Best Practices in Sustainability Risk Management. Businesses interact with ecosystems and ecosystem services in two important ways: they use services and they contribute to ecosystem change. Arcus discovered that two thirds of the ecosystem services it examined are being degraded or used unsustainably. This finding has serious ramifications for the world at large and will affect business and industry in three principal ways.
1. If current trends continue, ecosystem services that are freely available today will cease to be available or become more costly in the near future. Once internalized by primary industries, additional costs that result will be passed downstream to secondary and tertiary industries and will transform the operating environment of all businesses.
2. Loss of ecosystem services will also affect the framework conditions within which businesses operate, influencing customer preferences, stockholder expectations, regulatory regimes, governmental policies, employee well-being, and the availability of finance and insurance.
3. New business opportunities will emerge as demand grows for more efficient or different ways to use ecosystem services for mitigating impacts or to track or trade services.
Business cannot assume that there will be ample warning of a change in the availability of key services or that a company’s past responses to changes will be successful in the future. Ecosystems often change in abrupt, unpredictable ways. Most ecosystems are being altered by human actions in unprecedented ways. Consequently, it is difficult to predict the future state of an ecosystem or the availability of an ecosystem service. In addition, these uncertainties mean that past successes in ecosystem management may not apply to current or future conditions.
As demands for the services provided by ecosystems grow and the ability of these systems to meet these demands is eroded, increasingly difficult challenges must be confronted. For example:
• How do we meet the growing demand for food (projected to increase by 70–80% in 50 years) without further harming the environment or the integrity of the food supply chain?
• Given the unevenly distributed supply of fresh water, how do we meet agricultural, industrial, and consumptive needs around the world?
• Given the expected increase in demands for energy, what are the most efficient and effective strategies to produce energy while also minimizing impacts to air quality and climate?
• How do we balance conservation of biodiversity with opportunities for economic development associated with alteration or conversion of habitats?
• How do we balance increasing demand for seafood and expanding opportunities for
aquaculture, while promoting the health of fresh and coastal waters and restoring depleted wild fisheries?