All of these issues contribute to a tone of caution among many business representatives who discuss ecosystem services, especially given the challenge of working in multiple countries around the world with relatively little available ecosystem services data and diverse stakeholders who hold a wide range of values, interests and priorities. Significant forward movement on the integration of ecosystem services into decision-making is likely contingent, in part, upon different sectors answering a number of questions, as detailed below.
Trend 4: Many corporate managers' preliminary conclusions about ecosystem services assessments are that they generate insights, particularly around business dependencies that may be at risk within a changing climate.
Numerous corporate managers asserted that an ecosystem services assessment has the potential to yield new insights relative to existing approaches to conducting environmental and social impact assessment. Specifically, corporate representatives reported in interviews that ecosystem services assessments have already drawn attention to:
• Operational dependencies on ecosystem services.
• Potential supply chain risks associated with cumulative impacts on key ecosystem services upon which suppliers rely.
• Threats to local stakeholder livelihoods, particularly in highly natural resource-dependent economies and rural areas.
Yet corporate managers felt that the most fruitful applications of ecosystem services frameworks in private sector settings are still being identified through pilot testing. In addition, the difference between ecosystem services approaches and the insights that they generate, relative to existing corporate environmental assessment processes, remains to be fully assessed.
Overall, private sector experience with ecosystem services concepts and analytical tools remains emergent. Ideally, future applied work within companies will be shared so that corporate decisionmakers can draw from a growing body of experience on applying ecosystem services within the private sector. Hopefully, this work on more systematic examination of ecosystem services impacts and dependencies will spark innovation and effective on-the-ground action to maintain and restore the natural infrastructure upon which we all rely.
River image by biletskiy via Shutterstock