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Six-step approach to valuation

Once the diversity of values attributed to nature, nature contributions to people and good quality of life has been recognized, we can proceed to make knowledge of such diversity available to stakeholders.  IPBES proposes a six-step protocol to guide valuation studies and assessments of existing and documented valuation processes with the aim of facilitating comparability of valuation results, as well as transparency and accountability of the valuation process. 

  1. Identify the purpose
  2. Scope the process
  3. Valuation methods
  4. Integration, bridging, up-scaling
  5. Communicate
  6. Review the process

1. Identify the purpose

Clearly identifying the purpose of the valuation is key for any study or assessment. Purposes can include: 

  • Decision making at the public, community and private levels 
  • Raising awareness or informing
  • Accounting 
  • Litigation for environmental liabilities and conflict resolution

2. Scope the process

The choice of valuation method is not a neutral decision. The results of a valuation exercise are shaped by the methods and how diverse values are synthesised. Appraisal methods influence how the environmental resource or quality is characterized, which value dimensions are emphasized and how they are elicited. For this purpose, before choosing valuation methods, information sources and integrative approaches, the following considerations should be addressed.

Worldviews shape values

The scoping process needs to identify which worldviews are relevant to the valuation’s purpose and, for the sake of transparency and validity, articulate which worldviews are reflected through distinct valuation methods. 

Focus of values

Values can be focused on nature, nature’s benefits to people and/or on quality of life. It is important to identify what will be the focus of our assessment or study.

Types of values

Some valuation approaches are mainly applicable to anthropocentric values, while others apply to non-anthropocentric values. Methods also differ in how they account for a plurality of values. Disparities are also seen in terms of aggregation, some aggregate all values into a single quantity, while others strive for partial aggregation by means of consensus-building or mathematical aggregation, others do not aggregate at all. Therefore, it is important to identify what types of values we want to assess and then to identify the right methods to tackle them.  


Methods differ in their ability to integrate and cover changes in values across different scales, whether these are spatial, temporal or social organizational scales. Identifying the scales that interest us the most, may allow us identifying more clearly the methods that will allow us to portray the diversity of values at this scale. 

Social engagement level

All valuation methods are embedded in a social context; methods are explicit about this to a greater or lesser extent. They also differ in how actively they deal with social participation. While some may involve people as knowledge providers, others seek to engage a wide range of social actors. The latter may allow representing different knowledge systems, permit knowledge holders to feel ownership of the valuation process, and facilitate the empowerment of underrepresented groups among other things. Other things to consider relate to the collection, reporting and assessment of values, all these must be done carefully to avoid harming people in any way. Distributional impacts, which may result from decision making based on the valuation results, must be anticipated and considered to the extent possible. 

Broader social context considerations

The scoping process must consider how methods take into account, if they do, the nature of relationships between people across scales, including power relationships, the distribution of incomes, wealth and resources, as well as gains and losses, externalities and reciprocal relationships. This implies considering future generations and the broader social context including anthropogenic assets, institutions, governance and other drivers on the values of nature and its contributions to people.

Practical considerations

It is important to consider the need for resources, the information costs including time, personnel, funding and equipment necessary and knowledge and data available to perform the assessment or study.  

3. Valuation methods

For an assessment

Choose studies from the literature that apply these methods. Defining the methods based on the scope of the process is critical as it will determine the outcome of the assessment. It is important to reflect on who is making the choice, and explicitly setting out the assumptions embodied in the method. 

For a study

Choose the adequate valuation methods based on the scope of the process. Apply the methods following the rules used in the relevant scientific literature. 

4. Integration, bridging, up-scaling

Choose and apply methods for assessing, integrating and bridging different valuation approaches, if appropriate. Value assessments often require a further step of integrating different assessments of values. Some integration approaches aim to aggregate valuation results into an unique outcome, while others do not. It may be difficult to integrate assessments following different worldviews. If integration is not possible, value types may still be bridged. 

5. Communicate

The representation of values can include quantitative, narrative, visual, performative and other formats. Valuation results can be communicated to the public and decision makers in various ways including:

  • Media releases
  • Public hearings
  • Expert workshops 
  • Publications in scientific journals

It is important at this stage to state confidence limits on the different types of values obtained from studies taking into account: 

  • The degree of confidence associated with value estimates obtained from individual studies 
  • The number of studies with available valuation data on specific value types
  • Limits of scope in valuation 
  • Confidences limits must be established in a transparent process

A report on the valuation process should make explicit the implications of these confidence limits, identify gaps of knowledge on values, specify who was involved in identifying the purpose of valuation, scoping it and choosing and applying the methods. Feedback of the results into society can include a wide array of stakeholders and can affect decision making as well as the values of stakeholders regarding nature and its contributions to people themselves. 

6. Review the process

It is important to review the valuation or assessment process to analyse its strengths and weaknesses. Once done, we can go back in an iterative process to scope a new valuation or assessment process to support adaptive decision making.