Six Capitals

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= "The Integrated Reporting (multicapital) Framework categorises them as financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and relationship, and natural".




"The MultiCapital Scorecard focuses on five types of vital capital:

  • Natural: Air, land, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ecosystems and other natural biophysical resources that humans and non-humans rely on for their well-being;
  • Human: Knowledge, skills, experience, health, values, attitudes and ethical duties;
  • Social and relationship: Teams, networks and hierarchies working together and their shared knowledge, skills, experience, health and values;
  • Constructed: Material objects, systems or ecosystems created by humans;
  • Economic: This can be internal or external. Internal financial capital refers to the pool of funds available to a company, including debt and equity finance. External financial capital consists of all funds available to parties outside an organization that your company can choose to access.



A Capital Theory of Performance

By Mark W. McElroy and Martin P. Thomas:

"Along with the rise of multiple capital theory as a rubric for assessing the performance of organizations has come a growing need for guidance on how to do so (GRI, 2013a; Eccles and Krzus, 2015). Even the International Integrated Reporting Council’s (IIRC) <IR> Framework for integrated reporting (IIRC, 2013) and the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings’ (GISR) Ratings Standard (GISR, 2013), two new standards that explicitly call for capital-based measures of organizational performance, are principles-based and non-prescriptive in this regard. Organizations and their advisors, instead, have been left to their own devices.

Addressing this need raises some basic questions about the substance of multiple capital theory and how it can or should be operationalized. What does it mean, for example, to assess performance in terms of multiple capitals and how might one do so in a formal or structured way? What exactly is the capital theory of performance and what are its practice implications? Is it even possible to operationalize the Triple Bottom Line (Elkington, 1997)?

In response to these questions, we have developed a system called the MultiCapital Scorecard[i], a methodology informed by the view that the performance of organizations can and should be assessed in terms of what their impacts on vital capitals are (Elkington, 1997; Porritt, 2005; McElroy et al, 2007; McElroy, 2008; McElroy and Van Engelen, 2012; Gleeson-White, 2014). This, of course, is not an entirely new idea, as financial performance has always been looked at in this way; non-financial performance, however, almost never has and yet the same principles can be applied. In a very real sense, then, the state of the art for non-financial accounting is only now catching up to what financial managers have known all along: that performance is a function of impacts on capital—albeit economic capital, only, in the case of financial reporting.

With the MultiCapital Scorecard, we simply extend this idea to assessing the social and environmental performance of a firm as well. And when we do, only the capitals and the stakeholders involved change. Instead of focusing only on a firm’s impacts on economic capital for the sake of its shareholders, we assess impacts on all vital capitals for the sake of all stakeholders. This, we believe, is the fundamental essence of integrated measurement and reporting, without which there can be no integrated thinking or management. It is a body of theory and practice we call multicapitalism." (

Multi-Capital Accounting Standards

Bill Baue:

"There are currently three major new standards being established in the corporate community, and all of them are adhering to (multi-)capital theory, which arguably compels them to take account of impacts on the commons — or on capital resources that are shared amongst stakeholders.

These three are:

  1. International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
  2. Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
  3. Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) ."


Integrated Reporting

" <IR> is a process founded on integrated thinking that results in a periodic integrated report by an organization about value creation over time and related communications regarding aspects of value creation.

An integrated report is a concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of value in the short, medium and long term."

  • "The International Integrated Reporting Council ('the IIRC')

is a global not-for-profit organization, incorporated in England and Wales. Company no. 07746254 with its registered office at The Helicon, Third Floor, 1 South Place, London, EC2M 2RB."


1. The MultiCapital Scorecard

  • The MultiCapital Scorecard.By Martin Thomas and Mark McElroy. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017.

"The Consultants Martin Thomas and Mark McElroy have developed a format that provides a practical way to oversee such expansive sustainability. You choose what you wish to measure – what you feel is important – and even the weights you want to give to the various items. But they provide, thorough their MultiCapital Scorecard, a means for managing and evaluating that broader view of the organization.

It’s an important book because when you fall short of sustainability – an unpalatable workplace, polluting the environment, or being unproductive and winding up in the financial red – you are eroding capital, be it societal or corporate, and that’s destructive. And even if you find a multicapital approach wrongheaded or the authors’ system too elaborate, the method may include useful ideas you can borrow for your own situation." (

2. Six Capitals, or Can Accountants Save the Planet

* Book: Six Capitals, or Can Accountants Save the Planet? Rethinking Capitalism for the Twenty-First Century. By Jane Gleeson-White. W. W. Norton, 2015


"This is the story of a twenty-first-century revolution being led by the most unlikely of rebels: accountants. Only the second revolution in accounting since double-entry bookkeeping began, it is of seismic proportions, driven by the 2008 financial crash and our ongoing environmental crisis. The changes it will wreak are profound and far-reaching and not only will transform the way the world does business but also will alter the nature of capitalism.

While the wealth of nations and corporations has been vital to the global economy, increasingly the world is coming to realize that such endless growth is limited by the earth's resources and comes at a huge price to the planet and to human well-being. It simply cannot be sustained.

This revolution demands that we go beyond merely accounting for traditional financial and industrial capital and take account of the benefits and detriments to the natural world and society. It urges us to include four new categories of wealth: intellectual (such as intellectual property), human (skills, productivity, and health), social and relationship (shared norms and values), and natural (environment). Making them part of our financial statements and GDP figures may be the only way to address the many calamities we face.

Just two years ago this revolution seemed idealistic and unlikely. Today it is quickly unfolding. In 2012, the sea-change year, two key initiatives took root: an international movement to transform how corporate accounting is calculated and the rise of incorporating the effects on the environment to the accounting of national and global economies. Six Capitals tells the story of this coming new age in capitalism, evaluating its promise and the disaster that lies ahead if it is not implemented."

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