Axes de recherche
Economie Politique Internationale
The Valuation of Ecosystem Services: The Case of Corporate Natural Capital Accounting
Understanding the environmental crisis requires looking at the relation of capitalism with nature, but also considering its actors as important contributors to an ecological transition. Since nature provides multiple benefits to human societies, transnational firms have a great responsibility to manage and mitigate their impacts on what scholars as well as public and private international actors describe as "ecosystem services". The value of these ecosystems is often quantified in monetary terms according to their importance to human well-being. Thanks to new methodologies of accounting, a firm can measure the "costs" and "benefits" it generates to nature and ecosystems, integrating these data in its extra-financial reporting. Led by the so called "Big Four" of audit and accounting's firms, "natural capital accounting" is part of a new logic of transnational private environmental regulation.
Consequently, my thesis asks how accounting's methodologies standardize instruments to value nature, why it materializes specific values and in which power relation. Therefore, I propose that natural capital accounting rests on liberal environmentalism's values that organize nature into a monetary "profit" or "loss", by creating standardized monetary values of ecosystem services. Thus, my contribution differs from existing scholarship based on payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsetting. I probe this hypothesis with an in-depth single case study based on actors and instruments creating such instruments. I operationalize it through a discourse analysis and a process-tracing analysis. My thesis mobilizes an International Political Economy perspective by drawing from three existing scholarships, i.e. Institutional and Ecological Economics.