Business and ecosystems are linked. All businesses affect ecosystems and rely on the critical provisioning services (freshwater, fiber, food) and regulatory services (climate regulation, flood control, water purification, waste treatment) they provide.
However, 60% of the world’s ecosystem services have been degraded over the past 50 years. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) – initiated by the G8+5 environment ministers (2007-2010) – revealed that the costs of ecosystem degradation are huge, e.g. US$ 2-5 trillion of ecosystem services are lost each year just from deforestation. This scale of loss and value is clearly material to companies.
Ecosystem change presents both business opportunities and risks, such as operational (e.g. increased scarcity and cost of raw materials), regulatory and legal (e.g. public policies such as taxes and moratoria on extractive activities), reputational (e.g. relationships and image from media and NGOs), market and product (e.g. consumer preferences) and financing (e.g. availability of capital).
The WBCSD has been working on ecosystems issues for 15 years and a formal Focus Area on Ecosystems was established in 2007. Links have been strengthened with leading organizations that influence policy frameworks and societal expectations, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - WBCSD is a member since 2013, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD). WBCSD has also been involved in public policy debates, engaging with the OECD and participating in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s process. WBCSD also contributed to the TEEB initiative, including editing the TEEB for Business report.
Through the Action2020 Platform for Action, WBCSD and its member companies have identified a set of societal “Must-Haves” or goals that business and other stakeholders can and need to achieve together by 2020, in order to reach WBCSD’s Vision 2050, i.e. a world in which 9 billion+ people live well and within the limits of the planet. The Societal Must-Haves identified for the Ecosystems & Land Use cluster are as follows:
By 2020, reduce the loss of natural ecosystems and restore degraded ones so that biodiversity and ecosystem services are maintained:
Rate of forest loss is at least halved and, where possible, brought close to zero (relative to the average 2000-2010 rate)
Rate of wetland loss is at least halved and, where possible, brought close to zero (relative to the average 2000-2010 rate)
10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved
15% of degraded forests as of 2010 are pledged to, or are under restoration
15% of degraded wetlands as of 2014 are pledged to, or are under restoration
15% of degraded coral reefs are pledged to, or are under restoration
Restore at least 12 million hectares per year of degraded lands.
WBCSD and its members have identified a number of business solutions that can contribute to achieving these targets. Their common feature is that they all require a landscape approach, i.e. to consider the multi-functionality of landscapes. They are only part of the answer, as new solutions still need to be added to this list in order to scale up business impact.
These solutions are complemented by the WBCSD Redefining Value work on Natural Capital, in particular the development of tools to measure, value, manage and mitigate ecosystem impacts and dependencies.
1. Investing in Natural Infrastructure
Natural infrastructure, in many cases, can provide the same services and benefits as man-made infrastructure and at a lower cost. A well-functioning ecosystem can deliver the equivalent water availability and filtration, flood control and shoreline protection as a major physical infrastructure project. Indeed, investing in ecosystems is often cost-competitive with man-made infrastructure investments for equivalent services.
This business solution looks into the necessary conditions to scale up investments in natural infrastructures, as a way to create new ecosystems or restore existing ones.
2. Restoring Productivity to Degraded Land
Twenty four percent of the world´s usable lands are degraded, which represents major threats to agricultural productivity. Some studies estimate the economic loss of land degradation at USD 40 billion per year.
This business solution leverages two existing initiatives that aim to raise awareness and scale up action around land degradation: the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD), which looks at the costs and benefits of land restoration and the UNCCD Soil Leadership Academy, which aims to build decision-makers’ capacity on soils.
3. Land Use Criteria in Supply Chains
The global demand for food, feed, fibre, biofuel and biochemicals is rapidly growing, which increases competition between these different sectors for one of the most precious resources: land.
Through engagement in different multistakeholder initiatives (The Forests Dialogue, the FAO- IUCN-UNEP Forum on the Optimization of Biomass Production and Use), this business solution aims to come up with innovative solutions to deal with land use issues.
For more information about the Cluster, please contact Violaine Berger, Director, Ecosystems & Agriculture