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Developing a Species Protection Action Plan – An Integrated Approach for the Financial Services Sect

Authors:

Jill Atkins, BA(Hons), MSc, PhD, University of Sheffield

Martina Macpherson, President, NSFM, and Visiting Fellow, Henley Business School



A Strategic Issue: Species Extinction

The planet is currently experiencing a mass extinction event, with human and business activity being the root cause of species loss and habitat destruction.[1] Recent scientific research finds that from a sample of almost half vertebrate species, 32% are decreasing in population size and range as a result of habitat loss, over-exploitation, invasion by alien species, pollution and global warming.[2] As well as species ‘going extinct’ populations of species are diminishing and disappearing.

Given the extinction crisis that we currently find ourselves in, making connections between species extinction and our global capitalist system is crucial to driving conservation and species protection. By identifying species loss and extinction as a financially material risk pervasive across all aspects of business, finance and accounting we also identify an urgent need for action, for developing and implementing a Species Protection Action Plan to be spread out across the financial sector throughout all elements and levels of the capital markets, their structures, mechanisms and institutions.

There have been substantial efforts across interdisciplinary boundaries to develop valuations for ecosystem services. These valuations provide an essential insight into how significant is our reliance on ecosystems and ‘natural capital’. Ecosystem services and their valuation allows us to understand how critical these natural gifts are to our survival. Such valuations simultaneously provide an insight into the value of their decline, or disappearance. From another angle the loss of an ecosystem service, or of any aspect of ‘natural capital’ represents a significant financial loss. The value is often arrived at by considering how much it would cost to replace the naturally occurring ecosystem service, where there is a viable replacement. The actual figure of valuation is not the important focus of the valuation, rather it is the magnitude of this value and often its irreplaceability. Where an ecosystem service disappears and cannot be replaced by some artificial alternative then that service has become INvaluable.

In attempting to value species loss, we have to consider the value at risk were a species to go extinct. Irreplaceable ecosystem services do not hold a value but rather represent a significant and material financial risk to business and society. This material financial risk is a real and imminent risk for many ecosystems. The contribution of each and every species to the healthy functioning, and indeed continuance, of every ecosystem, is scientifically unknown until a species disappears. The loss of any one species can lead to the collapse of an ecosystem – or it may not. Given the millions of species of flora and fauna on the planet it is impossible to know which species are keystone species, which species could have little impact on an ecosystem were they to disappear and which are crucial to an ecosystem’s survival. Ecosystem collapse means the collapse of ecosystem services. It is the interconnectedness of species that presents business, finance and accounting with a massive challenge, as species protection is suddenly recognized as a core and essential component of risk management systems and internal control. Any material financial risk requires risk management tools, disclosure, audit, accountability and monitoring. Any part of the financial system that does not incorporate species protection and extinction prevention into the heart of risk management, mitigation and strategy is failing to acknowledge the massive potential financial losses that could arise were certain species to go extinct.

Species Extinction, Species Interrelationships and Material Financial Risk

There have been numerous attempts to estimate the value of ecosystem services which include provisioning services, regulatory services, supporting services and cultural services. Ecosystem services worldwide were estimated to be annually worth $33 trillion,[18] almost twice the global GNP at an estimated $18 trillion. Such ‘valuing’ of global ecosystem services is clearly immensely complicated and can at best only result in a very rough estimate. Research concludes that changes in global land use between 1997 and 2011 have resulted in a loss of ecosystem services of between $4.3 and $20.2 trillion per year.[19]The authors further estimated total global ecosystem services in 2011 to be $125 trillion per year or $145 trillion per year, using slightly different measures. These figures are alarming yet the paper stresses that the estimates are conservative. It is not the size of the estimates that matters rather the magnitude and enormity of our reliance, as a species, on all other species and their interdependence.

As we cannot understand the contribution of each endangered species to the functioning of the ecosystem as a whole, as seen from discussion of the scientific literature above, the loss of one species could be represented by a pro rata proportion of $145 trillion dollars a year, or could equal a substantial amount, if not all, of $145 trillion, if it is found to be a keynote species.[20]

The new report by the IPBES provides (with varying levels of certainty according to probability estimates) a range of the latest information relating to species decline and the impact of extinction threat on human life, in their new report. An average of around 25% of species across the many terrestrial, freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups are now considered to be threatened with extinction and the threat of extinction is accelerating. More than 40 per cent of amphibian species, almost a third of reef-forming corals, sharks and shark relatives and over a third of marine mammals are currently threatened. The proportion of insect species threatened with extinction is a key uncertainty, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10 per cent. Overall, it is estimated that of an estimated 8 million animal and plant species (75% of which are insects), around 1 million are threatened with extinction. The report also states that around 9 per cent of the world’s estimated 5.9 million terrestrial species – more than 500,000 species – have insufficient habitat for long-term survival, are committed to extinction, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored.

