Assisting companies to report their links to and dependence upon ecosystems such as freshwaters, soil fertility and pollination services is the focus of a new publication released today by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and CREM.
Approach for Reporting on Ecosystem Services: Incorporating Ecosystem Services into an Organization’s Performance Disclosure looks at emerging issues around ecosystem services and how corporations interact with them, reap the benefits and as a result need to monitor and protect them.
“Ecosystems are not just about exotic plants and rare animals, they also provide services, like clean water and building materials. Companies have an impact on these services, and also depend on them to support operations,” said Jolanda van Schaick, one of the authors and a Senior Consultant at CREM, a consultancy whose projects focus on sustainable development.
All organizations are dependent on ecosystem services, a term used to capture the benefits people derive from ecosystems such as food, timber, soil fertility and fresh water. It is ecosystem services which support manufacturing and the final products and raw materials of traded goods. However, increasingly fast-paced economic development is putting pressure on the health and sustainability of ecosystems and the services they provide.
Measuring the financial value of ecosystem services to support corporate decision-making is also a challenge though enterprises are increasingly aware of their dependency on nature’s services.
Many corporations already monitor pressures on the local environment, for example their emissions and effluents, but this does not cover all the benefits that people derive from ecosystems, or a company’s reliance on ecosystem services.
“Several organizations are exploring ways to report the impacts on ecosystem services, but no global agreement on the most appropriate way has been found yet. The discussions and ideas collected in this publication provide a good basis for designing future reporting indicators,” said Mônica Barcellos, who heads the Business, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of UNEP-WCMC in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The new publication suggests indicators that organizations could use to assess and report their impacts on ecosystem services.
Some examples of the reporting indicators for ecosystem services include:
- Nature and the amount of natural resources harvested, produced, traded and/or consumed, such as crops, fish, timber and fibers by a corporation in relation to the safe ecological limits;
- The volume of water consumed by corporations and its relation to total water availability in areas of operation, including identification of water sources;
- Economic cost to a corporation due to climate-related disasters, such as flooding, and crop failure;
- The volume of inputs from sources complying with credible and internationally recognized responsible production standards, including through labeling.