Return to site

Biodiversity at a tipping point

Planetary boundaries as a source of external risk:

In the second in our series examining how organisations canDownscale Planetary Boundaries, Jim Ormond discusses how the rapid decline in biodiversity represents a growing source of external risk.

Between 1970 and 2006, the number of wild animals declined by a third, and humans are now driving plants and animals to extinction faster than new species can evolve (IUCN 2010). Crucially, this rapid biodiversity loss represents a critical and tangible financial risk to business. Indeed, if one compares the annual “cost” of greenhouse gas emissions (approx. $1.7trillion in 2008) with the “cost” of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation (estimated to be between US$2 and US$4.5 trillion), the magnitude of the risk becomes particularly clear.

In order to prevent sudden and irreversible environmental changes to biodiversity, ecosystems and the services they provide, in 2009 Rockström et al proposed a planetary boundary for biodiversity which recommended that the extinction of species should not exceed ten species per million per year. The current rate of extinction of ≥100 E/MS clearly exceeds the proposed boundary.

What does this boundary mean to an individual organisation? How can one organisation measure its impact on biodiversity / eco-systems on a regional or indeed global scale? Based on new research undertaken by Article 13 a number of emerging methodologies for organisations to apply context-based measurement to their impact on regional and global biodiversity have been identified.

  • Territorial performance: A relatively straight-forward approach is to measure (and take accountability) for the biodiversity within 5km of an organisation’s operations. However this approach does not consider the wider biodiversity impacts along an organisation’s supply chain (which are often many times greater).
  • Ecological footprint model:A standardised measure of the biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes and to assimilate associated waste. This assessment, has been used to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it takes to support humanity if everybody followed a given lifestyle, and could be extrapolated to the level of an individual organisation.
  • [ARTICLE 13 PRACTITIONER METHODOLOGY] The “Consequential perspective”:A new consequential economic supply-chain approach developed by Article 13 which models  the economic value of biodiversity and eco-system services upon which an organisation relies upon against its current and future availability.

"the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change"

This blog is the second in a series of blogs which - informed by our latest practitioner research - examine how leading organisations are beginning to apply planetary boundaries to organisational level performance For further information and to explore what planetary boundary thinking means for your organisation - please contact Jim Ormond - 0044 208 840 4450

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly