Explores six challenges -- water scarcity, climate change, habitat change, biodiversity loss and invasive species, overexploitation of oceans, and nutrient overloading -- and discusses their implications for business and examples of corporate responses.

Executive Summary

Over the past 50 years human activity has altered ecosystems faster and more extensively than ever before in human history. That is the main finding of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a four-year, international, scientific appraisal of the condition and trends in the Earth’s ecosystems.

The MA classified ecosystem services, the benefits people and businesses obtain from ecosystems, into four categories, including provisioning services such as food, water and fiber; regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic or spiritual benefits; and supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling.

The MA assessed 24 ecosystem services and found the majority to be degraded.

The MA also identified six interconnected challenges that are of particular concern for business as these further affect the integrity of ecosystems and their capacity to provide services:

  • Water scarcity
  • Climate change
  • Habitat change
  • Biodiversity loss and invasive species
  • Overexploitation of oceans
  • Nutrient overloading.

This Issue Brief explores the six challenges, discusses their implications for businesses and provides examples of corporate responses.