Integra LLC is pleased to announce that it has been awarded an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract for USAID’s Restoring the Environment through Prosperity, Livelihoods and Conserving Ecosystems (REPLACE). This five-year, multi-award contract with an overall ceiling price of $700,000,000 will provide technical services to USAID Missions and operating units to improve the sustainable, long-term management of natural resources.  Read more

The four categories of ecosystem services, and examples of those services, as defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005.

Ecosystem Services: Categories and Examples

According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, ecosystem services are defined as the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, split into four categories of provisioning, supporting, regulating and cultural services. Because they are so beneficial in a variety of ways, the international community has begun to monitor and monetize these services, in addition to advocating for environmental sustainability.

Each category of ecosystem services provides a certain type of benefit to the global population.

  • Provisioning services are often described as ecosystem goods, and refer to benefits such as food production.
  • Supporting services are services that enable other categories to work, including but not limited to nutrient production and habitat provision.
  • Regulatory services, such as carbon storing, are processes often considered to be public goods, and are perhaps the most difficult to measure.
  • Lastly; cultural services refer to social aspects of the ecosystem, such as the services sacred land provides and eco-tourism.

As climate change increasingly warrants international attention, a system that measures and monitors the benefits of ecosystem services will prove to be more necessary than ever before. In addition to having a set measurable indicators, it will also be valuable to monetize these services for both the public and private sector.  Fortunately, some of the information and technology needed to perform these functions are already in development. The US Department of Agriculture for example, recently launched Comet 2.0, a web-based tool to help farmers estimate farm-specific carbon sequestrations and net greenhouse gas emissions from soils, biomass, annual crops, and fossil fuel usage.  Another tool, the i-Tree, allows municipalities to monetize the value of urban trees, and is used in over 6,000 communities worldwide for city planning initiatives.

Recognizing the monetary value of ecosystem services, the private sector has also begun to show their commitment to the environment as part of an overall business strategy. This past June at the Rio+20 Summit, 24 global Fortune 500 companies including Coca-Cola, Dell, General Motors and Xerox, released a report called The New Business Imperative: Valuing Natural Capital. The report, sponsored by the Corporate Eco Forum and The Nature Conservancy, urges businesses to recognize how their companies are dependent on ecosystem services in a range of areas, from supply chain to cost savings.  Complete with a commitment from each company involved, the report estimated the world’s ecosystem contributes about $72 trillion in goods and services per year to the global economy.

While ecosystem services may be a relatively new topic on the environmental agenda, the momentum behind the discussion is building. In fact in February 2012, the UN Statistical Commission recently approved the System for Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA) to account for material natural resources in a nation’s economy. It should be noted however, that an internationally accepted method of accounting for ecosystem services, as opposed to goods and materials, does not currently exist.

Because this is an increasingly important topic with a potential impact on Environmental Natural Resource Management (ENRM), we’ll be taking an in-depth look at ecosystem services in the areas of disaster risk reduction, food security, health and technology. Each week, we’ll look at specific areas of ecosystem services and how they fit into the larger development picture.


Photo credit: Sustainable Futures

980 million people traveled internationally in 2010, a 4% increase over the previous year, and forecasts expect 1.6 billion tourists by the year 2020. Travel & Tourism as a sector accounts for 258 million jobs globally, and provides crucial opportunities for investment, economic growth, and fostering cultural awareness.  Tourism can also be a powerful tool for tackling major challenges such as conservation and poverty alleviation.

But how do environmentally and socially conscious travelers navigate the complex differences between ecotourism, sustainable tourism, socially responsible tourism and the other myriad forms of traveling responsibly?

Ecotourism vs Sustainable Tourism

Industry consensus agrees ecotourism is more focused on ecological conservation and educating travelers on local environments and natural surroundings, whereas sustainable tourism focuses on travel that has minimal impact on the environment and local communities. Ecotourism is a form of tourism, or a category of vacation similar to beach, adventure, health, or cultural, while the concept of sustainability can be applied to all types of tourism.

