada; and
  • Launched a series of pilot projects and initiatives including:
    • piloting the Natural Capital Protocol’s Financial Sector Supplement with Manulife
    • cataloging emerging natural capital methods and tools being employed by leading Canadian municipalities
    • releasing a draft plan for Ontario that demonstrates the benefits and need for a provincial system of environmental and economic accounts

Public domain publications, case studies and stories emerging from the lab can be found at and are made available to help advance future efforts.

Through the work of the Natural Capital Lab it has become evident that accounting for natural capital may be among the most important steps that any organization, municipality, province or country may ever take to accelerate its transition to a truly prosperous, low-carbon, economy. We have also come to realize that we have only scratched the surface of the need and opportunity here. We anticipate that interest and investment in natural capital will continue to grow in the coming years.

Thanks to the Natural Capital Lab we now have greater clarity about the work that needs to be done in the future by those with the expertise and influence to drive wide scale change on this issue. Here we will look to such groups as CPA Canada and their members, policy makers and regulators at all levels of government, other organizations and front-line practitioners to provide the thought leadership, standards, policies, tools, and training required to advance best practices in the measurement and management of natural capital. We also know that Canada is not alone in this work, and could benefit by strengthening relationships with such groups as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), the Natural Capital Coalition (NCC) and others to establish a hub of expertise and action in Canada that works collaboratively with its global partners.

It is our hope that the work of the Natural Capital Lab will have set the foundation for a more permanent and substantial effort in the future. We encourage others to build on this work and invite them to reach out to discuss how we can assist in this effort. While the formal activities of the Natural Capital Lab will wind-up effective March 1 2018, the TNS Canada staff and associates remain passionate about these issues. We will be working to incorporate the lessons of our lab into our Energy Futures Lab and Circular Economy Lab, and would be keen to support any future efforts to build on what we have started.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank those key funders and champions without whom this work would not have been possible. These include: Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, The Cooperators, Ontario Trillium Foundation, TD Bank, Deloitte, Smart Prosperity Institute, and the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. All will be receiving a final report outlining the achievements and learnings from the lab and an invitation to meet with our team if they wish to learn more.

Thank you to one and all for giving us the opportunity to contribute to this important topic and to help set the stage for the work that we hope continues.

For more information on the Natural Capital Lab and The Natural Step, email


David Hughes, President & CEO, TNS Canada &
John Purkis, Director, Natural Capital Lab