Nature's Treasure

The TEEB for Business report

The first Global Business of Biodiversity Symposium was convened in London on 13th of July 2010. The aim of the conference was to explore the business risks of biodiversity loss and to identify the opportunities when biodiversity is properly integrated into company operations.

The conference featured high quality speakers and discussions with representatives of multinational and international environmental NGOs. Many sessions had a practical approach. The topics that were touched upon ranged from integrating biodiversity considerations into international climate change reduction programmes, to novel ways to capture monetary benefits from ecosystem services and biodiversity and sustainable forestry projects.

Highlight of the conference was the presentation of the TEEB for Business report. TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) is a series of reports that value nature. It provides shadow prices for different ecosystem services by using case studies.

Various TEEB reports exist for different stakeholders and in London the report for business was presented. It outlines the risks biodiversity loss poses to firms and indicates where opportunities exist. In an assessment done for the United Nations backed Principles on Responsible Investing (UNPRI) by Trucost, it is estimated that the size of the externalities of the 3.000 biggest listed companies is around US$ 2.2 trillion per year.

These costs are mainly generated by greenhouse gas emissions, overexploitation and water and air pollution. Biodiversity and ecosystem services account for a part of these costs, for instance in the form of water related impacts (water is a provisioning service).

The TEEB report provides a toolbox for action for companies to minimise these costs and to seize opportunities:

  1. Identify the impacts and dependencies of your business on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES)
  2. Assess the business risks and opportunities associated with these impacts and dependencies
  3. Develop BES information systems, set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) targets, measure and value performance, and report your results
  4. Take action to avoid, minimise and mitigate BES risks, including in-kind compensation (‘offsets’) where appropriate
  5. Grasp emerging BES business opportunities, such as cost-efficiencies, new products and new markets
  6. Integrate business strategy and action on BES with wider corporate social responsibility initiatives
  7. Engage with business peers and stakeholders in government, NGOs and civil society to improve BES guidance and policy

In commenting on the report, different speakers expressed the opinion that the report would sensitise companies and investors to integrate biodiversity considerations into their operations.

TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) is a series of reports that value nature. It provides shadow prices for different ecosystem services by using case studies. It does not intend to calculate the total value of nature and its services. This would be impossible because without nature there would be no life meaning that the value of nature is infinite. 
 

Key messages

  • Biodiversity is the earth's most valuable resource
  • The world is losing its biological assets at an alarming rate
  • Each disappearance weakens the ability of ecosystems to provide valuable services
  • Loss of biodiversity has severe economic consequences
  • The TEEB reports value nature and provide shadow prices of its values
  • The TEEB for business report provides a toolbox for action for companies
  • Greening Business is the new economic paradigm

Featured articles

The importance of biological diversity to human society is hard to overstate. An estimated 40 percent of the global economy is based on biological products and processes ...
Most people have heard about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and it is fast becoming part of normal business practice. Similarly, more people today are aware of the risks of biodiversity loss and the decline of ecosystem services. In short, the value of nature is changing, and business needs to change accordingly. There is increasing need for sustainable business models that conserve and restore ecosystems while meeting people’s needs ...
  • Changes in the global value of ecosystem services by Robert Constanza et al, Global Environmental Change 26 (2014)

    In 1997, the global value of ecosystem services was estimated to average $33 trillion/yr in 1995 $US. A new estimate based on updated unit ecosystem service values and land use change estimates between 1997 and 2011 result in total global ecosystem services in 2011 of $125 trillion/year. In this paper Constanza et al provide an updated estimate and addresses some of the critics of the 1997 paper.

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