A potentially significant shift is underway in terms of corporate performance expectations. Though few corporate decision-makers have heard of ecosystem services, the decades-old concept is now entering “prime time.” It is drawing global attention to natural capital, which is the “infrastructure” from which all natural resource-based goods and services flow and upon which business and society relies.
For example, as of January 2012, companies seeking financing from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, as well as the 76 global banks that signed on to the Equator Principles, became subject to more rigorous due diligence processes that examine their impacts and dependencies on ecosystem services. At the same time, more than 16 national and regional governments are currently considering ways to integrate ecosystem services into public policy. With small-scale exploratory work underway for several years, corporate applications today cover the spectrum—from integrating ecosystem services into accounting, to including ecosystem services as an element of risk management and impact assessment protocols.
What is next in terms of new corporate performance requirements related to ecosystem services? And what are the implications for companies?
BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group focuses on emerging risks and opportunities associated with corporate reliance on, and impacts to, ecosystem services. We track the development of new environmental performance expectations associated with ecosystem services, as well as new decision-making aids and policy uptake. Companies can join the working group on an annual basis to gain intelligence on the issues, get access to thought leaders, and garner insights from peers, among other benefits.
"BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group has been an essential source of intelligence on ecosystem services—from business relevance through policy uptake around the world and analytical challenges. BSR has consistently identified new trends and emerging stakeholder concerns. In addition, BSR has given us access to external thought leaders and their own subject matter experts. The insights gained from this Working Group have enabled us to hone our own work on valuing nature at Dow."
“BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group is my ‘go-to’ place for news and information on developments regarding ecosystem services tools, policies and markets. BSR’s understanding of business needs, objective analysis and thorough coverage are a great help in making sense of what has become an increasingly complex issue area. In addition, the engagement with other companies and stakeholders has been very helpful in formulating our approach to integrating these concepts into existing systems.”
“Among sustainable development issues, ecosystem services is one of the most difficult for businesses to understand and evaluate. It is even harder to find a place to discuss the issue. BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group is undoubtedly the best multi-sectoral roundtable on ecosystem services. It provides a space in which to learn about the issue, share experiences with peers, and assess tools as well as pathways forward.”
Working Group Overview
- “Ecosystem Services: The Next Wave” in GreenBiz
- “New analytics to identify investor risks and opportunities through the lens of ecosystem services” in Responsible Investor
- “Rewiring the economy: measuring environmental impact” in The Guardian
- “Business risk to biodiversity and ecosystems is too often overlooked” in The Guardian
- “Five Public Sector Trends in Ecosystem Services” in GreenBiz
- “How Will Ecosystem Services Affect Corporate Decision-Making” in GreenBiz
Overall State of Play Reviews
- Making Sense of New Approaches to Business Risk and Opportunity Assessment (2014)
- Private Sector Engagement with Ecosystem Services (2014)
- The Quiet (R)Evolution in in Expectations of Corporate Environmental Performance (2012)
- BSR Insight article: Part 2. Corporate Environmental Performance in Practice (2012)
- BSR Insight article: Part 1. The Quiet Revolution: The Changing Expectations of Corporate Environmental Performance (2012)
Scenarios for the Future
- Seeing the Future Business Context: Scenarios of How Ecosystem Services Issues May Play Out and Affect the Private Sector (2013)
- Environmental Performance 2.0: How Will Ecosystem Services Affect Corporate Decision-Making Next? (2012)
- Making the Invisible Visible: Analytical Tools for Assessing Business Impacts and Dependencies upon Ecosystem Services (2014)
- “A Comparative Assessment of Decision-Support Tools for Ecosystem Services Quantification and Valuation”, in Ecosystem Services Journal
- Measuring and Managing Corporate Performance in an Era of Expanded Disclosure: A Review of the Emerging Domain of Ecosystem Services Tools (2013)
- New Business Decision-Making Aids in an Era of Complexity, Scrutiny, and Uncertainty (2011)
- Relevant Database-Oriented Tools for Potential Use With Multi-Ecosystem Services Tools (2011)
- BSR Insight article: Measuring Environmental Performance: The Business Case for New Tools (2010)
- Future Expectations of Corporate Environmental Performance (2010)
- Supplementary Materials for Future Expectations of Corporate Environmental Performance (2010)
- Measuring Corporate Impact on Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Review of New Tools (2008)
- Connect with leading experts, ecosystem services tool developers, and policy makers through structured and facilitated meetings.
- Receive structured context for due diligence on emerging issues and potential corporate “points of view” on those issues.
- Collaborate with cross-industry groups of peers looking at similar emerging issues.
- Develop close working relationships with BSR experts who can help you think through emerging issues and their relevance to companies and industries.
Key Activities for Participants
- Collaborate with tool developers, government officials, and industry leaders at an annual forum to discuss emerging tool and policy trends.
- Synthesize corporate experiences and recommend next steps related to pilot applications of ecosystem services concepts and tools within corporate settings.
- Track and obtain analysis of global ecosystem services-related policy developments.
- AngloGold Ashanti, Inc.
- Barrick Gold
- BP p.l.c.
- Chevron Corporation
- The Dow Chemical Company
- Eni S.p.A.
- Exxon Mobil Corporation
- Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.
- Royal Dutch Shell