Payments for ecosystem services (PES) are environmental management tools that enable corporations to simultaneously enhance their environmental performance and fund sustainable development in rural areas. PES is primarily promoted as part of a sustainable production strategy for conserving natural resources, offsetting carbon emissions, and green supply chain management. Nevertheless, PES uptake by the private sector remains low, and few studies have analysed whether corporate-financed PES schemes conform to this rationale. This study evaluates three of the first PES schemes in Thailand, financed by large corporations in the water utilities, aquaculture, and beverage sectors. Interviews with 39 business managers and project stakeholders suggest that PES may be viewed as a tool for philanthropy, public relations, and gaining license to operate—akin to many corporate social responsibility initiatives. Explanations and ramifications are discussed in the context of ecological uncertainty, risk management, financial performance, organisational learning, and the corporate-engagement strategies of non-governmental organisations.
- corporate sustainability
- natural capital
- payments for environmental services
- return on investment