World Resources Institute WRI

Guidelines for identifying business risks and opportunities arising from ecosystem change

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Ecosystems provide businesses with numerous benefits or “ecosystem services.” Forests supply timber and wood fiber, purify water, regulate climate, and yield genetic resources. River systems provide freshwater, power, and recreation. Coastal wetlands filter waste, mitigate floods, and serve as nurseries for commercial fisheries.

However, human activities are rapidly degrading these and other ecosystems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment— the largest audit ever conducted of the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems—found that ecosystems have declined more rapidly and extensively over the past 50 years than at any other comparable time in human history. In fact, 15 of the 24 ecosystem services evaluated have degraded over the past half century. The Assessment projected further declines over coming decades, particularly in light of population growth, economic expansion, and global climate change. Left unchecked, this degradation could jeopardize future economic well-being, creating new winners and losers within the business community.

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