Pioneer in the biodiversity valuation field – Tallinn-based Endangered Wildlife OÜ

  • 2021-10-14
  • Linas Jegelevicius

Did you ever give a thought to the price of, well, the tiger, the moose, the deer, the rabbit and the other crawlers, howlers, whistlers and all the leapers out there? For the Tallinn-based Endangered Wildlife OÜ, a sophisticated tech for good fintech company, calculating the financial value of biodiversity in specific locations, is part of its daily routine. In early August, The Baltic Times Magazine asked Shana Vida Gavron, CEO of the company, to tell more about the unique pioneer in the field.

We hear a lot about fintech, edtech, and health tech start-ups, but Endangered Wildlife OÜ seems to be a whole different thing! What exactly do you do?

Endangered Wildlife OÜ is a sophisticated tech for good fintech company. We are developing a software that uses machine learning to calculate the financial value of biodiversity. Specifically, we allow interested stakeholders to calculate the financial value of specific species in specific locations. This allows the interested party to publish their impact on biodiversity in monetary terms. The company is a pioneer in this field, as it is something very new but critically needed.

How do you make money as a tech for good fintech specialising in the valuation of biodiversity? And can you speak of your key stakeholders?

We currently offer our valuation services on a consulting basis, but will launch the software as a SaaS product that people can use to value their impact. Initially we are focused on offering the service to companies – with the growth in ESG, this gives companies the opportunity to report on their environmental impact and to take sustainability reporting to a new level. Likewise, it can be used as a tool for investors to assess the actual impact ROI on their investments because it allows them to calculate financial impact, rather than to rely solely on performance scoring.

What trends and developments in terms of biodiversity and environmental footprint worry you worldwide and in the Baltics?

Globally, we are currently facing the sixth mass extinction, which has been brought on by human activity. This is a serious environmental concern that could threaten the sustained existence of the human population. We have already placed stress on thousands of vertebrate populations, with over 32,000 recorded threatened species.

Tell the outsider: how does it work? How do you valuate biodiversity and environmental footprint calculators? Do you rely on experts, tech algorithms, what else?

The biodiversity valuation is based on a combination of academically approved methodologies that have been brought together using an internally developed algorithm. The value includes:
1. Carbon value - this is based on the mainstream carbon valuation and is mostly suitable for plants and pollinators.
2. Aesthetic value - this is a traditional intrinsic value for biodiversity.
3. Economic value - this is a combination of up to 28 species-specific ecosystem services.
4. Hedge value - this is a financial value that considers willingness to pay for maintaining a population between the minimum viable population and the carrying capacity.

Together these form the Species Existence Value. We then calculate the Impact Value, which is based on a 30-year simulation taking into account an active management strategy and how the Target-species interacts with other species and exogenous variables within the ecosystem. The Species Existence Value plus the Impact Value together form the Total Conservation Value.

While this is a very complicated calculation to perform, which requires environmental, financial and statistical expertise, we believe that it will help people and companies to better understand the benefits of working in synergy with biodiversity.

The Environmental Footprint Calculator (EFC) is a slightly different tool which allows a person or a company to perform a self-assessment of their environmental impact. It was developed internally by our ISO 14001 internal auditor. Currently we have a general business EFC and a tourism EFC, and we are planning to begin to roll out more speciality EFCs soon. The purpose of these is to help clients to identify where they can improve and reduce their environmental footprint and to showcase this to peers, customers and suppliers.

You’ve made an amazing calculation of how much the tiger costs. What is your assessment based on?

The Bengal Tiger in Sundarbans, Bangladesh is valued on average at 845,161 euros per individual. This value comes mostly from the aesthetic value of the price people are willing to pay to see a Bengal Tiger in the region and the economic value created by the Bengal Tiger, especially via employment and tourism.

It is fascinating to know you’re also operating in Lithuania and Estonia. Can you please speak about that?

Being a Lithuanian citizen with 15 years’ experience working for Baltic banks, it was only natural to create Endangered Wildlife OÜ as an Estonian company. We are very fortunate to also be supported by a Lithuanian investor – so we are a proudly pan-Baltic company.

Did you make any assessment and valuation of Baltic biodiversity? Please share your findings...

We have not yet valued Baltic biodiversity, though we do have plans to engage with Baltic companies to carry out valuations on their behalf. We have, however, valued more than a dozen Scandinavian species, from the lemming to the brown bear.

What are the short and long term goals that Endangered Wildlife OÜ has?

Our main goal is to have as great an impact as possible by making our services available to the public and to raise awareness about the fact that it is possible to integrate biodiversity into our daily lives, and thereby become more aware of the cost of our actions. Biodiversity is crucial to our existence and we advocate that we need to acknowledge and respect that each species is here for a reason. We are just one species out of 8.7 million species and we are all interconnected. So, if we start to remove too many species, the entire network can collapse.

What is next for Endangered Wildlife OÜ?

The company is currently developing the underlying software and will be launching the MVP by the end of 2021. We are actively involved in multiple events and are working to raise awareness not only of the solution we offer, but also the need for all stakeholders to take on accountability and responsibility in helping our world’s biodiversity.