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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

December 2017 – Brexit requires the United Kingdom to develop its own policy towards agriculture and rural land to replace the Common Agricultural Policy. This working paper outlines how future policies have the potential to protect and improve natural capital in order for UK businesses to remain competitive and resilient.

Brexit Business and Natural CapitalAbstract

It is now widely recognised that for UK business to remain competitive and resilient natural capital is essential to provide a consistent supply of quality inputs to its value chain, strong global reputation and brand, and happy and healthy staff and customers.

The UK Government have started the process of developing a new 25-year plan for the environment. These policy changes will have implications on agricultural trade, farm subsidies, farm labour, environmental regulation and management and investment in the natural environment. These factors will affect business competitiveness and resilience.

In October 2017, the Natural Capital Impact Group convened stakeholders at a Brexit Summit to discuss a number of post-Brexit scenarios for business and natural capital. The aim of the Summit was to provide input into policy development by bringing together business and government to share their perspectives and co-develop the strategic direction of future policy.

The Summit helped identify a number of recommendations regarding post-Brexit policy on natural capital. Key amongst those recommendations was the need for a ‘rural’ policy that would consider sectors beyond food which impact land use. Amongst an array of approaches, a ‘British Ecosystem Services Policy’ is a cross-sectoral rural policy that has the potential to deliver the greatest total value of ecosystem services from the land and provide a ‘no-regrets’ opportunity regardless of the outcomes of Brexit.


  • To create a rural policy white paper through collaboration with business and policy makers
  • To leverage existing political will to enable a rural policy
  • That this rural policy should build upon the British Ecosystem Services Policy that goes beyond food sectors to other land users and ecosystem service providers
  • This policy should deliver the greatest total value of ecosystem services from the land, taking account of both marketed and non-marketed outputs
  • The policy should be representative of the views of rural stakeholders including progressive businesses

About the Natural Capital Impact Group

The Natural Capital Impact Group (NCIG) is a global network of companies, working collaboratively to determine how business can sustain the natural world and its resources through their strategies and operating practices.


The principal authors of this report are Dr Colm Bowe from Liverpool John Moores University, and Dr Gemma Cranston and Liam Walsh of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.


Bowe, C., Cranston, G., Walsh, L., (2017), ‘The inescapable truth: Brexit, business and natural capital’, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Working Paper 5/2017


About our working papers

Working papers are circulated for discussion purposes only. Their contents should be considered preliminary and are not to be quoted without the authors' permission. All views expressed are those of the author.