Geneva, 18 May 2010 - Companies depend on and impact the services that healthy ecosystems provide such as freshwater, wood, water purification, carbon sequestration, pollination and natural hazard protection. Degradation of these “ecosystem services,” therefore, can pose a number of risks to corporate performance. But they can also create new business opportunities.
The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review (ESR) has been designed to help companies make the connection between the health of the ecosystems and the financial bottom line. This methodology helps to better manage the risks and opportunities linked to a company's dependence and impacts on ecosystems.
Importantly, the ESR is a tool for strategy development, not just for environmental assessment. Businesses can either conduct an Ecosystem Services Review as a stand-alone process or integrate it into their existing environmental management systems. In both cases, the methodology can complement and increase the environmental due diligence tools already used.
Since its launch in 2008, an estimated 300 corporations have used the freely-downloadable ESR – developed by the World Resources Institute along with the WBCSD and Meridian Institute, and five corporate pilot testers.
In May 2010, over 120 participants attended WBCSD-hosted webinars that gave a step-by-step demo of the ESR's functionalities (slide pack in PPT and PDF), including how to assess dependence and impacts , how to identify priority ecosystem services, and explore related risks and opportunities. Akzo Nobel , BC Hydro, Mondi and Syngenta shared their experiences with the tool during the webinars.
Karin A. Halldén (AkzoNobel Technology & Engineering) and Maria Norell from Eka Chemicals, a subsidiary of AkzoNobel explained how the ESR complements the company's existing sustainability toolbox and has helped identify risks for both their customers and themselves (such as scarcity of wood and water due to government restrictions) and opportunities downstream with customers in China and Indonesia (such as devising new concepts to replace fiber with mineral filler).
Scott Harrison from BC Hydro described how the ESR has been used within their “Water-Use Planning” scheme to engage regulators and non-business stakeholders, including aboriginal people, in discussions about ecosystem services. These discussions have ranged from due diligence (looking at regulations and internal policies) to quantifying environmental change.
Peter Gardiner from Mondi (slide pack in PPT and PDF) told participants about how the ESR supported their strategy to manage their impacts on freshwater and biodiversity in their plantations in South Africa, and pushed the issue of invasive species higher up the corporate agenda. They customized the last step of the tool and put together their own framework for prioritizing strategies over a 3-year period.
Juan Gonzalez-Valero from Syngenta explained that using the ESR has helped to highlight risks faced by their customers in Southern India from the degradation of ecosystem services (including soil quality, loss of pollination services, and freshwater availability). It has also brought to the fore opportunities for new products and services.