AiDash applies professional ecology survey standards to assess nature-related services and the value of land
Company: Multinational Utility
Location: United Kingdom
Solution: AiDash Intelligent Sustainability Management System (ISMS)
Methods: Client bespoke and AiDash natural capital methodologies
Sample scale: produce natural capital accounts for 100% of organization’s land
Value proposition: assess large areas or distributed estates rapidly, at low cost
Accuracy: validate against professional ecology surveys on at least 10% of sites
Validation confidence: deploy and verify across 1,300 sites
Applicability: evaluate land-based terrain
Assess natural capital across large, distributed areas
Natural capital unifies a broad set of environmental impacts such as “air or water filtration” from company land, or the “recreational or visual amenity” of nature to local communities. Translating these aspects into a single unit allows natural capital to be included in cost-benefit analysis.
These essential benefits provided by nature — natural capital — are often taken for granted. From sustainable to nonrenewable resources, economies depend on ecosystem services provided by nature. Such benefits and costs are often not reflected in corporate accounts, yet company performance can depend on the sustained use of company-owned, nature-based resources and the inter-relationship with local communities, customers, and, increasingly, investors.
Corporate sustainability reports are starting to adopt natural capital accounting to disclose their dependencies upon nature and the co-benefits to society from company land or marine assets. Natural capital accounting and ecosystem management reporting provide a snapshot of:
- How the business is managing long-term viability and sustainability.
- How decision-making processes account for social, environmental, and supply chain risk mitigation.
- How business plans reinforce the organization’s social license to operate.
Standards and frameworks are likely to converge in the short term, driving consistency in natural capital reporting. However, assessing natural capital and implementing and maintaining natural capital accounts can be challenging, especially for businesses that manage large estates.
Determine ecosystem services, quantify, measure, and report
The first stage of setting up a natural capital accounting approach involves assessing the material “ecosystem services” that are relevant to the business and their stakeholders.
The European Environment Agency catalogues some 90+ ecosystem service types1, but most accounts refine their set of service types to those that are most relevant. For example, the UK Woodland2 accounts include timber production, wood-fuel, carbon sequestration, air filtration (pollution removal), tourism and recreation, health benefits, urban cooling, and flood mitigation. They also acknowledge that additional metrics such as education, food from agroforestry and Christmas tree farming could be added in future.
Quantifying accounts often requires the measurement of land use and land classification — which may be a problem for large landowners. Specifically, they need to assess land to:
- Ensure a level of accuracy that is fit for purpose.
- Enable calculations to reflect changes on the ground.
- Avoid introducing excessive complexity and adding significant cost.
Natural capital operates alongside financial capital, so the impact on both the financial budgets and ecosystem services become part of a cost-benefit assessment of new plans. At the end of the year, reports are consolidated and made ready for disclosure to wider stakeholders. In some cases, this may be a simple periodic review of natural assets. However, we are starting to observe integrated annual accounts — a financial annual report that incorporates sustainability metrics (often beyond natural capital).
A robust method of providing impact assessments for plans and monitoring change over the period is needed — a challenge that AiDash climate technology can answer.
Earth observation imagery and AI deliver an evolving, natural capital management solution
At COP26, AiDash launched its Intelligent Sustainability Management System (ISMS) with a UK-based, multi-national, utility client. ISMS capabilities — incorporating Earth observation (EO) satellite imagery and artificial intelligence (AI) for land classification — provide an enterprise-wide natural capital solution.
EO imagery is analyzed using a classification AI (machine learning) model aligned with professional ecology survey standards. The survey gives an accurate baseline across the entire estate at the same point in time, a major improvement over previous approaches: This reporting was not viable using freely available datasets, and traditional, manual approaches would cost up to 20x more.
ISMS collects nature-based information, capturing and retaining the impact of planned and unplanned changes across the estate. The system was designed to support planning, governance processes, and reporting. The records can be updated in the office or on-site using mobile devices, and they can be integrated with other GIS systems to ensure a single version of the truth is maintained.
This approach is just the start. As natural capital becomes more widely adopted and as methods become standardized, the ISMS solution will continue to evolve — making assessment and the implementation and maintenance of enterprise natural capital accounts simple and effective.
AiDash is an AI-first vertical SaaS company on a mission to transform operations, maintenance, and sustainability in industries with geographically distributed assets by using satellites and AI at scale. With access to a continual, near real-time stream of critical data, utilities, energy, mining, and other core industries can make more informed decisions and build optimized long-term plans, all while reducing costs, improving reliability, and achieving sustainability goals. To learn more about how AiDash is helping core industries become more resilient, efficient, and sustainable, visit www.aidash.com.