This article explains how businesses interested in the ecosystem services framework can conduct a corporate ecosystem services review.

Last week’s article looked at the relationship between business and ecosystem services more broadly. You can find this via the link below.


What is clear is that all businesses, even service sector businesses depend on ecosystem services in some way. Businesses contribute towards ecosystem degradation which interrupts the flow of ecosystem services.

The best literature that I have come across on how to conduct a corporate ecosystem services review was written by Hanson et al in 2012. This paper which you can find via the link below sets out the clear steps for any business to audit their dependence on ecosystem services.

The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review

The ecosystem services review consists of five steps. These are shown in the image below.

ESR Scope.jpg

1. Select the scope

In this step businesses need to choose the scope within which to conduct the review. This could be a business unit, a product, a particular market, an infrastructure project, a major supplier, or a major customer segment.

Depending of the type of business a key decision needs to be made whether or not to look at a company’s own operations, or to the activities of its suppliers. Another option would be to look at the impact that the customers have on ecosystem services whilst they are using the product.

2. Identify priority ecosystem services

In this step businesses need to systematically evaluate their dependence and impact on ecosystem services. The key is to determine which are a high priority. These will be ones which are highly relevant to corporate performance and for which no readily available substitutes are available either at all or without incurring prohibitive costs.

In this step it is a good idea to engage the key corporate stakeholders. They can explain which ecosystem services they value. This can help to create a shortlist of critical services for the company to consider its impact on and dependence upon.

3. Analyse trends in priority services

In this step businesses need to research and evaluate the condition and trends in the priority ecosystem services that they identified in step 2 as well as the underlying drivers of these trends.

In this step it is a good idea to reach out to subject matter experts who have deep knowledge related to the services. Interview experts early on. These experts can quickly summarise trends, identify critical drivers and pinpoint the most relevant data sources.

4. Identify business risks and opportunities

In this step businesses need to identify and evaluate the business risks and opportunities that might arise due to trends in the priority ecosystem services.

In this step it is wise to have a business opportunity mindset switched on at all times. This is a corporate ecosystem services review, so businesses should look for opportunities to provide new products or services that help others businesses to mitigate their impact on ecosystems or adapt to declining ecosystem services.

5. Develop strategies

In this final step businesses should outline strategies for managing the risks and opportunities that they have identified in the previous 4 steps.

These could be internal changes related to the way the company operates.

These could be working more collaboratively with other businesses to solve some of the problems identified or engaging with NGO’s proactively.

These could also be engaging with policy makers to look for ways that the business community and national governments can work together to help protect and enhance flows of ecosystem services.

What you need to know

This article explained how businesses who are interested in the ecosystem services framework can conduct a corporate ecosystem services review.

We looked into the paper by Hanson et al, which sets out a clear methodology for how this can be done.

Businesses should be interested in ecosystem services if they are dependent on or impact upon these services.

Businesses should be interested because these impacts and dependencies create risks. Ecosystem degradation also presents opportunities for farsighted businesses who are smart enough to realise that this cannot continue forever and create solutions for addressing these problems

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about the corporate ecosystem services review methodology?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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