More calls for accounting standards to meet sustainability goals

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 6 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE : Getting more Asian corporates to improve accounting standards by factoring in natural, human and social capital got louder on Tuesday in Singapore.

Environmental organisations are now focusing on getting more Asian business leaders to account for sustainability.

For example, pollination of bees to gather nectar from flowers is estimated to cost some US$200 billion.

This hefty price tag is according to estimates from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business Coalition .

Such drive to value nature in dollars and cents - or what is known as natural capital - is gaining traction in the business world.

Pavan Sukhdev, Director, TEEB Business Coalition, said: "I think business leaders are wise to understand that free lunches don't go on forever. And they understand that they are facing huge risks. And risks are accelerating because scarcities are coming up and they are already affecting business operations."

On Tuesday, two environmental groups were launched in Singapore - The Business Council for Sustainable Development Singapore, and the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Business Coalition.

The two organisation will work together in helping businesses be more sustainable, using natural capital as a way to help companies with their sustainable reporting."

Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said: "We are focused initially on the truly developing countries, the ones that need more support from an organisation like ours. Secondly, Singapore as an economy itself, is not the largest economy to focus on. But now, with the regional function that Singapore is playing, we thought it would be a critical moment to get Singapore and Singaporean business involved."

And businesses be further pushed to adopt sustainable practices.

Peter Seligmann, Chairman & CEO, Conservation International, said: "Businesses are much more inclined to understand these issues than governments and the reason is that businesses understand that revenues have to exceed expenses. And so they understand that. If they don't have the proper accounting and if they don't put a right value to it, then they are going to lose it. Governments don't mind going into the deficit, and businesses are more inclined to engage."

The Global Reporting Initiative, which has one of the most widely used sustainable standards for reporting, says its standards are now being reviewed and updated.

Herman Mulder, Chairman, The Global Reporting Initiative, said: "We want to make linkage with integrated reporting, which is the future, where the financial report, the sustainability report and some other reporting is part of a corporate report, which is much more comprehensive, much more forward looking."

A recent study has estimated that some 2 to 4 trillion US dollars are not being factored in the books annually.

This cost may have increased steadily since the study was conducted four years ago.

Speaking at the launch of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan called for a coalition of diverse stakeholders in dealing with the haze issue in the region.

Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that governments, private companies, and non-government organisations each have a role to play.

They must work together in resolving matters concerning the environment.

Making reference to the haze problem that has plagued the region every year, Dr Balakrishnan said the matter cannot be fixed because central to the predicament is an economic issue.

He lamented that so long as plantation companies can get away with the cheapest method of clearing the forest, that is by burning it, they will do so.

Dr Balakrishnan added that as long as governments do not have political will and take investigations and enforcement seriously, the problem cannot be resolved.

Thus, he stressed that a creation of coalition of stakeholders is needed for a long term impact which can make a difference to human welfare.

- CNA/ch

Group to put costs to green effort launched
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 7 Nov 12;

FELLING trees and selling the timber may stimulate the economy, but there are hidden costs, such as an increased risk of floods and the loss of flora and fauna.

A new environmental group launched in Singapore yesterday wants to identify such costs of business and put a monetary value to them where possible.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Business Coalition launched its global headquarters in Singapore at the Botanic Gardens.

It aims to allow governments, organisations and companies to build an economic case for better protection of the earth's natural resources, said its director, Dr Dorothy Maxwell.

The coalition includes notable accountancy and conservation groups and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

It also has representatives from Puma and Deutsche Bank, and its board is co-chaired by Singapore's Mr Gerard Ee, an EDB director.

Said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, who was a guest at yesterday's launch ceremony: "The age of cheap natural resources is coming to a close. You need coalitions of diverse stakeholders in order to create anything worthwhile which will make a long-term impact."

The launch was part of yesterday's one-day Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development, organised by local media company Global Initiatives and attended by companies and organisations worldwide.

Another group, the Business Council for Sustainable Development - Singapore, was also launched during the forum.

International business, government and civil society leaders join forces in global forum for valuing natural capital
IUCN 6 Nov 12;

International leaders from business, government and NGOs gathered in Singapore today to mark the launch of the new headquarters of TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) for Business Coalition which aims to achieve a shift in corporate behaviour to preserve and enhance, rather than deplete the earth’s natural capital.

The Coalition brings together global stakeholders and partners, including IUCN, to study and standardise methods for natural capital accounting to enable its valuation and reporting in business.

This is the business application of the G8+5 and UNEP-supported TEEB programme, led by Pavan Sukhdev. It provides a compelling economic case for the conservation of natural capital and is the cornerstone of current Green Economy policy.

“Valuing nature is at the heart of sustainable development and is everybody’s business. If we are to achieve the goal of halting biodiversity loss by 2020, we must engage all sectors of society, not least the private sector. That’s why IUCN, involved in TEEB since its beginning, helps businesses integrate biodiversity and livelihood values in their decision-making. I hope that the TEEB for Business Coalition will go a long way in promoting biodiversity-friendly businesses worldwide,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.

The Coalition is a Not for Profit organisation and has secured cornerstone funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, as well as from the United Kingdom and Singaporean Governments. Headquartered in Singapore, it will provide a growing knowledge hub in the Asia-Pacific region and internationally on natural capital valuation in business.

The Coalition’s activities focus on global stakeholder engagement, focused research and development of methods for natural capital accounting. Its founding members have pioneered much of the science and business case for natural capital valuation and accounting, providing a credible platform to take the business application of this forward. These existing activities will be built on to ensure the necessary stakeholders from business, government, support organisations, academia and NGOs inform effective and pragmatic methods.

Also announced at the launch was the appointment of Dr. Dorothy Maxwell as the Director for TEEB for Business Coalition. Dr. Maxwell joins the Coalition with over 20 years’ professional experience working in the environmental/sustainability arena in business, government and academia in the EU, USA and Asia-Pacific.

The ceremony took place as part of the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development, which presented practical ways to accelerate solutions for a more sustainable world while increasing business and industry growth. The Forum serves as a platform for leading global companies to discuss deeper integration of sustainability and social responsibility to deliver longer-term business success. Forum participants took this opportunity to participate in various discussions related to the Coalition and agreed next steps.

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