Almost 80 percent of corporate reports didn’t provide financial details of the restoration projectsLeonhard Lenz / Wikimedia

Major corporate involvement in ecosystem restoration efforts has come under scrutiny following the publication (08/09) of a study co-authored by a Cambridge professor.

Rachael Garrett, professor at Cambridge’s Conservation Research Institute, worked alongside an international team of scientists examining sustainability reports by the world’s 100 largest companies.

The study, published in Science Journal, found low levels of transparency and accountability across restoration projects. According to the researchers, high levels of opaqueness regularly sees little to no details published about project sizes, finances and outcomes.

In recent decades, corporations have been encouraged to play a greater role in environmental protection, with initiatives like the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration seeing businesses pledge to help halt ecosystem degradation.

Out of the 100 businesses studied, 66 were found to have carried out some form of ecosystem restoration, with projects ranging from tree planting, to restoration investments, to ecological monitoring.

Amongst these, the study found “a marked lack of rigour in defining restoration, outlining methods, and quantifying outcomes”, and stated this was the case “across all sectors”.

One third of corporate reports were shown not to mention project sizes, almost 80 percent didn’t provide financial details, and over 90 percent failed to reveal a single environmental outcome.

According to the researchers, the lack of transparency leaves uncertainty about the amount of restoration actually being done and its impact.

“If big businesses are going to contribute effectively to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, there needs to be transparency and consistency in reporting”, said Professor Garrett.


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Dr Tim Lamont, lead author of the study and marine biologist at Lancaster University, emphasised that corporations could play a vital role in conservation in a proper regulatory and reporting environment.

“With their size, resources and logistics expertise, they could help deliver the large-scale restoration we need in many places”, Lamont said.

“But at the moment there is very little transparency, which makes it hard for anyone to assess if projects are delivering benefits for ecosystems or people”, he continued.

The researchers recommended new, improved reporting guidelines and called for the participation of local stakeholders in monitoring and assessing project outcomes.