Meat from wild animals forms a critical contribution to food sources and livelihoods in many countries with high levels of poverty and food insecurity - monkeys, tapirs, antelopes, pigs, pheasants, turtles and snakes. Not only are wild flora and fauna at risk but also farmed and domestic species are threatened due to reducing gene pools. An increasing proportion of marine fish stocks are overfished (33 per cent in 2015), including economically important species, while 60 per cent are maximally sustainably fished and only 7 per cent are underfished. Approximately 100 million metric tons of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs and crustaceans are taken from the wild every year and represent a vital contribution to world food security.

Tourism and specifically ecotourism also represent significant and substantial contributions to economies often in developing countries. Ecotourism is likely to be under threat from species extinction: who would visit the Kruger Park in South Africa were the Big Five to disappear? Human health is also under threat from plant species decline. An estimated 50,000-70,000 plant species are used in traditional and modern medicine worldwide.

The value creation process should take cognisance of interconnection between different types of capital (including: financial, manufactured, intellectual, environmental, human and social and relationship capital) in the context of the entity’s strategy, risks and operating model.[21] In theory, this integrated thinking framework should be well suited for framing how biodiversity should be understood and reported on by organisations. However, the equal treatment of the six capitals could be called into question when we consider that ‘natural’ capital represents life on earth and the ecosystem, without which the other five are rendered meaningless.

Current treatments of extinction within reporting frameworks and the GRI Principles go some way towards dealing with biodiversity loss and species loss. However, they are not generally emancipatory, or transformational. They could result solely in a ‘fossil record’ of species, merely reporting on species extinctions in habitats under the control of organisations on an annual basis. Indeed, the majority of ‘extinction accounts’ have been found to be descriptive with little or no emancipatory elements.[22] We therefore propose a disclosure/reporting framework that seeks to incorporate species protection and extinction prevention in a more emancipatory manner.

Species Protection Action Plan

Considering extinction accounting and extinction engagement represents two steps towards integrating species protection into the financial markets. We need to explore ways of bringing species protection into the banking sector, into stock indexes, into corporate ratings, into financial analysis. This leads us to offer a Species Protection Action Plan for the financial markets that may act as the basis for discussion, for innovation, for the design of new techniques, tools and methods for species protection throughout the value creation chain. These innovative tools and techniques require imagination, ‘thinking outside the box’, ‘blue sky thinking’ perhaps. At this urgent point in human history where the extinction crisis is at a critical stage, we cannot rely on existing approaches. Never have imagination and innovative thinking been more necessary and urgent. The development of such mechanisms, tools and techniques across the financial markets and throughout business value chains lead us to an extinction governance model that embeds species protection into the heart of capitalism.

SPECIES PROTECTION ACTION PLAN FOR THE CORPORATE SECTOR AND FINANCIAL MARKETS

Why Extinction represents a Material Financial Risk for a Sustainable Finance Sector

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO THE CORPORATE SECTOR?

Species extinction can impact value creation and threaten supply chains, production and profits

WHAT SHOULD COMPANIES DO?

Implement emancipatory extinction accounting, incorporating species protection into integrated reports

Explore and identify means of assuring/verifying extinction accounting to provide confidence

Incorporate species extinction risk through risk management, internal control systems and internal audit

Develop KPIs to measure success/failure in species protection and extinction prevention

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO BANKING?

Species loss and extinctions affect company value and corporate clients could suffer losses, default on loans. There are also potential markets and untested clients relating to species protection

WHAT SHOULD BANKS DO?

Including species protection in substantial lending decisions (incorporate into Equator Principles)

Incorporate species protection into green and blue bonds

Develop innovative bonds such as ‘insect apocalypse bonds’, ‘bee bonds’, ‘chocolate protection bonds’

Innovate with personal accounts/personal credit cards that contribute to species protection

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS?

Corporate value affected by species extinction represents a material financial risk for the investment industry

WHAT SHOULD INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS DO?

