Ecosystem Services and Corporate Sustainability: In Theory and Practice
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Ecosystem services are the flows of natural capital from the environment that benefit economies and societies. They are essential for human health and well-being, and include provisioning (food and genetic resources); regulating (pollination and climate control); supporting (water and nutrient cycles); and cultural (heritage and recreation) services. Despite their importance, ecosystem services have been undervalued in traditional economic approaches, resulting in their unsustainable use and degradation. Emerging research is changing this paradigm by quantifying the values of ecosystem service flows, with the implications becoming especially relevant for corporations. The complex interdependencies between ecosystems and business are beginning to be more fully understood and managed, and members of the corporate sustainability community are therefore recognizing the need to incorporate ecosystem service flows into sustainability assessments and standards. This Master’s Project contributes to a better understanding of why and how ecosystem services are increasingly considered in corporate sustainability, both in theory and in practice. The results of a comprehensive literature review, analysis of ecosystem services tools, and a survey of over eighty outdoor industry companies suggest that ecosystem services theory is ahead of corporate sustainability practice. Nonetheless, the findings also support emerging trends and demand for increased corporate ecosystem valuation. Ecosystem services are therefore likely to be an increasingly prominent consideration in emerging sustainability assessments and standards.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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