A new report launched this week highlights the message that CELB has been saying for years: the loss of biodiversity, all life on Earth, directly affects business.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report, a project of the U.N. Environment Programme (with financial support from the European Commission, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), details the costs to business arising from the loss of biodiversity and the ecosystem services that nature provides.
LEARN MORE: 'Nature Provides: Ecosystem Services and their Benefits to Humankind'
According to TEEB for Business, one in four CEOs worldwide view biodiversity loss as a strategic issue to be addressed in order to grow their business especially as consumers are becoming more aware of biodiversity's importance. The report indicates that of those 'aware' consumers, over 80 percent said they would stop buying products from companies that disregard ethical considerations in their sourcing practices.
CELB's Bambi Semroc and Conrad Savy contributed a section to the report that highlights the different approaches available to companies for understanding and managing biodiversity and ecosystem risks. It covers traditional risk assessment approaches and other strategies such as adaptive management, participation in strategic partnerships and stakeholder engagement, and includes a survey of tools for business to support these processes.
Identifying Impacts on Business
Assessing risk is a critical part in the cycle of project development for any business that helps them to avoid or mitigate potential impacts around damaged investor or consumer support, legal liabilities or other production delays. Many leading businesses are trying to find ways to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem issues into their existing broader risk assessment processes. This has been difficult because the value of biodiversity and ecosystems are often not presented in financial terms that allow for easy comparisons or integration within accounting frameworks.
A number of tools have been developed or are in development to support these efforts. In order to make sense of when and how to use these tools, some experts have tried to classify this confusing universe of options in way that makes them more understandable. In this survey of tools, Semroc and Savy chose to complement these existing approaches by highlighting potential gaps in the current set of tools and perhaps help identify future opportunities for businesses and other stakeholders to address these in ways that will make the inclusion of biodiversity and ecosystems into risk assessment and mitigation even easier and more comprehensive.
Three broad types of tools were highlighted, including standards and methods which set a bar for performance and how to reach that bar; data tools which present or interpret scientific information that can support these standards and methods; and scenario or modeling tools which allow business to look at how their projects may influence delivery of ecosystem services. They found that the majority of tools were of the standards or methods type with a lack of data or modeling tools to support their implementation. There were relatively few tools that supported the valuation of ecosystem services, but several that present information on biodiversity. Given these gaps, business should supplement these approaches with more traditional risk assessment activities such as adaptive management, stakeholder engagement and forming strategic alliances with organizations and experts to develop a more comprehensive toolbox to inform decision-making processes.
The full results of the TEEB study will be made public at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan in October.