Journal article

Urban trees and woodlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services (ES) to society, for example, flood risk reduction, air purification, and moderation of urban heat islands. Despite this, local government budgets for tree planting and maintenance have declined in many cities throughout the world. Thus far, the academic literature has largely ignored whether businesses are willing to help fund urban forests and the ES they provide. Business financing via payments for ecosystem services (PES) within the urban realm is also under-researched and lacking in practice. This study aims to address these research gaps. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 30 businesses of varying sizes and sectors, operating in Southampton, UK. Respondents thought a public-private partnership would be feasible, with a focus on voluntary payments towards enhancing air quality, reducing flood risk, and improving aesthetics. Respondents would prefer to choose from a list of location-specific, cost-effective, monitored projects to fund directly, for marketing and/or corporate social responsibility purposes. To facilitate business funding of urban forest-based ES, clear communication of the expected environmental benefits and a strong business case are required, drawing on the experience of similar initiatives. From our findings, we recommend the piloting and analysis of such PES schemes.

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