The Top Environmental Business Opportunities

Water, Food, Carbon and Environmental Resilience are the top four business opportunities in the latest report from the Ecosystems Markets Taskforce.

Water offers opportunities for its management, and for exports of water expertise and technology.  Rural businesses can be significant users of water themselves, and could be in the front line for not only flood management but also new approaches to water storage and distribution.  The rewetting of peat is one example of how extensive areas of rural land could play a valuable and remunerative part in water storage, flow management and flood protection.

Carbon will come into play through offsetting schemes for new development – including zero carbon housing – and the growing obligations on industrial producers of carbon to reduce or mitigate their carbon outputs.  The Woodland Carbon Code is already an example of this, and we should see the arrival of a Peatland Carbon Code, as peat is the largest natural repository of atmospheric carbon.

There will also be important global markets in our knowledge and expertise in measurement and management of these markets.

The Taskforce report also sets out the business case for the importance of nature to business:

  1. Business depends on nature: no nature – no business;
  2. The natural world is under pressure with stress on energy resources, and grave threats from dramatic weather events and climate change.  Placing a proper value on these assets will enable us to recognise them more appropriately and manage them more effectively.
  3. Public policy making is putting a higher value on nature.  This will open new opportunities for business.
  4. Businesses which plan for this will be the winners.

The Ecosystems Markets Taskforce comprises 10 eminent business leaders, chaired by Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive of Kingfisher plc.

The interim report issued on 6 November 2012 also offers the following interesting facts and comments on the relationship between business and nature:

  • Food demand will rise 70% by 2050; water demand by 55%
  • Energy demand is expected to have risen by 35% between 2009 and 2035
  • Global population rises by 8 billion by 2030, with 3 billion new middle class consumers
  • About 30% of UK Ecosystem Services are currently assessed as declining
  • We may be losing the potential to create one major drug every two years due to the decline in genetic diversity
  • One cup of coffee takes 150 litres of water to produce
  • About 70% of ’embedded water’ in the UK is imported in manufactured goods, food etc
  • Sustainability related global business opportunities could be worth six trillion US dollars by 2050 (2008 prices)
  • If the chemical industry had to pay for all its environmental impacts, the cost would be 43% of its earnings.
  • South West Water’s Upstream Thinking project estimates a 65:1 benefit:cost ration over 30 years for measures to improve land management practice for water supplies, at a cost of 60 pence per customer by 2015.

A full final report is due next year.  Meawhile the interim report can be seen on the defra website here.

Also see my previous post on top business opportunities in ecosystem services, here.

The publication of this report is very timely with regard to my own report’s launch at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on Thursday 15 November.  A few places are still available for the launch, so please do follow this link for more details of the RICS Thinkpiece: New Challenges in International Professional Practice: from market value to natural value.  This is a public event, subject to prior booking.  Arrival is from 5.30 pm for a 6.00 pm start.  Presentation of the new publication will be followed by a discussion with a panel of distinguished experts in this field, and there will be a short drinks reception afterwards before dispersing at 8.00 pm.  And a bonus point for chartered surveyors is that this will not only introduce you to a wide range of new points for professional practice, it also qualifies as free Continuing Professional Development.

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