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Unique collaboration between business and academia explores new methods to manage biodiversity impacts

last modified Oct 26, 2016 09:49 AM
26 October 2016 – A unique collaboration between CISL, Kering and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment working with the Natural Capital Project has produced a report to help businesses factor biodiversity into their decision-making processes.

Business and academic researchers working in partnership to co-create the report has ensured it meets industry’s commercial needs whilst being academically robust.

This business-focused synthesis report Biodiversity and ecosystem services in corporate natural capital accounting is the result of a partnership between business and academic researchers convened by CISL’s Natural Capital Leaders Platform. It is informed by the work of experts from conservation, academia and industry who came together earlier in the year for a workshop to explore how improved biodiversity metrics and methodologies can be developed, tested and then deployed for use in investment and corporate sectors.

Biodiversity represents the variety of all life on Earth. It is vital to the functioning of our ecosystems and provides a wealth of benefits such as regulating water flows, increasing soil fertility and providing pollination.

Businesses are increasingly aware of their dependencies upon nature’s goods. However this has focused mainly on water usage and carbon emissions, often neglecting the other critical aspects of natural capital such as ecosystems and biodiversity.

Kering has pioneered the development of corporate natural capital accounting through its Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) methodology. This has proved to be an effective and powerful tool to help the company understand the environmental impacts of its business and supply chains. Kering is now improving the EP&L representation of biodiversity and ecosystem services and reviewing the underlying data used to predict ecosystem impacts.

This report outlines the way that the current EP&L methodology measures impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity and suggests how this could be improved. This includes using ‘real-time’ data from predictive models and adopting a separate indicator that accounts more directly for the impacts on biodiversity. This metric recognises that biodiversity cannot be completely ‘valued’ as a utility for people and that there is a value of biodiversity beyond that which can be satisfactorily incorporated into ecosystem service models.

The report identifies that the EP&L methodology can be improved to incorporate more dynamic, real-time and accurate analysis of ecosystem services. This can be complemented by a biodiversity metric to capture less tangible benefits to create a methodology that is simple, pragmatic and grounded in delivering to business goals.

Dr Gemma Cranston, Acting Director of CISL’s Natural Resource Security Portfolio, said:

"Only by consistently measuring and managing business impacts upon natural capital through the lens of biodiversity, soil and water, can companies demonstrate they can grow sustainably. This unique collaboration between business and academics has catalysed new thinking around biodiversity measurement; it provides a critical launching pad for future work with business leaders .”

The business report is complemented by an academic working paper which provides further details on the methodology.

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Gemma Cranston

Dr Gemma Cranston, Director, Natural Capital

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