Last week more than 500 people gathered in Edinburgh for the inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital. Dawn Vout, Partnership Manager for the IUCN World Parks Congress, gives this update.

From the opening plenary it was clear that this event was going to be thought provoking.

The conference started with a short video explaining natural capital, co-created by over 25 organizations including IUCN and orchestrated by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

A series of keynote speeches from inspiring people in the field of ecology and economy began the debate. They included Professor Dieter Helm, Chair of the UK environment department’s Natural Capital Committee, Jochen Zeitz, co-founder and CEO of the B-team, and our very own Julia Marton-Lefèvre.

Julia presented examples of how healthy and resilient ecosystems can provide cost-effective solutions to many of the world’s challenges. She emphasized the need for business, conservation, and government to break down the silos so often describing our work and to build a framework for collaboration through which these sectors work together to enhance biodiversity conservation and ensure the sustainability of our natural capital.

On day two, Peter Bakker, WBCSD President and CEO, grabbed delegates’ attention with disturbing statistics of the declining governmental commitment toward biodiversity conservation drawn from his recent participation in the UN climate change conference in Warsaw.

As high energy circulated during the Forum, questions were raised on how we can best scale up and speed up our collaborative efforts, recognizing the importance of government and civil society working together with business. A number of different tools to help account for natural capital built for and by business were explained.

Case studies by businesses and conservation organizations working in collaboration showed how valuing natural capital could reduce businesses’ carbon footprints. But it was noted that we need to improve our narrative on this topic to ensure Natural Capital is relevant to the general public, not only the “NCP” Natural Capital Professionals. Addressing this issue in the closing plenary, Jonathan Hughes, Programme Director for the Forum and IUCN Councillor, shared a locally produced animation bringing Natural Capital to life for a general audience.

So what are the next steps? We have the commitment, the tools and the energy; but we know we can’t do it alone. So how do we bring all the players together? The one item some delegates found missing in this forum was the glue to bind the diverse, yet interconnected, discussions; the glue, if you will, that can allow increased progress towards conservation and global development goals. IUCN is well positioned to help create a roadmap to achieve this, recognizing the importance of collaboration between business, government, and civil society.

The upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney in November 2014 (WPC 2014) will offer the platform to facilitate the bold commitments needed to improve our ability to achieve these goals. The WPC will convene key policy makers alongside business executives, indigenous leaders, conservation experts and civil society groups to shape the global agenda for protected areas and conserving our natural capital.