As established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Another widely cited definition of ecotourism is “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment; taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem; producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people.”

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism practices around the world. GSTC and its global members of UN agencies, global travel companies, hotels, tourism boards and tour operators follow the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The 23 criteria focus on best practices to sustain natural and cultural resources, maximize social and economic benefits for the local community, and minimize negative impacts to the environment.

Currently there is no internationally accredited body charged with overseeing the standards, monitoring and assessment, or certification for the ecotourism or sustainable tourism industries. Without an established standard it is easy to be confused by organizations that greenwash services and offerings as “environmentally friendly.” Others argue that ecotourism is an oxymoron, as travel implicitly entails activities that are detrimental to the environment. Planes, trains and automobiles use harmful fossil fuels that emit CO2, and forestland is often cleared for roads and railways.

Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism in Action

Photo Credit: Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica was a pioneer in ecotourism and exemplifies how tourism can be a key pillar of economic development policy. Costa Rica is now the premiere destination for ecotourism, and in 2010 tourism contributed 5.5% of the country’s GDP. Jordan serves as another model of successfully integrating conservation and socio-economic development. Ecotourism generated $2.1 million in 2010, and Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has received several global awards for its success in alleviating poverty and creating employment for local communities, in combination with integrating nature conservation.

Myriad sites offer options for tours and hotels that cater to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable type of traveling experience. The New York Times travel section allows viewers to search potential destinations using ecotourism as a criteria, and Condé Nast Traveler highlights Ecotourism and Sustainable Travel under Expert Travel Tips.

The Earthwatch Institute, organizes trips where travelers work alongside scientists and explorers on field expeditions and Sierra Club’s travel arm Sierra Club Outing allows environmentalist to learn something on vacation and inflict minimal harm on the surrounding environment.

At the industry level, hotels and resorts are taking on sustainability commitments that focus on recycling, decreasing water and energy usage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions,and environmentally friendly design. Many in the industry show a commitment to a holistic approach to sustainability which includes  the construction of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, providing eco-friendly and organic food and wine selections, and rewarding guests who make “green choices.” Marriott, which boasts 2,800 hotels worldwide, offers guests hotel points or vouchers for the hotel restaurant should they choose to not having linens and towels washed daily.

Understanding the difference between sustainable tourism and ecotourism educates travelers on the significant impact their travel decisions have on the environment, economy and local communities they visit. Participating in sustainable tourism, or more specifically ecotourism vacations, means travelers can contribute to development and conservation efforts, while enjoying themselves on vacation.

Headshot of Melanne Verveer

Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer. (Photo: US Dept of State)

On Monday, July 23, 2012 the Center for American Progress hosted Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer for a discussion on “Women’s Economic Success and Global Growth.” Amb. Verveer’s talk focused on the crucial role women play in sustainable development and economic growth worldwide. US women generate $3.5 trillion yearly, and women’s employment in developing countries contributes more to the global economy than China. By 2050, women will control 2/3 of all spending worldwide. Noting that women traditionally spend their earnings in sectors that create a multiplier effect (i.e., health, education, food), Amb. Verveer emphasized the tremendous consumer power women will wield in global markets. She also highlighted growing research that shows how countries where women’s rights are more closely equal to those of men are more peaceful and prosperous than  countries that ignore, marginalize or limit the role of women.

Amb. Verveer spoke of three main areas the State Department focuses on increasing the role and influence of women: Economic Empowerment, Women in Development, and Peace and Security.  Within the Women in Development sector, three initiatives discussed fit squarely within Integra’s areas of expertise: Feed the Future (Agriculture), Global Climate Change Initiative (Environment) and mWomen (Information and Communications Technology).

Agriculture: Women are vital to agricultural development, often making up the majority of farmers in developing countries and the backbone of agriculture-based economies. FAO reports claim that if men and women farmers had equal access to credit, training, property rights and technical inputs, yields could improve 20 to 30 percent and the number of malnourished people worldwide could be reduced by 150 million people.

