October 30, 2007
2007 Environmental Law Institute Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum — Ecosystem Services: Is There a Business Case for Environmental Protection?
The environment provides the basic underpinnings of the modern economy: energy, fiber, clean water, feedstocks, medicines, waste recycling, and more. Yet around the world, many ecosystems and the services they offer are threatened with collapse. The lessons from history are daunting: From Babylonia to Easter Island, thriving civilizations fell as they destroyed the natural environments that sustained them. Today, issues like climate change, habitat destruction, and water shortages are worldwide threats. In the short term, looming problems are already showing up on corporate bottom lines as they lose services that have long been taken for granted.
Unfortunately, laws protecting ecosystems are weak and ineffectual. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act addresses one species at a time, and engages business mostly as an adversary. The Clean Water Act requires ecosystem protection to ensure the biological health and purity of receiving waters but provides few tools beyond forcing plants to limit some discharges. Even with improvements, government regulation of industry alone may never be enough to protect the natural systems on which society depends.
Because businesses utilize ecosystem services on a day-to-day basis, they are in a prime position to respond to these challenges — if firms have the right information and the right incentives. Progressive companies are already working with government agencies and NGOs to protect and enhance the most basic and valuable assets of all. In prospect is a revolution in environmental protection.
Is there a business case for protecting ecosystem services? What legal and policy changes will be necessary to have natural capital reflected in corporate balance sheets and in governments’ economic analyses? How can business’s entrepreneurial instincts be harnessed in the name of environmental quality?
On October 30, 2007, an illustrious panel, moderated by veteran ABC News Science Correspondent Ned Potter, showcased what industry is doing to preserve profits by preserving ecosystems and howgovernment policy and civil society groups can encourage this trend.
Listen to a RealAudio recording of the Policy Forum. (Note)
Mark Kieser, President, Environmental Trading Network
Craig Hanson, Deputy Director, People and Ecosystems, World Resources Institute
Michael Jenkins, President and CEO, Forest Trends
Hon. Mark Rey, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Sheryl A. Telford, Business Team Manager, DuPont Corporate Remediation Group
Megan Guy, Goldman Sachs
Note: Due to technical difficultites, this recording is not of high quality.