Over the past decade, efforts to value and protect ecosystem services have been promoted by many as the last, best hope for making conservation mainstream – attractive and commonplace worldwide. In theory, if we can help individuals and institutions to recognize the value of nature, then this should greatly increase investments in conservation, while at the same time fostering human well-being. In practice, however, we have not yet developed the scientific basis, nor the policy and finance mechanisms, for incorporating natural capital into resource- and land-use decisions on a large scale. Here, we propose a conceptual framework and sketch out a strategic plan for delivering on the promise of ecosystem services, drawing on emerging examples from Hawai‘i. We describe key advances in the science and practice of accounting for natural capital in the decisions of individuals, communities, corporations, and governments.