How will ecosystem services affect corporate decision-making?

In January 2012, a potentially significant shift occurred for corporate decision-makers: Companies seeking financing from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, as well as from 76 global banks that signed on to the Equator Principles, became subject to due diligence processes that examine corporate impacts and dependencies on ecosystem services. This occurred even as more than 16 national and regional governments continued to focus on ways to integrate ecosystem services into public policy. With small-scale exploratory work underway for several years, corporate applications covered the spectrum -- from integration of ecosystem services into accounting to consideration of the issues as an element in risk-management and impact-assessment protocols.

Though few corporate decision-makers have heard of ecosystem services, the decades-old concept is now drawing significant attention to the natural infrastructure from which all natural resource-based goods and services flow and upon which all business and society relies.

But what’s next in terms of new corporate performance requirements related to ecosystem services? And what are the implications for companies?

To explore that question, BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group convened a small roundtable with working group members and thought leaders from the public, NGO and academic arenas. After two days of brainstorming and discussion, along with a field trip to the Florida Everglades headwaters, the group brainstormed a set of scenarios that were deemed feasible. Inspired by our field trip and previous transformative scenario-planning exercises, each scenario was given a name meant to evoke a sense of the dynamics that could play out. This article summarizes a few of the scenarios, which will be presented along with other possible futures in a longer report that BSR will issue in 2013.

Photo of a bee pollinating a flower provided by Dodoïste via Wikimedia commons

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