Why Disney, BP And Rio Tinto Are Exploring Ecosystem Services

Sissel Waage of BSR (Business of Social Responsibility) wrote an interesting article two months ago. He discussed reasons why ecosystem services thinking is on the rise as the number of governments invests in ecosystem services and companies incorporating their environmental impacts into existing business models continue to grow. Biodiversity and Ecosystem services (BES) refer to the benefits that humans enjoy from functioning ecosystems. That includes goods or products that ecosystems produce, and the natural processes that ecosystems regulate.

Waage cites companies such as Disney, BP and Rio Tinto. He says that these companies see an increasingly persuasive business case for tracking the impacts and dependencies on BES.

So, according to him, the case for corporate action on BES has solidified, with internal and external dimensions that are more and more compelling. “Ecosystem services are essential to businesses, as well as to some 450 million people whose livelihoods depend upon their ongoing flow”, he claimed.

One of the steps has been the foundation of the internal business case, in order to improve current risk and opportunity identification processes. For example, one corporate leader said that an ecosystem services analysis highlighted issues likely to occur in the coming months and years that otherwise wouldn’t have been identified, such as saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwater aquifers.

On the other hand, this uptake of ecosystem services thinking is underway among a growing range of key corporate stakeholders as well as governments. For example, more than 16 government agencies around the world either are investing in ecosystem services initiatives or developing related policies. This includes Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the European Union, India, Israel, Japan, Nepal, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

It is also clear that the investor and financial services sector is interested in new, integrated and ecologically accurate ways of understanding and avoiding environmental risk. Companies will need to demonstrate robust risk management practices that are in line with investor due diligence and corporate ranking approaches that now include consideration of ecosystem services, such as the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), the 79 Equator Banks and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

So, according to Waage, it is clear that BES is coming of age.

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