Practice extinction engagement and engage with investee companies on species protection

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO PENSION FUND TRUSTEES AND FUND MANAGERS?

Risk to investment return and pension fund value from species extinction

WHAT SHOULD TRUSTEES AND FUND MANAGERS DO?

Include species protection on agendas for trustee meetings and in fund managers’ mandates so they practise emancipatory extinction engagement and communicate with pension fund members on relevance of species protection to the fund and future benefits

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO ANALYSTS?

Corporate value is affected by the way companies protect species through their value chain

WHAT SHOULD ANALYSTS DO?

Integrate corporate performance in preventing extinctions and protecting species into financial analysis

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO STOCK INDEXES?

Species loss and extinction affect company value that is reflected through indexes

WHAT SHOULD STOCK INDEXES INCLUDE?

Incorporate species protection into the specific indexes such as the FTSE4Good

WHY DOES EXTINCTION MATTER TO SUSTAINABILITY RATINGS?

Species loss and extinction affects company value and therefore needs to be reflected in any sustainability ratings

WHAT SUSTAINABILITY RATINGS NEED TO INCLUDE

Incorporate species protection as a primary factor in any ratings model relating to sustainability

For further details, please read our concept paper: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3398308 and listen to our SDG 14 & 15 webinar hosted by BrightTalk and #NSFMNextGen: https://www.brighttalk.com/webinar/preserving-natural-capital-and-species-sdg-15/

References

Atkins, J. F. and Maroun, W. (2018) “Integrated Extinction Accounting and Accountability: Building an Ark”, Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 1-41.

Atkins, J. F., Maroun, W., Atkins, B. C., Barone. E. (2018) From the Big Five to the Big Four? Exploring Extinction Accounting for the Rhinoceros?” Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31 No. 2, 2018, pp. 1-31.

Atkins, J. F. and Atkins, B. C. (eds.) (2016) The Business of Bees, An Integrated Approach to Bee Decline, June, Greenleaf Publishers.

Aziz SA, Clements GR, McConkey KR, Sritongchuay T, Saifful P, Muhammad Nur Hafizi AY, Campos-Arceiz A, Forget P-M, and Bumrungsri S. 2017. Pollination by the locally endangered island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) enhances fruit production of the economically important durian (Durio zibethinus). Ecology and Evolution: doi: 10.1002/ece3.3213

Ceballos, G., García, A., & Ehrlich, P. R. (2010). The sixth extinction crisis: Loss of animal populations and species. Journal of Cosmology, 8, 1821–1831.

Ceballos, G., Ehrlich, P. R., Barnosky, A. D., García, A., Pringle, R. M., & Palmer, T. M. (2015). Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Science Advances, 1, e1400253.

Ceballos, G., Ehrlich, P. R. & Dirzo, R. (2017). Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Costanza, R. (2006). “Nature: ecosystems without commodifying them”, Nature, 443, 749.

Constanza, R., dArge, R., de Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburg, K., Naeem, S., O’Neill, R.V., Paruelo, J., Raskin, R.G., Sutton, P., van den Belt, M., (1997). “The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital”, Nature, 387, 253–260.

Constanza, R., de Groot, R., Sutton, P., van der Ploeg, S, Anderson, S. J., Kubiszewski, I., Farber, S. and Turner, K. (2014). “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services”, Global Environmental Change, 26, 152–158.

Eccles, R. G., & Krzus, M. P. (2010). Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy Available: http://www.financialexecutives.org/KenticoCMS/Financial-Executive-

Magazine/2010_03/Financial-Reporting-Feature-March-2010.aspx#axzz48iuAkAHV. Accessed 26 November 2012.

Eccles, R., & Saltzman, D. (2011). Achieving sustainability through integrated reporting. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Available: http://202.154.59.182/mfile/files/Jurnal/MIT%202012-2013%20(PDF)/Achieving%20Sustainability%20Through%20Integrated%20Reporting.pdf.

Gallhofer, S., & Haslam, J. (2003) Accounting and Emancipation: Some Critical Interventions. London and New York, Routledge.

King, M. E. with Atkins, J. F. (2016) Chief Value Officer: Accountants Can Save the Planet, Greenleaf Publishers Limited, Saltaire, UK.

Kolbert, E. (2014). The sixth extinction: An unnatural history, Bloomsbury Publishing plc, London, UK.

Maroun, W. and Atkins, J. F. (2018) “The emancipatory potential of extinction accounting: Exploring current practice in integrated reports”, Accounting Forum. Vol. 42, pp. 102–118.

