NEWS / Blog / Developing a common language through the five capitals approach


27 MAY 2020


Natalie Cropp, Chair of sustainability group, on latest report


he language around sustainability is as varied as the views on what it means. If we are to achieve a meaningful sustainable outcome, every organisation – and even project – will need to assess what aspects of sustainability are relevant to them in their political, environmental and social context.

As a sector we have proven that we can deliver sustainable projects. In our discussion paper, Measures for Successful Outcomes: the five capitals approach, we look at some examples of success from our members, and how we can build on that that success to improve delivery across the board.

To support this conversation, ACE’s sustainability group proposes following a five capitals model which builds on the framework allowing a client to define what value means to them in the context of a specific investment.

This definition of value then unlocks the ability to develop a commercial model and supply chain structure around a wider value proposition, rather than just cost and volume. This can be taken through design, construction and, importantly, when measuring the delivered outcomes of the final project.

A value based approach to business improvement has been taken in the automotive industry where there has been an evolution of supply chain dynamics to streamline low-value processes into a production line, whilst maintaining appropriate value interactions. We believe a similar approach can be achieved in the built environment too through initiating a better understanding of the value of the project outcomes with the design process, rather than the construction process.

Having this clarity, and a common language to describe non-financial benefits, is key to ensuring the investments made in our built environment deliver value for the environment and society, as well as economic returns. It will also help different stakeholders – the investor, the client, the asset operator and its users – reach a shared understanding of the purpose and value-added by the project – why are we doing this, what can we get out of it, and who are we doing it for?

The discussion paper proposes a common framework through the five capitals approach, arguing that projects should be assessed holistically on their natural, human, social, manufactured and financial impacts. Whilst it doesn’t explore specifics, it does provide a starting point for this discussion, the end point of which is crucial to our industry’s future and ensuring we are delivering for a Net Zero society.

Natalie Cropp is chair of ACE’s sustainability group and director of sustainability at Tony Gee.

Measures for successful outcomes: the five capitals approach is available to download below, replay the launch webinar here.

Natalie Cropp

Natalie Cropp

Natalie Cropp is chair of ACE's Sustainability group.


Measures for Successful outcomes: the five capitals approach

ACE discussion paper on new approach to procurement.