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Melissa Shin is the former Managing Editor of Corporate Knights Magazine, the magazine for clean capitalism. Aiming to humanize the marketplace, Corporate Knights covers topics from corporate social responsibility to health and food, to leaders and innovators in the corporate sector.

The magazine makes it easier to synch market decisions with environmental concerns, a topic which Cisco exec Willa Black is familiar with too. Check out her webisode, and visit her campaign pageto learn how to spark your ideas into action!

By Melissa Shin

Former Managing Editor, Corporate Knights Magazine

If the environment were a bank, we would have saved it already.

This amusing yet sobering socialist protest mantra illustrates the misguided view our markets take of the invisible economy—the environmental goods and services like clean air and water that quietly sustain us every day, for “free.”

Not sure what I mean? Watch this:


Right now, it takes too long for ecosystem losses to filter down into economic losses. Only when we lose something of “value”—maybe a waterway has been over-fished and the local community can’t make a living, or a crop of oranges freezes because of wild weather in Florida—do policymakers pay attention.

Based on his research from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report, United Nations Advisor Pavan Sukdhev says we need to think about what happens if we don’t have things like clean air, fresh water, or bee-based pollination, and how much we will need to spend on alternatives.

For example, the value of nutrients and fresh water flowing into farmers’ fields can be established by calculating the cost of alternatives such as nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium-based fertilizers and irrigation systems. If we know that, we know how much polluters should be paying.

Slowly, the world is starting to wake up to the reality that if we don’t protect our ecosystem services, we’ll lose them forever and have a huge bill on our hands. As a result, companies are starting to take environmental and social information into account, linking their executive pay toenvironmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

But is it happening fast enough? We need to factor the value of nature into buying decisions and add a line for Natural Capital into corporations’ annual reports and countries’ GDP.

The conclusion of the TEEB report is simple and chilling: do nothing to protect our natural capital, and we’ll lose trillions.

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, act on your ideas. Share your story of how you’re ideas into action by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero!