Ecological business needs: mitigation guidelines and risk profiling

In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Paul Armsworth and his co-authors present the conclusions of a (mainly) workshop based study on the ecological research needs of business, in the UK. Workshop participants were from the mining and quarrying, insurance and manufacturing, engineering and technology sectors.

They identified questions related to the following:

  • Reducing costs from business impacts on the environment
  • Exploiting new opportunities
  • Informing long term planning
  • Developing immediate commercial applications
  • Streamlining environmental policies that affect businesses
  • Among the more specific suggestions made by workshop participants, mining ans quarrying underlined the importance of informing the location of their operations in order to minimize on- and off-site impacts and well as having guidelines for offsetting their residual impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. Concerning the latter, there was strong interest in the ecosystem service concept as a useful tool for strengthening the links between business interests and obligations and the ecological research community.

    Risk profiling techniques could contribute to environmental offset design and sizing

    Another interesting suggestions include the development of risk profiles for “environmental investments”, including carbon and biodiversity offsets. Standardized methods for risk profiling of offset actions (that aim to create, restore or manage biodiversity and ecosystem services) could be very useful for assessing their likely contribution to no-net-loss of biodiversity. As such, risk profiling would also assist in the complicated task of sizing offsets on the basis of the uncertainty or reliability of the ecological engineering techniques involved.

    Workshop participants from the manufacturing, engineering and technology sectors also mentioned the need to develop low-cost rapid assessment methods for businesses to seize opportunities provided by ecosystem services and to manage environmental risks and opportunities (see wikipedia for an introduction to risk management).

    Reference: Armsworth, P., Armsworth, A., Compton, N., Cottle, P., Davies, I., Emmett, B., Fandrich, V., Foote, M., Gaston, K., Gardiner, P., Hess, T., Hopkins, J., Horsley, N., Leaver, N., Maynard, T., & Shannon, D. (2010). The ecological research needs of business Journal of Applied Ecology, 47 (2), 235-243 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01792.x

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