Environment: Women bear the burdens of climate change disproportionately more than men. Yet women are uniquely empowered to address climate change because of their central role in agriculture, forest management, and running the home (i.e., making crucial energy decisions as pertains to energy sources used in the home).

ICT4D: Increased technological access creates opportunities for financial security and independence. With mobile access, women are able to gain information about the current market, including data on pricing and weather systems, in addition to business insights and trainings, access to support networks, and the ability to transfer and save funds. “The significance of mobile technology cannot be underrated,” said Ambassador Verveer, who emphasized both the economic and social value of mobile technology. While 350 million women still do not have access to cell phones, the State Department is working to bridge this gap in connectivity through various initiatives, including the GSMA mWomen initiative. mWomen is committed to reducing this gender gap in connectivity by 50%.

In each development sector highlighted, Ambassador Verveer reiterated that gender equality is not only smart economics, but in line with US values and “a moral imperative of the 21st Century.” While the State Department and USAID continue to add gender guidance components to trainings and major international initiatives, true change will only be achieved once gender equality becomes institutionalized and integrated across all bureaus. Women’s rights need to be viewed as human rights essential to fostering economic growth, social stability and a more peaceful prosperity worldwide.


To view full event video, click here. To read Ambassador Verveer’s article on “Why Women Are a Foreign Policy Issue,” click here


In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marking the 20th Anniversary of the Earth Summit, Rio+20 provided an opportunity for the world to reaffirm commitments to poverty erradication, sustainable development and environmental protection. Below, we explore various outcomes of Rio+20:

Rio+20 logo

Photo credit: Voices of Youth

1. New Sustainable Development Goals

As a replacement for the Millennium Development Goals which end in 2015, the governments of Colombia and Guatemala have proposed Sustainable Development Goals. These goals would link environmental and human development concerns within broad categories such as changing consumption patterns, combating poverty, and advancing food security. While negotiations in Rio did not agree to specific themes, terms or commitments, an “open working group” of 30 nations was appointed to determine priorities for the pledge by September 2013.

2. Words, Words, Words

From cries of disgust and disappointment—Greenpeace deemed the summit “a failure of epic proportion” — to careful phrased optimism about sustainable development, Rio+20 was a war of words. Promises were made, fingers pointed, and cries of injustice abound, but in the end the most important words were found within “The Future We Want”.  A non-binding communiqué ratified by all UN members that resulted in no financial commitments or concrete benchmarks.

Instead, much of the conference discourse centered around the dominant buzz word and concept of “the green economy.” We at Integra recently blogged about inclusive green growth efforts and sustainable development initiatives of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Graphic displaying the Zero Hunger Challenge spectrum of milestones

Photo credit: UN

3. An Initiative to End Hunger 

At the conference, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge, an initiative that aims to put an end to hunger, ensure resilient food systems, increase productivity and income of smallholder farmers, especially women, and eliminate food waste.  The UN campaign is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme, Unicef, the World Bank, and various governments.

 4. An Appreciation for the Energizing and Influential Power of Sideshow Events

More than 3,000 fringe events took place outside of the negotiations, producing significant outputs and exciting commitments. Passionate and innovative individuals, committed grassroots organizations, and forward thinking corporations were able to mold policy and influence international agreements in new and exciting ways. These outside movements energize and influence negotiations, and are an important reminder that individuals still have incredible influence on the state of the world.

5. Innovative Pledges from Unlikely Sources

While government negotiators could not agree to binding pledges, various corporations, individual states and industry groups committed to bold and creative ways of approaching the challenge of sustainable development. Some of the more interesting pledges include:

Grenada announced its transport and electricity sectors will only use clean energy sources by 2030.

Unilever promised to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2020 and find sustainable sources of beef, soy and palm oil to prevent the deforestation now stemming from production of these three major crops.

Eight international development banks agreed to invest $175 billion to sustainable public transport systems over the next decade.

European PVS industries made a commitment to recycle 800,000 tons of PVC each year through the VinylPlus programme.

Microsoft will roll out an internal carbon fee on its operations in more than 100 countries, part of a plan to go carbon-neutral by 2013.

