IUCN helps businesses value nature

08 April 2011 | News story

Today, IUCN and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released a Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation (CEV) – a new message to enhance business understanding of the benefits and value of ecosystem services like fresh water, food, fibre and protection against natural disasters.

The economic value of nature and the services it provides us is enormous, but it is rarely taken into account in policies, financial systems and markets. The Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation (CEV) aims to enable companies to better understand the value of nature’s services that they affect and depend on. This will improve business decision-making by creating more alignment between businesses’ financial, ecological and social objectives.

“Consumers are demanding more sustainable products,” says Nathalie Olsen of IUCN’s Economics and Environment Programme. “Companies that are able to demonstrate that they invest in natural capital and measure and reduce their environmental footprint will reap significant advantages in the market place. The Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation can help provide information and insights about the value of ecosystem services in order to strengthen decision-making for both sound business decisions and more sustainable production.”

The Guide complements The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, a key report released in October 2010 by the G8+5 Environment Ministers at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit in Japan. TEEB urges companies to support sustainable use and management of biodiversity as an integral part of their business plans. But businesses cannot manage what they don’t measure. With the CEV guide, they will be able to to value their ecosystem impacts, use and management.

“CEV allows business to fully recognize and value ecosystems and the services they deliver,“ said Björn Stigson, President of the WBCSD.

The guide was developed through an 18-month process of close collaboration with four partner organizations – International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Environmental Resources Management (ERM), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and IUCN Member World Resources Institute (WRI) – and businesses themselves. Fourteen WBCSD member companies ‘road-tested’ the guide, exploring and analyzing business risks and opportunities associated with ecosystems.

“IUCN’s work with Holcim suggests that expenditure on wetland restoration following extraction is an investment which pays dividends by ensuring continued access to minerals and a good corporate reputation”, said Nathalie Olsen. “This is essential to operate within communities which increasingly value their environment”.

IUCN also worked with Rio Tinto to investigate the value of forest ecosystems and the possibilities to capture it through innovative financial mechanisms such as Payments for Ecosystem Services and channel payments to communities affected by extractive industries, with the aim to develop sustainable livelihoods.

The Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation (CEV) was unveiled today at a launch event in Geneva, Switzerland. For a full copy of the guide, please click here.

For more information, please contact:
Nathalie Olsen, IUCN’s Economics and Environment Programme, e-mail: Nathalie.Olsen@iucn.org