The number of studies that value nature has increased on average by more than 10% per year over the last four decades. The most prominent focus of recent (2010-2020) valuation studies has been on improving the condition of nature (65% of valuation studies reviewed) and on improving people’s quality of life (31%), with just 4% focused on improving issues around social justice. 74% of valuation studies focused on instrumental values, with 20% focused on intrinsic values, and just 6% focused on relational values.
The causes of the global biodiversity crisis and the opportunities to address them are tightly linked to the ways in which nature is valued in political and economic decisions at all levels
Despite the diversity of nature’s values, most policymaking approaches have prioritized a narrow set of values at the expense of both nature and society, as well as of future generations, and have often ignored values associated with indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ worldviews
The diversity of nature’s values in policymaking can be advanced by considering a typology of nature’s values that encompasses the richness of people’s relationships with nature
Valuation processes can be tailored to equitably take into account the values of nature of multiple stakeholders in different decision-making contexts
More than 50 valuation methods and approaches, originating from diverse disciplines and knowledge systems, are available to date to assess nature’s values; choosing appropriate and complementary methods requires assessing trade-offs between their relevance, robustness and resource requirements Valuation methods, originating from diverse disciplines and knowledge systems (including indigenous peoples and local communities), can be grouped into four non-disciplinary “method families”: (i) nature-based valuation gathers, measures or analyses information about the properties of nature and its contributions to people; (ii) statement-based valuation directly asks people to express their values; (iii) behaviour-based valuation identifies how people value nature by observing their behaviour and practices; and (iv) integrated valuation brings together various types of values assessed with different information sources. Each method family relies on different data sources, different levels and forms of social participation, identifies different value types, and has specific technical and skill requirements and limitations. Different valuation approaches have trade-offs between relevance (i.e., salience in terms of the values that can be used in decisions), robustness (i.e., reliable, consistent and socially representative) and resources (i.e., time, financial, technical and human resources).
Despite increasing calls to consider valuation in policy decisions, scientific documentation shows that less than 5 per cent of published valuation studies report its uptake in policy decisions
Achieving sustainable and just futures requires institutions that enable a recognition and integration of the diverse values of nature and nature’s contributions to people. Only 2% of the more than 1,000 studies reviewed consult stakeholders on valuation findings and only 1% of the studies involved stakeholders in every step of the process of valuing nature. What is in short supply is the use of valuation methods to tackle power asymmetries among stakeholders, and to transparently embed the diverse values of nature into policy-making
Transformative change needed to address the global biodiversity crisis relies on shifting away from predominant values that currently over-emphasize short term and individual material gains, to nurturing sustainability-aligned values across society
Working with a combination of four values-based leverage points may catalyse transformation towards sustainable and just futures: (i) recognizing the diversity of nature’s values through undertaking relevant and robust valuation; (ii) embedding valuation into the different phases of decision-making processes to allow meaningful consideration of nature’s diverse values; (iii) reforming policy in order to realign incentives, rights, and legal regulations with the diverse values of nature and to empower actors to express and act upon their sustainability-aligned values; and (iv) creating spaces to deliberate, develop and shift societal goals and norms attuned to the agreed global objectives of sustainability and justice
Information, resource (i.e., technical and financial) and capacity gaps hinder the inclusion of diverse values of nature in decision making. Capacity-building and development, and collaborations among a range of societal actors, can help bridge these gaps