Tools for Accounting for Nature’s Value
Collaborations between the public and private sector, academia and NGOs must be developed.
Neil C. Hawkins, Sc.D.
Corporate Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer
Every day, nature provides us benefits. We depend on ecosystems such as forests and wetlands for clean water, fertile soils, food, storm protection, minerals and flood control. But accounting for nature’s value can be challenging. There is no single, standard way of valuing something like water or grasslands.
As part of our Valuing Nature Goal, Dow has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to pioneer new ways for businesses and communities to recognize the benefits of nature, so they can plan, manage and invest in these resources in smarter, more mutually beneficial ways.
Collaborating with The Nature Conservancy, Dow has released a suite of tools – the Nature Screen ESII Tool and NFV Scorecard – to help businesses place a value on nature in their decision processes.
One of the goals of Dow’s 6-year collaboration with The Nature Conservancy has been to take a largely theoretical concept – that the value of nature to a company can be measured – and create a practical way to put it into practice.
In 2016, Dow and The Nature Conservancy released a suite of tools that can offer deep insight into nature-based solutions for businesses. For example, the Ecosystem Services Identification and Inventory Tool (ESII Tool) is based on extensive work done at Dow locations in Texas and Brazil. Designed for business managers, engineers and ecologists alike, the tool can be used in the early stages of decision-making to identify benefits provided by natural assets so their value can be incorporated into operational and planning decisions.
How It Works
First, a project is identified and set up in the Project Workspace. Ecological information then is collected at the site using the iOS-based Field App. This information is synced with the Project Workspace, where ecological models process the results. Outputs can be downloaded and used for different purposes, including site planning, impact assessments and cost/benefit analyses.
By understanding baseline conditions and natural design alternatives, businesses and communities can make decisions with nature taken into account. Dow is now mainstreaming these tools across its businesses to support implementation of the Company’s Valuing Nature goal. In 2016 alone, Dow identified more than $40 million worth of Valuing Nature projects, proving that incorporating ecosystem services into projects demonstrates real and recognizable value.
The ESII Tool can be downloaded for free and used by any organization looking to undertake a natural capital assessment.
HOW THE ESII TOOL WORKS
(1) A project is identified and (2) set up in the Project Workspace; (3) ecological information is collected at the site using the Field App; (4) this information is synced with the Project Workspace, where ecological models process the results; and (5) outputs can be downloaded and used for different purposes.
MODELING APPROACH AND STRUCTURE
The ESII Tool models and estimates the performance of eight ecosystem services:
- Aesthetics (visual screening and sound reduction)
- Air quality control (nitrogen and particulates)
- Climate regulation (carbon uptake and air temperature regulation)
- Erosion control (and mass wasting)
- Flood mitigation
- Water provisioning
- Water quality control (nitrogen, temperature and sediment removal)
- Water quantity control