Map of the world in a field

Photo credit: UNEP

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was strengthened with more funding, stronger powers to initiate scientfic research, a leadership role in coordinating global environmental strategies, and a vote of confidence for the organization’s much publicized transition to a focus on creating a green economy backed by strong social provisions.


Photo Credit: Costas Troulos

In a joint statement issued today ahead of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the Broadband Commission noted that “We believe broadband is a fundamental technology to achieve sustainable development that should also be recognized in future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

The statement came as a follow-up to its April call to action to the delegates  at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development who gathered in New York at the time to continue their negotiations ahead of the Rio+20 conference.  In this April call, the Broadband Commission asked the delegates to recognize ICT and broadband connectivity as catalysts to achieve the three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

In renewing their call, the Secretary-General of ITU, Hamadoun Touré stated that “ICTs have created a watershed moment in human evolution and are poised to make a catalytic impact on the sustainable development of our planet and the roadmap being negotiated at Rio+20 must therefore explicitly recognize the potential of ICTs and broadband connectivity.” Dr Touré added that ‘Broadband Inclusion 4 All’ must be fully integrated into shaping strategies in the post-2015 international development framework.

The statement concluded that broadband connectivity has the potential to provide solutions to sustainable development challenges, while simultaneously increasing socio-economic development and quality of life as well as facilitating transformative change in a wide range of key sectors from power, transportation, buildings, education, health and agriculture.

For more information on the press release, see ITU Newsroom and on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.


The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in partnership with the Centre for Development Informatics (CDI) released a report entitled, Building the Evidence Base for Strategic Action on Climate Change: Mexico City’s Virtual Climate Change Centre. The report critiques the development and execution of Virtual Center for Climate Change in Mexico City (CVCCCM).

Mexico City has experienced heat waves, heavy rainfall, flooding, and reduced water availability due to severe droughts in its supply catchment basin. The city government has voiced strategic adaptive actions that should be taken including hydro-meteorological, micro-basin, epidemiological, energy, and waste monitoring.

When considering possible task forces, it was decided that the creation of a new research institution would create political frictions and draw staff away from existing institutions. Instead, a virtual center would allow researchers to contribute when convenient, acting upon issues such as climate change, water, air, ground resources, the health sector, public services, and land use planning management. Besides being a forum for researchers and policy-makers, the website has connected with society at large through ICT-based networks such as web-seminars, Youtube, and Twitter.

The Virtual Centre is deemed successful for various reasons, including its involvement of many stakeholders and centralization of accessible data. The report criticizes the need to use ICTs to create a broader dialogue outside of scientific institutions and policy-makers to build civil society, writing that “essentially the scientific community has focused on production and presentation of their results, but has not sought – whether via ICTs or other means – to engage others, or to engage with the formulation and implementation of the strategic actions which their work points to.” The report suggests customized ICTs to different sets of audiences, the addition of short briefings, interactive demonstrations, GIS/map-based graphics, audio and visual presentations will strengthen appeal.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Centre for Development Informatics (CDI) at the University of Manchester released a case study prepared by Dr. Blane Harvey and Dr. Tom Mitchell entitled “ICT-Enabled Knowledge Sharing in North-South Partnerships: Lessons from the AfricaAdapt Network.”

The AfricaAdapt Network is a knowledge-sharing network on climate change adaptation in Africa that was established in 2008 in collaboration with Environment and Development in the Third World (ENDA-TM) (Senegal), the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) (Ghana), IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC) (Kenya), and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) (U.K.). The case study states that an online network such as AfricaAdapt can “help to build a community of practice around climate change adaptation, validate adaptation processes and information, offer users a sense of potential options and outcomes from adaptation actions, based on others’ experiences, as well as space to document their own experiences.” It is open to researchers, policy makers, civil society organizations, and communities throughout Africa, allowing new connections to be formed across disciplines such as geography, science, and disaster management. A key premise of the AfricaAdapt network is that “knowledge on climate change adaptation is often poorly documented and rarely shared in forms that are accessible to those who need it the most.”

