Ecosystem Services (ES) are the benefits nature provides to people. These can include essential services like access to clean drinking water and food production or other values like recreational opportunities and aesthetics. The natural resource sector also depends on the benefits nature provides to exist. Without healthy, functioning ecosystems, the forestry sector would not have a sustainable timber harvest and the agricultural sector would not have productive land to produce crops. While lumber, pulp and paper and the production of food all have a market value, there are a number of regulating and supporting services nature provides that are not associated with a market price. Nutrient cycling, pollination, and genetic diversity, are all examples of services that, if they were to disappear, would have detrimental impacts on these sectors; however current markets do not associate a cost with them.
Ecosystem Service Assessments can help a company identify these dependencies and supply chain risks in order to minimize business interruptions in the future. Similar assessments can also help companies find a balance between resource and conservation values so that all the benefits from the land base can be realized. They can also help identify new business opportunities by participating in offset markets, re-branding products to be eco-friendly, or leveraging company-owned natural capital to sell goods and services not currently within the core business.
More than 50 countries and 85 private companies have committed to accounting for ecosystem services in business decision making and in countries’ national accounts. This trend is gaining traction in North America at unprecedented rates, as companies begin to recognize the importance of sustainable development practices in the face of increasing resource scarcity.
Silvacom has developed a white paper that explores an ecosystem service approach as an emerging trend in sustainable management for the natural resources industry and how it can be incorporated into existing sustainable development planning and reporting.