Natural capital and ecosystem service concepts are embodied in the ecosystems approach to sustainable development, which is a framework being consistently adopted by decision making bodies ranging from national governments to the United Nations. In the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment soils are given the vital role of a supporting service, but many of the other soil goods and services remain obscured. In this review we address this using and earth-system approach, highlighting the final goods and services soils produce, in a stock-fund, fund-service model of the pedosphere. We also argue that focusing on final goods and services will be counterproductive in the long run and emphasize that final goods and services are derived from an ecosystem supply chain that relies on ecological infrastructure. We propose that an appropriate ecosystems framework for soils should incorporate soil stocks (natural capital) showing their contribution to stock-flows and emergent fund-services as part of the supply chain. By so doing, an operational ecosystems concept for soils can draw on much more supporting data on soil stocks as demonstrated in a case study with soils data from England and Wales showing stocks, gaps in monitoring and drivers of change. Although the focus of this review is on soils, we believe the earth-system approach and principles of the ecosystem supply chain are widely applicable to the ecosystems approach and bring clarity in terms of where goods and services are derived from.