AfricaAdapt encourages communication among active groups through key technologies such as Skype, wikis, Delicious, Twitter, YouTube and email. Benefits to the initiative include institutional capacity-strengthening through the usage of such online tools that allow for management and implementation between the hosting partners and the learning of ICTs for internal management. Hence, it forms a connection between international and locally generated knowledge on responding to climate impacts in Africa.

The network’s operating principles involve:

  • being demand responsive in how it selects and translates adaptation information;
  • building alliances and partnerships that maximize the benefits of knowledge sharing and promote visibility with diverse stakeholders;
  • addressing capacity constraints to knowledge access, sharing and use; and
  • demonstrating the added value of a culture of knowledge sharing
Photo Credit: NICCD

Examples of projects carried out through this initiative includes rural radio and video broadcasting and applying learning on rainwater harvesting from another African initiative (available on the AfricaAdapt website) in 20 villages in Malawi.

Concerns of the project include a general lack of bandwidth, limiting communication to being mainly text-based. It was also difficult to implement wikis among managing partners, as there was resistance towards adding another layer of navigation for accessing documents. Therefore, such steps must be implemented strategically. Network partners must be willing to learn and experiment by “regularly reviewing existing approaches, document and learn from successes and failures, and adopt new approaches where existing ones are not satisfactory.”

The takeaway message from the case-study is that openness, participation, institutional hierarchy, and connectivity across partners is the key formula for a successful deployment of ICTs. This strength and effectiveness leads to experimental learning, innovation, and reflective practice that moves beyond the core towards broader membership of the issue.

It’s stacked against them. Climate change is impacting developing countries in a real way, disrupting ancestral patterns used by the rural poor for farming, fishing, and daily life. On top of this, women and men experience climate change differently as gender inequalities worsen women’s coping. Women traditional are responsible for the tasks most likely to be affected by climate change: agriculture, food security, and water management.

How can women in these communities be empowered? For one, there needs to be a gender-responsive approach towards climate change policymaking and programming so that women can be important stakeholders when addressing climate change with their skills related to mitigation, adaption, and the reduction of risks.

A manual has been created for including women in the design process by the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA). CRiSTAL, which stands for Community-based Risk Screening Tool – Adaptation and Livelihoods, is designed to help project planners and managers integrate climate change adaption and risk reduction into community-level projects. It defines gender and includes warm-up activities and exercises that explain climate change that empower poor women to be powerful agents of change. The CRiSTAL approach also “provides a gender-specific vulnerability analysis for different parts of the population, highlighting the specific coping strategies of women, and resulting in clear pointers for how gender specific measures will need to be incorporated into projects.” From this manual, women gain access to knowledge about different hazards, risk reduction, resources and technology that reshape negotiations of comprehensive regimes on climate change. The manual includes examples of natural resource management projects focusing on drought coping strategies in Bangladesh, Mali, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Sri Lanka.

The manual concludes with a call for more government and NGO support, including providing skill transfer through ICT training for women that can change the perception of women in their communities.

Power generation accounts for about one-quarter of global carbon emissions, a major cause of global warming. CARMA (Carbon Monitoring for Action) was created to inventory and monitor this massive output to “equip individuals with the information they need to forge a cleaner, low-carbon future.” There are over 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies worldwide available on CARMA’s database, which is produced and financed by the Confronting Climate Change Initiative at the Center for Global Development. CARMA can be used by consumers, investors, shareholders, and policymakers to name a few for influencing decisions on power generation.

For power plants within the U.S., CARMA uses E.P.A. data. For non-reporting plants, CARMA estimates emissions using a statistical model that utilizes detailed data on plant-level engineering and fuel specifications. The database is updated quarterly to reflect changes in ownership, construction, renovation, planned expansions, and plant retirements. The plants can generate power from any number of sources, including hydroelectric, fossil fuels, and nuclear. According to the site, “CARMA does not endorse or favor any particular technology. Our goal is to simply report the best available information on sources of power sector carbon emissions.” In many cases data can be downloaded from the site.


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