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Government Dialogue Best Practice: Scotland On Applying the Natural Capital Protocol with Land Based Businesses

November 23, 2018 |

The organization/ department in brief

Crown Estates Scotland led the trial of the natural capital protocol with land based businesses.

Cumulus Consultants and Aecom undertook the trial project, working alongside Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College. The pilot project was funded by Crown Estate Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Environmental Agency (SEPA).

Why was this undertaken?

The idea for a trial was developed by Crown Estates Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates following attendance at the World Forum on Natural Capital in 2015. Andrew Wells from Crown Estates Scotland led the trial:

Andrew Wells, Head of Property at Crown State, said:

The rural sector in Scotland and across the UK is facing a lot of uncertainty and, with EU subsidies and funding likely to be phased out in coming years, the natural capital approach provides a different way of measuring and assessing business impacts and understanding emerging opportunities for the long term sustainable use of our land.”

What was the scope?

Land based businesses used the Natural Capital Protocol to select which elements were most relevant to their current business decision making. It was designed to inform the approach with land based businesses.

A series of  three meetings taking each business through the Natural Capital Protocol, together with a review of farm/estate documents and data, and understanding of the key areas of the business.

Three study areas were assessed, including:

  • Improving soil.
  • Woodland planting/wetland restoration.
  • Peatland restoration.

The final meeting with businesses talked through the results, and included a feedback session on how they felt the process went and key outcomes.

The trial worked with three different land-based businesses: (i) the entire 23,000 hectare Glenlivet Estate (with a range of farming and leisure activities e.g. mountain bike trails), (ii) an upland tenant farm on the same estate, and (iii) a lowland arable business on Crown Estate Scotland’s Fochabers Estate.

What was the role of the Government?

Crown Estate Scotland manages land and property on behalf of Scottish Ministers. It works with people, businesses and organizations to ensure that the assets are managed in a sustainable way that creates prosperity for the Scotland and its communities. This trial is a good example of joint agency working and support to land based business in building natural capital into their decision making.

What were the results?

The trial applied the Natural Capital Protocol to land-based businesses on two Moray estates run by Crown Estate Scotland as part of its work to put Scotland at the forefront of developing new ways of managing land and the environment.

Tenant farmer, Jim Simmons, said:

The trial has been really useful in helping to increase my awareness of how our business may impact natural environment. It’ll help us to make more informed decisions about how to improve our farming operations going forward, both in economic and environmental terms.

Head of Property at Crown State, Andrew Wells said:

“This has been a promising start as we try to find a way to better understand how land businesses can use emerging tools like this to better understand their impacts and dependencies on natural resources and make more sustainable business decisions.

The farms involved in the trial have already been long involved in taking a sustainable approach to land management, including riparian and hedgerow planting, soil improvement and wildflower management. Even with those good practices in place, they still found the Protocol really helpful in planning the long-term potential of their land.”

“The trial worked best when assessing specific activities. If we were to broaden the project, we also need to demonstrate why gathering data on natural capital can be valuable to businesses and how it might link to changes in funding and subsidies.

Next steps

The project partners are exploring roll out of the Natural Capital Protocol to other land based businesses through  existing mechanisms such as the Government supported Scotland’s Rural College farm business plans.

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