Business, government and nature: an impossible triangle?

How can businesses be more sustainable? Not only we as students are asking this question, this is a challenge the Dutch government and businesses themselves are facing. Even if the motivation is there to create a more sustainable business, it still hard to implement this. Last December I was part of a working conference about sustainable business. This conference was organized by the Dutch government especially for industries, municipalities and other interested parties and specifically focused on Natural Capital (Natuurlijk Kapitaal).

Natural Capital explained by the IUNCS Director General

The concept: Natural Capital

Natural Capital makes the translation of Ecosystem Services towards businesses and other users of nature. Ecosystem services are natural services like provisioning of food and material, regulating systems like climate control, supporting services like water cycling and cultural services like the enjoyment of nature in general. The idea is that businesses and other users are aware of this natural capital and use it in a sustainable way. However it is still a very vague and complex concept. This working conference brings businesses, innovators and policy makers together to bring this concept of Natural Capital into practice.

Econosystem Services scheme:

The role of the government

What I found most striking during the conference was what the Dutch government saw as their responsibility to work toward a sustainable business and integrate Natural Capital. Although the government is responsible for making regulations, the government relies on the power of the free market concept. The government is trying to provide services to stimulate sustainable business and the use of Natural Capital, and tries to avoid rules to impose this principle. For example, on websites like businesses can have free advice what Natural Capital means for them. But how industries implement these advice is up to them.

Green Deal

One of the biggest initiatives on how the Dutch government tries to stimulate sustainable businesses are Green Deals. Green deals try to work towards a circular economy by bringing different companies and interested together and tries to take away regulation barriers that hold these developments. A simple example of a Green Deal: when a fishing boat also catches plastic waste in their fishing nets they can collect it and bring it to a recycling company that can make new plastics out of it. This way the ocean stays cleaner and more plastic is being recycled. The Dutch government can help realizing this green initiative with the right regulations and bringing companies together.

Green Deals explained (in Dutch)

During the conference the Dutch Government was really reflection upon themselves. One of the discussions was also if “Different interpretations of laws and regulations are the biggest obstacle for companies to investment in nature and biodiversity”. Too many regulations can make it hard for a business to function and still be sustainable. On the special website the Dutch government try to create some order and give answers.

In the end was a very interesting day to see how businesses and governments try to work together to bring Natural Capital and sustainable development into practice. But we have release that it is a very complicated matter to stimulate and work together towards a more sustainable world.

For more information about the working conference in its result, take a look at:



2 thoughts on “Business, government and nature: an impossible triangle?”

  1. Hi,
    Although I often hear people say that putting a price tag on nature, like ecosystem services do for example, as a sorrowful approach. For me it seems like a good way to visualize the damage, or benefits, and can provide good clues where money is best spend. Still as the director says in the movie, supposedly companies have to work (with the governments) for a healthier and more sustainable future. And this is where I think highly placed people should be watchful. Yes, she also mentions it, in this case the labels and the positive PR effect of it. But I believe that in almost every case, leaving the little percentage where someone is influencing the company’s course whom is truly focused on building a greener future, it is just like the labels. There is money to be made, and perhaps nowadays especially money to be lost when not going sustainable. Perhaps more emphasize on how this can be used to the advantage of the greater good could be useful? As a final personal remark, I think the other triangle that is closely intertwined is approached in a damaging way. I’m talking about People, Planet, Profit. For if the economy can be helped, or the workers in the economy, or even both. It won’t mean s*** if we fail our planet. Unfortunately like this subject, it is unlikely that we will put it first, without great incentive, in the nearby future.


  2. Hey Pauline!
    First off, I just wanted to say that I like your blog, especially your topic gives me hope as it provides us with examples that show that economic growth and environmental improvement can go together! Too often people still see environment and economy as opposing factors rather than two factors than can intertwine and even help each other, and this should change if a real difference is to be made! Your example about the fishing boats collecting and seperating waste seems like an example that is not too time consuming or costly for the environment, yet could mean a lot to the environment, which is great. I am also glad to see that the government aims to improve the coordination between environmental well-being and business, as I am a firm believer in the fact that we should think in solutions rather than doom scenarios. Well done!


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