NI4Biz is live!

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched the online platform, Natural Infrastructure for Business (NI4Biz), to increase awareness of the business opportunities in investing in ecosystems – or natural infrastructure – and scale up action. The ultimate objective of the initiative is that by 2020, companies systematically assess natural infrastructure options when investing in new sites or projects, thereby contributing to the protection, restoration and creation of new ecosystems.

All businesses affect and rely on the critical services that ecosystems provide. However, 60% of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded over the past 50 years. Taking into account land use change, this degradation is responsible for approximately 20% of carbon emissions globally.

To continue to benefit from ecosystem services and secure access to resources that are key to their operations, businesses need to invest in reversing this trend. This will not only reduce their exposure to risks linked to ecosystem degradation, but generate benefits for the economy, environment and society.

WBCSD and its member companies are taking action, through the Natural Infrastructure for Business platform, launched today at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris. Natural (or green) infrastructure is a planned or managed natural or semi natural system (such as mangroves or wetlands) that can help companies harness the services that nature provides as a substitute to so-called gray infrastructure (such as dams or water treatment plants).

“By investing in natural infrastructure, business can take concrete steps to implement ecosystems and water related societal commitments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Biodiversity Targets or the Sustainable Development Goals. At the WBCSD, we are proud to be pioneering this important initiative key to protecting ecosystems globally,” said Peter Bakker, President and CEO, WBCSD.

Developed in collaboration with CH2M, The Nature Conservancy, program Co-Chairs The Dow Chemical Company and Shell, as well as a group of more than 30 companies, the online platform strengthens the business case for investing in natural infrastructure demonstrating cost-efficient solutions with compelling co-benefits for society and environment. It also includes case studies from different industries leveraging various ecosystem services and tools to guide business decision-making, such as a cost-benefit analysis tool.

“Natural infrastructure has the potential to be a win-win for business value and for nature,” said Neil Hawkins, Corporate Vice President, EH&S, and Chief Sustainability Officer, Dow. “Dow is proud to incorporate the value of nature into our 2025 Sustainability Goals, and we believe that this platform is a great starting point to help business consider this approach more broadly.”

“There is a strong business case for companies to invest in natural infrastructure solutions where opportunities exist,” said Rupert Thomas, Vice President Environment, Shell. “By developing natural infrastructure projects, we see opportunities to create value and generate more environmental and social benefits than can be achieved through investments in gray infrastructure alone. We believe this is the way forward for business in the future.”

“At CH2M, we’re passionate about helping more companies figure out how to invest in ecosystems,” said Elisa Speranza, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Sustainability, CH2M. “We’re proud of this platform, and of our ongoing collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and WBCSD. This tool was developed by business, for business, and we hope it will encourage companies to see that investing in nature is good for the planet and makes good business sense.”

“Business is a critical part of the solution. As more and more businesses invest in natural infrastructure, we have a big opportunity to scale up environmental progress. These forward-thinking companies are not only increasing their resilience to climate risks, but also creating valuable co-benefits for nature, the economy and local communities,” said Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy.

Natural infrastructure highlighted as a climate resilience solution

Speaking at the event “Nature Based Solutions for Climate Resilience – an EU perspective” held at the IUCN pavilion during COP21 in Paris, Peter White, COO, WBCSD, highlighted that ecosystem services can be used in an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve and expand carbon sinks. At the same time, the natural functions of ecosystems can support human life in the face of the negative effects of climate change, such as heat waves, floods, drought etc. Both approaches seek to increase the resilience of ecosystems and thereby to the provisioning of important services, for example coastal and flood protection, water filtration, soil fertility, air quality, and carbon storage.

Mapping and assessing ecosystems and their services is therefore essential to ensure that their values can be taken into account in decision-making and integrated across policies and sectors. Businesses increasingly realize that they depend directly or indirectly on environmental resources (or natural capital) in many ways, and are trying to preserve natural capital to reduce their exposure to risk. For example, creating or restoring wetlands on the banks of rivers and streams can both increase biodiversity and be more cost-effective than stormwater control measures created with gray infrastructure. Oyster reefs, another NI solution, can reduce coastal erosion and protect businesses from storm surges, while also filtering contaminated seawater and supporting local fisheries.

GreenBiz: Dow and WBCSD team up on new natural capital tool

As the COP21 negotiations take place in Paris, it’s important to note that ecosystem services also can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve and expand carbon sinks. At the same time, the natural functions of ecosystems can support human life in the face of the negative effects of climate change, such as heat waves, floods or droughts.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development and its member companies are proud to take action through the Natural Infrastructure for Business platform launched in Paris today. The online platform was developed by WBCSD in collaboration with CH2M, the Nature Conservancy, program co-chairs Dow and Shell, as well as more than 30 companies. 

Read the full GreenBiz article by Peter Bakker (WBCSD) and Neil Hawkins (Dow) here.