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Ecosystem Services May Shape Regulations, Report Finds

Ecosystem services – benefits provided by functioning ecosystems – may shape future policy and regulations as well as government expectations of the private sector, particularly on public lands, according to a report by BSR.

The report, “Global Public Sector Trends in Ecosystem Services, 2009-2012,” is based on four years of research by BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group. It documents government action, voluntary programs formed, administration decisions issued and new regulations that have passed. The report is especially relevant to companies that have, or are in the midst of crafting, internal policies on biodiversity and ecosystem services, BSR said.

BSR identified several emerging trends, such as national governments that are considering expanding GDP measures to include natural capital. The report also found that public-sector exploration of ecosystem services valuation is on the rise and governments are interested in attracting investment in the concept, through eco-compensation mechanisms and payments for ecosystem services (PES).

China and Vietnam are investigating eco-compensation and PES, respectively, while Brazil, Costa Rica and Peru are exploring financial incentives for restoration and maintenance of ecosystem services, the report said.

The BSR report also found that public-sector funded research on ecosystem services is on the rise. Europe, the US and China are looking at an array of government-supported research and voluntary initiatives related to ecosystem services, despite the absence of specific, targeted policies, the report said.

A November report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants said only a handful of companies in sectors with high environmental impact are reporting substantial detail on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The majority report little or no information because they believe the issue is immaterial.

Just last month, Monsanto joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and said it would offer the organization’s Business Ecosystems Training course globally for employees. Monsanto says the BET course will enhance employees’ understanding of the links between ecosystems and business.

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