Accounting for Ecosystem Services in Strategic Business Decision Making

A SEF Webinar
SEF Webinar
Originally delivered Aug 10, 2011

Sustenance of all activities on earth is impossible without the availability of various ecological goods and services. These include goods such as fresh water, minerals and fertile soil, and services such as climate and pest regulation, pollination, and biogeochemical cycles. Recent studies have confirmed the degradation of many ecosystem services and the urgent need for considering their role in engineering decision making. The importance of understanding the role of ecosystems has also been recognized by various organizations including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. However, most existing methods that aim to enhance the sustainability of industrial activities, including life cycle assessment and industrial symbiosis, ignore the role of ecosystems.

This webinar illustrates the role of ecosystem services in providing direct and indirect support to various industrial activities. It identifies the challenges in accounting for the role of ecosystem services, and describes approaches based on physical accounting of technological-ecological networks. A software tool for Ecologically-Based Life Cycle Assessment (Eco-LCA) is introduced and applied to compare products such as fossil and biomass based fuels. Application of the Eco-LCA framework for evaluating the vulnerability of industrial activities to the loss of specific ecosystem services is also demonstrated. Traditional engineering design methods are extended to design networks of technological and ecological systems that account for the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems and can be self-reliant. Case studies focus on such techno-ecological synergy networks of some common industrial products.

The Sustainable Engineering Forum (SEF) seeks collaborative work in programming and education objectives with other professional societies, both national and foreign. SEF Members may access this content for free.

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