Accounting for Ecosystem Services in Business

Authored by: Joël R. A. Houdet , John Finisdore , Julia Martin-Ortega , Helen Ding , John K. Maleganos , James Spurgeon , Tobias Hartmann , David Steuerman

Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138025080
eBook ISBN: 9781315775302
Adobe ISBN:


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Firms have traditionally viewed biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES) as external constraints on their activities because of regulations and laws imposed on them (e.g. through Environmental Impact Assessments). This perception still holds true for many firms. ES are routinely quantified, monitored and accounted for by companies when directly used, especially in the agricultural, mining, fishing and pharmaceutical sectors, or where the organisational goal is to avoid waste (e.g. loss of provisioning ES) and hence costs (Schaltegger et al., 2000). However, where ES are used indirectly, especially those interacting with production processes in the supply chain, they are often ignored. This is often due to lack of awareness and lack of assessment or measurement tools tailored to the needs of businesses (Houdet et al., 2009). Yet managing ecosystems for the sustained or ad hoc delivery of specific ES, especially those which generate higher returns on investment, may lead to unforeseen ecosystem change, degradation or even collapse. For instance, managing the biomass and productivity of tree plantations to maximize CO2 sequestration can lead to diminished stream flows, increased soil salinization and acidification (Jackson et al., 2002).

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