What with countries economies around the world struggling at the moment it seems like everyone and everything has to contribute to the economy in one way or another. In relation to a previous post discussing whether businesses generally see the environmental management as a burden rather than something that can be used to improve an organisation, I wanted to discuss the approach to putting financial value on the services that the environment provides.
This might seem odd at first in some ways but everything has a financial value and the service that the environment provides is no exception. The environment provides people with various services that if they were not present or are damaged or destroyed would have to be provided at a significant financial cost. They may also provide ways to make money for example people go on holiday to national parks and spend money on food, accommodation etc. They would not be doing this if the national park was not present.
You might be scratching your head wondering what these are so I have provided a few examples below (see this link for more information):
- Provisioning services – products are obtained from the environment such as crops, timber, fish, pharmaceutical products etc.
- Regulating services – the environment has an ability to regulate –such as trees reducing water that would otherwise run-off and cause flooding and erosion of fertile agricultural soils.
- Cultural services – tourism for examples is another contributor.
- Supporting services – that are required for production of the other services including formation of soils and nutrient cycling.
More specifically, take for example woodlands. They provide provisioning services such as timber, cultural services such as walking, mountain biking and other forms of recreation and regulating services – they store carbon from the air and take up water reducing the changes of flooding. All these have a financial value.
Take a look at some examples below from the UK national ecosystem assessment to give you an idea of these:
- The services provided by honey bees in pollinating plants have been estimated to be around £200m per year with the value of the plants they pollinate being around £1bn.
- The value of UK fish caught is estimated to be about £600 million per annum (p.a.)
- Timber is valued at just under £100 million p.a.
- Net carbon sequestered currently by UK woodlands is estimated at to have a value of around £680 million p.a.
For example if we deforest a river catchment and this leads to flooding (trees soak up water that might otherwise run into a river and cause it to flood) then an extensive flood protection scheme would be needed to be designed and built that would cost millions of pounds, dollars, yen or whatever your currency! In the long term it would have been cheaper to sustainably manage the forest which would provide flood protection and timber, recreation activities etc. for many years.
In many ways cost is not something that in the past has been associated with environmental management. But it is clear to see with a bit of thought that the environment or more specifically the services that it provides must be protected otherwise other means of providing the service or mitigating the effects of the lack of the service will need to be acquired at a significant financial cost.
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