Stathers, R. (2016). “The bee and the stock market: An overview of pollinator decline and its economic and corporate significance”, chapter 6 in Atkins, J. and Atkins, B. (2016) The Business of Bees: An Integrated Approach to Bee Decline and Corporate Responsibility, Greenleaf Publishers Limited, Saltaire, UK, pp. 110-131

Footnotes

[1] Ceballos, García, & Ehrlich, 2010, 2015; Kolbert, 2014

[2] Ceballos, Ehlrich, & Dirzo, 2017

[3] Ceballos et al., 2017, p.6095

[4] Maroun and Atkins, 2018

[5] The IPBES is the intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers.

[6] IPBES Report, Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, May 2019.

[7] Stathers (2016)

[8] Nieto, A., Roberts, S.P.M., Kemp, J., Rasmont, P., Kuhlmann, M., García Criado, M., Biesmeijer, J.C., Bogusch, P., Dathe, H.H., De la Rúa, P., De Meulemeester, T., Dehon, M., Dewulf, A., Ortiz-Sánchez, F.J., Lhomme, P., Pauly, A., Potts, S.G., Praz, C., Quaranta, M., Radchenko, V.G., Scheuchl, E., Smit, J., Straka, J., Terzo, M., Tomozii, B., Window, J. and Michez, D. 2014. European Red List of bees. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union.

[9] Atkins, J. F. and Atkins, B. (eds.) (2016) The Business of Bees: An Integrated Approach to Bee Decline and Corporate Responsibility, Routledge, UK.

[10] See the chapter by Abigail Heron of AVIVA in The Business of Bees

[11] https://geographical.co.uk/people/development/item/3129-durian-fruit

[12] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/02/durian-foul-smelling-fruit-make-malaysia-millions-export-china

[13] This data was taken from the Durian Global Market Report produced by MK Durian Harvest Sdn. Bhd, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

[14] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/24/chinas-appetite-for-stinky-durian-fruit-threatening-endangered-tigers

[15] Kawanishi, K. 2015. Panthera tigris ssp. jacksoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T136893A50665029. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T136893A50665029.en. Downloaded on 26 May 2019; Kawanishi, K. and Sunquist, M.E. 2004. Conservation status of Tigers in a primary rainforest of Peninsular Malaysia. Biological Conservation 120(3): 329–344; Locke, A. 1954. The Tigers of Terengganu. Museum Press Ltd, London, UK; Topani, R. 1990. Status and distribution of tiger in Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Wildlife Parks (Malaysia) 9: 71-102.

[16] https://www.conservationjobs.co.uk/articles/durian-tree-threatened-by-decline-of-flying-foxes/

[17] Aziz et al. (2017)

[18] Constanza (1997)

[19] Constanza et al (2014); Constanza (2006)

[20] This argument is taken from Atkins and Maroun (2018)

[21] Eccles & Krzus, 2010; Eccles & Saltzman, 2011

[22] This argument and the following extinction accounting framework are taken from Maroun and Atkins (2018)

[23] Gallhofer and Haslam, 2003, p.7

[24] Maroun and Atkins (2018)

[25] See Atkins et al., 2018

[26] (Investec, Integrated Report, 2013, p.110).

[27] Investec, Integrated Report, 2013, p.110

[28] Investec Sustainability Report, 2013, p.25

[29] Investec Sustainability Report, 2013, p.25

[30] This is from the company website; https://www.investec.co.za/about-investec/sustainability/planet/investec-rhino-lifeline.html.

[31] Investec, Sustainability Report, 2015

[32] This framework was developed by Longxiang Zhao for his doctoral thesis and is published in Around the World in 80 Species, chapter 19.

[33] A framework for companies in the agro-chemical industry to report on hedgehogs (or absence of hedgehogs) is being developed by Mira Lieberman for her doctoral research.

[34] This mapping was first published on pages 61-62 in King, M. with Atkins, J. (2016) Chief Value officer: Accountants Can Save the Planet, Greenleaf Publishing, UK.

[35] This diagram is an adaptation of Figure 9.1 published in King, M. with Atkins, J. (2016) Chief Value officer: Accountants Can Save the Planet, Greenleaf Publishing, UK (page 69).

[36] An earlier version of this framework was published in Atkins and Maroun (2018) page 773.


To view the original NSFM Blog post on LinkedIn please visit https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nsfm-blog-developing-species-protection-action-plan-macpherson/ .

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