Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

How businesses rely on natural resources and services

Businesses and natural resources

Businesses do not operate in isolation of the natural environment - they rely on natural resources and services. Your business may rely on nature for:

  • raw materials like cotton, water, and crops
  • the quality and availability of your inputs and products - nature provides water purification, filtering of pollution from the air and seas, nutrients formation, and pollination
  • waste assimilation - nature breaks down waste products and dilutes emissions
  • risk protection including flood protection and mitigating the impacts of climate change

Plants, animals, micro-organisms and their non-living environment work together as functional units to provide natural resources and services. These systems are often called ecosystems and include wetlands, cultivated land, coastal areas, parks and rainforests.

The resources and services that nature provides are not unlimited. For example, there is a finite amount of pollution that ecosystems can assimilate and an upper limit in their capacity to purify water at any given time. Putting pressure on nature above what it can sustain leads to degradation and undermines its ability to deliver those services.

How ecosystem problems could affect your business

Some of the natural resources and services which contribute to successful business operations do not appear on balance sheets because they do not have a monetary value. As a result, they are often undervalued and planning decisions might overlook the business risks that reduced supply of those services could create. This includes disruption to supply chains, higher operating costs and changes in customer preferences.

By adopting practices which protect and enhance ecosystems, directly or through your supply chain, you could also minimise such risks and benefit from lending policies that favour businesses which combine growth with environmental leadership. A track record of positive environmental action can also enhance the image of your business and make it more competitive.

You can download a report on business risks and opportunities linked to natural resources and services from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) website.

The Economics of Eoosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB): In Business and Enterprise

Why you should assess your reliance on ecosystems

By understanding what natural assets and services are important to your business' performance, and making the connection between healthy ecosystems and your business bottom line, you will be able to:

  • identify associated risks
  • identify new sources of revenue
  • adopt strategies to manage risks.

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