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Businesses could benefit from protecting biodiversity

July 14, 2010

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

Back in February I went to an Earthwatch  lecture at the Said Business School in Oxford given  by Pavan Sukhdev,  TEEB study leader, who already then emphasised the importance of  evaluating the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the associated decline in ecosystem services worldwide, and comparing them with the costs of effective conservation and sustainable use. These ideas are collated in the TEEB Climate Issues update (2009) and the TEEB for Policy Makers Report (2009).

The latest TEEB report: “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Report for Business” (executive summary here),  argues that many sectors have a stake in protecting nature and that businesses can and should take a key role in stemming biodiversity loss around the world.

Freshwater is only mentioned 3 times in the 2009 report for policy makers and not at all in the latest executive summary of the report for businesses. This maybe because it is talking about biodiversity in general and forests, being the policy issue of the day with major economic engagement (REDD), are frequently referred to.

Where freshwater is mentioned, the report talks about freshwater resources for industry and consumption and makes no mention of the value of biodiverse water. This is a challenge for us. If we were to make a case that freshwater biodiversity is important for business what would it be?  What good examples could we offer as examples for such reports?

Beyond a case for recreation-based businesses (e.g. fishing, tourism) I struggle to think of others and would be fascinated to hear your ideas.

The report,  launched  at the first Global Business of Biodiversity in London reported a study that states that half of European and US consumers say they would stop buying products from companies that disregard biodiversity concerns. Companies are increasingly paying  attention to brand reputation  and this suggests that another strategy might be to more actively highlight the impacts of corporations on freshwater biodiversity.

TEEB will produce its final report for October’s meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan, which will see governments examining the reasons why they have failed to live up to their 2002 pledge to curb nature loss by 2010.

Looking forward to read your comments!

Muriel Bonjean

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Aaike De Wever permalink
    July 15, 2010 12:07

    Just a few ‘biodiverse water business values’ that spring to my mind;
    *algal biodiversity for biofuel production (that doesn’t compete with food production),
    *algae for production of food suplements; i.e. omega-3 rich diatoms,
    *natural wastewater cleaning capabilities of microorganisms and plants.

  2. Muriel permalink
    August 4, 2010 14:16

    There is a clear need to demonstrate how the approaches and instruments introduced by TEEB can be put into practice at regional and local level. A TEEB report, coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and due to be launched on the 9th of September 2010 will attempt to bridge this gap and to illustrate the wide range of concrete socio-economic benefits of integrating the true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services into regional and local decision-making. In particular, the report will highlight how the different economic insights and instruments could be used in practice to support the sustainable use of ecosystems and natural resources, for example through urban management and spatial planning.

    Similarly, IEEP and the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme (DCP) are currently carrying out a study to explore the application of the TEEB approaches in the Danube river basin. This short scoping study aims to demonstrate how the insights and lessons learned from TEEB, such as creation of markets, reforming harmful subsidies and establishing payments for ecosystem services, could be implemented at a river basin level.
    The Danube basin, rich in both biodiversity and ecosystem services but also facing strong pressures for further economic development, provides an interesting case study. The study will be published later in 2010, in time to provide useful insights to the CBD meeting in Nagoya.

  3. August 12, 2010 10:20

    A global survey, carried out by McKinsey Global in July 2010, of over 1500 company executives found mixed results for biodiversity. On the one hand, biodiversity is seen as an opportunity or a risk for over half the respondents, with water scarcity leading the list of risks. Close t0 40% of respondents, however, saw no risk to their company from biodiversity.

    Out of a choice of 12 possible environmental/sustainability issues, biodiversity was at the bottom of the list of issues of importance to business and climate change/energy efficiency, waste/pollution/recycling, and water scarcity/water quality/sanitation were the top issues for business.
    Biodiversity was more important to companies in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and energy industries.

    Biodiversity was cited as being important to a corporation’s reputation, mission or values, and regulatory environment and only 17% of respondents cited biodiversity as important for attracting funds from investors.

    Over half the respondents reported taking some form of action related to biodiversity, with communication and actions addressing use of renewable natural resources topping the list. Also, 42% of respondents indicated taking action to develop business opportunities from biodiversity: “actively seeking to identify new products or ideas from renewable natural resources.” A quarter of the companies had a formal biodiversity policy or strategy.

    The survey also found “little consensus on what might spur [companies] to take action; the top choice, selected by only 23 percent of respondents, is regulatory requirements. Separately, almost equal shares (37 and 36 percent, respectively) cite consumers and regulators as the stakeholders who are likeliest to encourage action.”

    Finally, the survey found that tax incentives or subsidies for conservation actions were the most-favored type of ‘regulation.’ As well, 38% say industry-created voluntary standards on the use of renewable natural resources would be acceptable.”

    Sources:
    Ecosystem Marketplace and http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Strategy/Strategy_in_Practice/The_next_environmental_issue_for_business_McKinsey_Global_Survey_results_2651

  4. September 3, 2011 08:15

    Nice post. I study something on completely different blogs everyday. It will all the time be stimulating to read content from other writers and observe slightly something from their blog.

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