Dow Commits $10M in Partnership to Put Business Value on Ecosystems

Dow Commits $10M in Partnership to Put Business Value on Ecosystems

In 2010, the concept of ecosystem services appeared on the radar of a number of companies. But in the wake of news today from Dow Chemical, 2011 may be an even bigger year.

The company today announced a partnership with The Nature Conservancy to help incorporate the value that nature brings -- from water and soil's value to agriculture to the benefits wetlands and reefs offer to insurance companies -- into business decisions, plans and strategies, both for Dow as well as in the larger business universe.

Dow has committed $10 million over the next five years to work with the Nature Conservancy on applying scientific knowledge and experience to understanding the interrelationship between Dow's business and the ecosystems in which it operates.

"We think this is the first time a company has committed to fold the whole range of ecosystem services comprehensively into its business plans and strategies," Glenn Prickett, Chief External Affairs Officer, The Nature Conservancy, said in an interview with Executive Editor Joel Makower. "It's a move we and other organizations have encouraged the corporate world to take."

One of the major objectives of the partnership is to share the lessons learned with the public and through a peer-review process to allow other companies and scientists to test and apply them.

"This is about validating methods and economic models, where you can start to build this into business decision-making." Neil Hawkins, Vice President of Sustainability & EH&S at The Dow Chemical Company, said. "And ultimately, on the long-term horizon, start seeing markets emerge, so that society can have the benefit of thoughtful conservation and growth, but with market mechanisms."

Dow will kick off the partnership on at least three manufacturing sites; working with Conservancy scientists to help answer questions about the value and benefits of natural areas on or near where Dow works, such as the benefits of a forest to ensuring clean water for towns and factories, and the role natural wetlands and reefs play in preventing damage from storms.

"Our ultimate goal at the end of five years is not just that we've had some real, tangible progress, and Dow's getting value from this and The Nature Conservancy is being valued for this," said Michelle Lapinski, Director of Corporate Practices at The Nature Conservancy. "But that we're seeing other companies take this on as well."

In addition to wide corporate adoption of an Ecosystems Services Review tool developed by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, other recent signs of growth in awareness of an action on ecosystem services include the launch last year by Ohio State University of a free online tool for ecosystem services assessments, a re-evaluation of economic assessments of ecosystem services by the United Nations, and the creation of an ecosystem services valuation unit by the World Bank.

Photo CC-licensed by Greg Morse.