Natural Asset Corporations and Biodiversity Management – New Economic Opportunities and Pitfalls to Avoid

Natural Asset Corporations (NACs) and Biodiversity Management Business 

The world is coming to the realization, which the indigenous have known and practiced for thousands of years, of an understanding of the totality of the web of life. People refer to it as natural capital, a subset of the totality to enter the web of life for commercial purposes. This considers healthy soils, pure waters and vibrant forests holding great value in their intact life-giving form, and that symbiotic relationships are what allow ecosystems to flourish.  

In First Nations communities, certain lands are held for and by the community as part of the Nation’s traditional territory. While some lands are designated for business, personal family interests, housing and other development, certain lands, particularly large areas of natural biodiversity (water, forests, wildlife), are left in the commons as community lands to benefit the whole community and future generations.  

Natural Asset Corporations (NACs) are proposing to transfer controlling interest over the natural assets in these vast areas of biodiversity-rich lands to corporations owned by global financial, banking, and institutions, to finance and facilitate the stewardship of these lands. ‘Biodiversity credits’ would then flow back to the community as a  fee for caretaking these lands. Capital markets are one of the proposed vehicles for this facilitation of finance to fund the caretaking of these lands which are currently in the control and stewardship of indigenous communities.  

It is being proposed, with some examples, of indigenous leadership on the Board and / or Executive Management  Teams of these NACs. This provides thought leadership and proper management in this new area but without majority shareholding, the indigenous communities will no longer control the rights over their biodiversity that has been placed in the NACs. They will be in essence administrators for a fee.  

There is also no need for indigenous communities to invest in shares to control rights over natural assets on lands which they already control. These rights already exist, as reaffirmed by UNDRIP. Rights over these natural assets do not need to be transferred into a for-profit corporation to receive economic benefits for the stewardship of biodiversity. All that is needed is a mechanism for the polluters to pay those that are caretaking, the First Peoples. This already exists with the carbon offset market. To extend this to biodiversity management is simple and doable.  

What is required is a Biodiversity Management Fund or Channel where those felling biodiversity pay a fee to those caretaking. Those fees then go directly to indigenous communities to continue what is being done and expanded upon. Economies can be created with environmental management teams, indigenous biologists, ecologists, forest management, new innovation and of course Elder Traditional Knowledge experts to oversee these processes. 

The First Peoples have been stewarding their lands for thousands of years. There is a line to draw between assets in the commons and those available for private use and gain. Areas of natural and vital biodiversity in the millions of hectares should never be privatized. Communities who are caretaking this vital biodiversity should and must be compensated fairly for this great responsibility. Strengthening the biodiversity commons is paramount and should be done by local communities. This is an opportunity to strengthen those systems for benefit of all.