Sustainability Report 2016

Impact through client work

Resource constraints

Urbanization, water security and supply, changing weather patterns, land degradation, deforestation and the rise of the middle class are among many factors driving concerns that society will have insufficient resources to meet the demands of the world’s growing population. ERM’s work with the food and beverage, agriculture, technology and chemical sectors helps clients manage the resources they need, across their supply chain, for the long term.

Translating and measuring sustainability issues in business terms is a critical service we provide our clients: 

  • Food producers face significant physical risks in their supply chains and, in common with other consumer goods companies, significant reputational and brand implications;
  • Technology companies have potential market opportunities to enable a lower carbon economy, but also a reputational imperative to minimize their operational emissions, particularly from energy-intensive data centers; and 
  • Chemical companies face a comprehensive set of challenges and opportunities associated with intense interest in the environmental and safety impacts of products and the increasingly complex regulatory requirements that apply to them.

ERM provides expert assistance to companies regarding life cycle assessment and management, design for the environment, and design and execution of supply chain assessment programs.

Innovation through collaboration

ERM actively engages in the development of tools for identifying and managing evolving sustainability issues that are impacting resource constraints across different parts of their a company’s value chain. We believe it is important to bring technical depth and practical experience with an innovative mindset to the efforts that are designed to deliver improved outcomes across different sectors, operations and geographies.  When appropriate, we look for opportunities to collaborate with leading organizations, clients, peers, academics and civil society on key issues, as illustrated by the three examples provided below.

ERM is among the experts -- from business, academia, nongovernmental organizations and service providers – that worked with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on the development of The Natural Capital Protocol. The Protocol is a standardized framework for business to measure and value its direct and indirect impacts and dependencies on natural capital, defined as renewable natural resources (such as plants and animals) and nonrenewable natural resources (such as minerals). The Protocol is internationally applicable, across all business sectors, geographies and organizational levels (e.g. corporate, project, and product). Doug MacNair, an ERM Technical Director in Raleigh, North Carolina, US, is on secondment to the Natural Carbon Coalition to provide expertise and guidance in the development and launch of the Protocol.

ERM also coauthored the WBCSD report Building Resilience in Global Supply Chains. Released during the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, the report is designed to raise awareness and trigger discussions among businesses of the potential climate change risks to global supply chains and how to build resilience. The report highlights, through case studies in contrasting sectors, the lessons to be learned across business activities and different kinds of supply chain.

The case studies focus on two specific supply chains: corn production for the beverage industry in the United States and the production of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles. The report concludes with broadly applicable resilience measures, based on the lessons from the case studies as well as the existing literature and the experience of WBCSD companies.

We are a member of the advisory group of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program, an international collaboration between companies, financial institutions, government agencies and civil society organizations to conserve biodiversity in an ecologically effective and economically efficient manner as companies pursue their business goals. We are helping to develop best practice in following the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, restore, offset) to achieve no net loss or, where possible, a net gain in biodiversity. Read more of our involvement here.

New tools and approaches

Through our work with WBCSD and multinational companies, ERM is developing new tools and approaches for integrating ecosystem services into decision- making for business. Recent examples include developing ecosystem service risk and opportunity priority-setting tools at a global and site level; undertaking a corporate ecosystem valuation study to evaluate trade-offs between biofuels, water, carbon, biodiversity and landscapes; delivering a strategic water strategy framework for a mining client; and calculating compensation and biodiversity offset requirements to meet international lending requirements.

In Nassau, the Bahamas, we are preparing a diagnostic assessment and action plan to improve the environmental, social, economic and governance sustainability of the city. We will then support pre-investment studies for selected projects prioritized in the action plan. This is the continuation of a multi-sectorial effort to improve the quality of life in emerging cities in Latin America and the Caribbean through the Inter-American Development Bank.

Our experience across all sectors makes it clear that resource management is a business-critical risk for our clients, requiring both technical solutions and an integrated long-term strategy. From refineries and mines to technology companies, we have helped clients understand and manage these risks in more than 160 countries.