Oxford. 21st November 2006. Ecosystem Challenges and Business Implications, published today, warns that companies must transform business models and operations if they are to avoid major economic losses caused by the current degradation of ecosystems and the vital services they provide.
The publication produced by Earthwatch Institute (Europe), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the World Resources Institute (WRI), is based on global scientific facts and projections from the UN's multi-year Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and interviews with a range of business leaders to assess the implications and strategies needed to respond to environmental challenges.*
This research indicates that many companies recognise the risks associated with degrading ecosystems and are trying to adapt accordingly, but most fail to associate healthy ecosystems with their business interests. A collective business response is therefore needed to address the scale of environmental change currently taking place.
The publication offers a detailed examination of the implications that water scarcity, climate change, nutrient overloading, biodiversity loss, habitat change and the overexploitation of oceans will have for the future of business. These include scarcity of raw materials, higher operating costs, government restrictions and reduced flexibility. It further cautions companies to prepare for these risks by measuring their impact and dependence on ecosystem services, taking advantage of emerging business opportunities and reducing their operational footprints.
Björn Stigson, President of WBCSD says, "Business simply cannot function if ecosystems and the services they deliver - like water, biodiversity, food, fibre and climate regulation - are degraded or out of balance. There must be a value attached to natural resources, and businesses need to start understanding this value."
The publication partners urge companies to pursue solutions that will help to conserve ecosystems, such as new energy efficient technologies and products, new businesses to undertake habitat restoration, and new markets, such as nutrient trading.
"Human impact on the natural environment has quickly led us to the limits of the earth's carrying capacity," says Nigel Winser, Executive Director of Earthwatch Institute (Europe). "Business, working in partnerships and by transforming current practices, must be part of the solution."
Janet Ranganathan, Director of the People and Ecosystems Program at the World Resources Institute continues, "Leading businesses have always adapted to new realities. The new reality is that ecosystems are losing their ability to produce some of what businesses value most."
Ecosystem Challenges and Business Implications is available for download from here.
The Companies interviewed for this publication were Interface Europe, Skanska, Syngenta, Novozymes, Unilever, Rio Tinto, Mondi, Shell, Thames Water Utilities, Novo Nordisk, SAB Miller, Reed Elsevier and Cadbury Schweppes.
The publication is the first of three to be produced by the four partners. The second will focus upon how new business models, markets and entrepreneurs can profit from responding to ecosystem challenges and the third will help business executives identify their dependences on ecosystem services and ways to retain them for the long term.
For press information, images and interviews please contact:
- Zoe Gamble, Senior Press Officer, Earthwatch Institute (Europe). + 44 (0) 1865 318820 / +44 (0) 7725690469 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lloyd Timberlake, Communications Director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, +41 22 839-3141 / +41 79 779-3504 / email@example.com
- Paul Mackie, Senior Media Officer. World Resources Institute, +1 (202) 729-7684 / firstname.lastname@example.org
• Carolin Wahnbaeck, Global Media Relations Officer, The World Conservation Union (IUCN), +41 22 999 0127, email@example.com
IUCN - The World Conservation Union
Created in 1948, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) brings together 81 States, 120 government agencies, 800 plus NGOs, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union's mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.
The Union is the world's largest environmental knowledge network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and biodiversity strategies. The Union is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1,000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.
World Business Council for Sustainable Development
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) brings together some 180 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. Our members are drawn from more than 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors. We also benefit from a global network of 50+ national and regional business councils and partner organizations.
Our mission is to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues.
Our objectives include:
- Business Leadership - to be a leading business advocate on sustainable development;
- Policy Development - to help develop policies that create framework conditions for the business contribution to sustainable development;
- The Business Case - to develop and promote the business case for sustainable development;
- Best Practice - to demonstrate the business contribution to sustainable development and share best practices among members;
• Global Outreach - to contribute to a sustainable future for developing nations and nations in transition.
World Resources Institute (WRI)
The World Resources Institute is an independent, non-partisan, and nonprofit organization with a staff of more than 100 scientists, economists, policy experts, business analysts, statistical analysts, mapmakers, and communicators developing and promoting policies that will help protect the Earth and improve people's lives.