National Wildlife Federation Supports Adding Environmental Measures to Gross Domestic Product

NWF Adopts "Valuation of Ecosystem Services" policy resolution

05-18-2011 // NWF Staff

At its 75th anniversary national convention, the National Wildlife Federation adopted a policy resolution called “Valuation of Ecosystem Services.” The resolution, approved unanimously by the Federation’s 47 state and territorial affiliates, supports adding environmental values to the U.S. system of national accounts to improve the way the nation measures economic costs and benefits.

Among the most fundamental problems with measuring the Gross Domestic Product are that it fails to account for the economic benefits of ecosystem services, and it ignores gains or losses of natural resource stocks (such as forests, clean water and agricultural soils). These services and stocks constitute the nation’s “natural capital” and contribute enormously and directly to our economic well-being.

Including improved measures of natural resources in our national accounts would demonstrate the true value of certain kinds of investments, such as to protect and enhance forests and other healthy ecosystems. Presently, these services are considered free, and thus are not counted in the Gross Domestic Product. Similarly, appropriately including the full costs of investments which produce toxic pollution and damage human health would enable more rational economic development decision-making.

The resolution does not endorse the ‘steady state economy’ theory, nor does it endorse any particular economic theory. It simply calls for the redesign and expansion of the GDP measurement tool to include environmental values. The National Wildlife Federation believes that economic development and environmental sustainability can and must co-exist, and that more accurate national accounting will reinforce economic activity that is sustainable.

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