WRI: Leading Companies Responding to Ecosystem Degradation
March 27, 2008 // Published as a news service by IHS
To prepare businesses for this new landscape, three organizations launched a set of guidelines designed to help companies proactively develop strategies to manage risks and opportunities arising from ecosystem degradation.
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The guidelines, called the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review, were developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with the Meridian Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
Five WBCSD members - Akzo Nobel, BC Hydro, Mondi, Rio Tinto and Syngenta - "road-tested" the methodology and provided input to its design.
"The world's forests, wetlands and other ecosystems are under tremendous pressure due to climate change, land conversion and many other factors," said Jonathan Lash, president of WRI. "As ecosystems degrade, companies will face operational, regulatory and reputational risks, while those that offer solutions may find new business opportunities and new sources of revenue."
Ecosystems provide companies with a wide variety of benefits or services, including fresh water, wood, pollination, climate regulation and protection from natural hazards, to name a few.
"Ecosystem services are often unacknowledged, yet they underpin many corporate activities," said John Ehrmann, managing partner of the Meridian Institute. "I am pleased with the feedback from company managers who are finding the guidelines helpful for developing strategies that improve both corporate performance and ecosystem stewardship."
The road-testers found that the guidelines can provide a number of other benefits as well. They can help companies anticipate new markets and government policies that may emerge in response to ecosystem degradation. They can strengthen corporate environmental impact assessments by adding considerations traditional methods may overlook. And they also can help companies better manage conflicts over resources, identifying options for better tradeoffs between ecosystem services.
"The methodology helped us identify and rank emerging problems, and provided us with a framework for turning risks into opportunities," said Peter Gardiner, natural resources manager at Mondi, a leading international paper and packaging manufacturer.
Mondi's newfound strategies include a number of operational changes that will increase the company's efficiency in using fresh water, a scarce ecosystem service, and lead to new markets for the company's by-products.
Some road-testers, such as Mondi and BC Hydro, used the guidelines to gain insight into the direct implications that ecosystem trends pose for them. Other road-testers, such as Akzo Nobel and Syngenta, applied the methodology to understand the risks faced by a segment of their customers due to ecosystem degradation and, in turn, discovered opportunities for new products or services that address these risks. Analysts said the guidelines profile these and other road-test experiences.
For a copy of the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review, go to www.wri.org/ecosystems/esr.
Source: World Resources Institute (WRI).