Green business is a win-win for firms and the planet

13 Jul 2010

Integrating biodiversity into a company’s business plans is a win-win for both the firm and the planet, a new report funded by the European Commission has found.

The TEEB for Business report shows there has been considerable growth in eco-certified products and services recently, along with growing consumer concerns for sustainable production. The report also reveals that biodiversity can provide a substantial business opportunity in a market that could be worth US$2tr-6tr by 2050.

While a majority of companies still treat biodiversity superficially, growing numbers are aware of the potential benefits, the report suggests. It also says biodiversity and ecosystem services offer opportunities for all business sectors, and that their integration can bring significant added value by ensuring the sustainability of supply chains, generating new products, creating and penetrating new markets and attracting new customers.

Policies to manage biodiversity and ecosystem risks can also help companies identify new business opportunities, such as reducing input costs through improved resource efficiency, developing and marketing low-impact technologies, managing and designing projects to reduce ecological footprints, and providing professional services in risk assessment and management/adaptation.

“Despite some local successes, and in spite of a growing awareness of the problem, the global rate of biodiversity loss does not appear to be slowing. But this report shows that businesses can help,” said European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik.

Huge potential market for sustainability-related business

According to estimates developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, there exists a potential market by 2050 for “sustainability-related global business opportunities in natural resources (including energy, forestry, food and agriculture, water and metals)” in the range of US$2tr-6tr (at constant 2008 prices). About half of this is “additional investments in the energy sector related to reducing carbon emissions”.

Markets for biodiversity and ecosystem services are also growing, the EU report found. According to data compiled by Forest Trends and the Ecosystem Marketplace, the certified agricultural products market was valued at more than US$40bn in 2008 and is expected to reach up to US$210bn by 2020, and may reach US$900bn by 2050.

Key biodiversity proposals for businesses

The TEEB report recommends a series of actions to help companies minimise their biodiversity risks and seize the business opportunities ecosystems services create:

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

The report also calls for accounting professions and financial reporting bodies to develop common standards to assess biodiversity impacts, and develop new tools for this purpose.

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