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World Wildlife Fund On Balance

  • Date: 22 March 2017
  • Author: Maxime Verstraete, VP Corporate Responsibility, Hilton Worldwide

The travel and tourism sector in which Hilton operates is one the world's largest employers, supporting 1 in 10 jobs around the world. We are also a sector that depends heavily on water – a resource that is all too often taken for granted – and one that, by 2030, will be facing a 40 percent shortfall in what is needed to meet global demand.  That is why we are partnering with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to launch a new, long-term water stewardship strategy that will help us tackle the global water challenge.

Water is the lifeline that flows through a hotel, supplying its swimming pools, guest room showers and baths, greening the landscaping, and facilitating all of the cooking and cleaning that happens in the kitchens. In previous years, Hilton has worked hard to reduce the amount of water we consume within our hotel operations – with nearly 17 percent reduction in 7 years. Now we are ready to take our water stewardship to the next level by looking across the entire value chain that supports the hotel ecosystem, from our business partnerships, to the communities in which we operate and the watersheds in which they are based.

Through our collaboration with WWF, we’re evaluating our entire value chain to identify areas that are exposed to high water risk, as well as the communities that are increasingly exposed to water stress. Working with our partner businesses, vendors and suppliers, we will take steps to reduce water usage and enhance and protect clean water resources in the areas surrounding our hotels, and we will share best practices across our industry.

To ensure we make progress, we track, monitor and evaluate performance through our innovative measurement platform, LightStay. Using this tool, which is a brand standard for all 4,900 Hilton hotels, we are able to understand how our hotels are managing and improving water use over time. This in turn will allow us to develop and enhance the system, through incorporation of more detailed water risk information, to drive greater water awareness and ensuring our hotels have the information they need to make thoughtful decisions in daily operations.

Today, we are also joining the global dialogue on water stewardship by signing onto the United Nation’s CEO Water Mandate, joining business leaders in advancing water stewardship across the globe.

Learn more about how you can join Hilton in becoming a better water steward by listening to our friend, Steve.

  • Date: 21 February 2017
  • Author: Jason Clay

When a large, global food company commits to deforestation-free commodities, its entire supply chain listens. And when McDonald’s does so, other global food companies follow suit. That’s why the company’s commitment to source only deforestation-free beef by 2020 in regions with identified risks relating to the preservation of forests holds such promise to protect critical habitats, including Latin America’s most valuable ecosystems.

While deforestation has slowed across parts of the Amazon, it remains the world’s largest arc of deforestation. Furthermore, as if to compensate for progress in the Brazilian Amazon, deforestation has intensified in other Amazon regions of countries neighboring Brazil, as well as the Cerrado savannah of Brazil, and the Chaco mixed grass and woodlands of Paraguay and Argentina.

Many factors drive deforestation, but beef production is the biggest. Cattle ranching occupies about 80 percent of the deforested area in the Amazon, and it has led to the conversion of nearly 200 million acres of Cerrado habitat. Between 1976 and 2011, more than 29 million acres of Chaco habitat were converted largely first for the production of beef and then soy, a feed source for livestock.

The environmental impacts of deforestation are clear: it contributes to climate change, drought, soil degradation and erosion, water pollution, the spread of disease, and the loss of biodiversity. There are a number of social impacts as well from land conflicts to bonded and child labor, the displacement of indigenous cultures, and deterioration of water quality for drinking and fish, the most common source of protein in many affected areas.

From multinational traders to smallholder farmers, businesses increasingly recognize the economic risks of deforestation, such as resource scarcity and soil degradation, supply chain instability, legal jeopardy, and reputational harm. Its impact on weather variability is particularly troublesome for Latin American farmers who largely rely on rain as opposed to irrigation. Indeed, research indicates that deforestation has contributed to several “once-in-a-century” droughts and floods in Brazil since 2000.

Global food companies are in a unique position to influence not only their own supply chains but also that of their rivals. McDonald’s need for ground beef from select cuts leaves the majority of each animal for other buyers. In other words, for every pound of deforestation-free beef raised on farms that supply to McDonald’s, several more pounds of food—as well as leather and other byproducts—are destined for other companies’ supply chains, facilitating a sector-wide move to conserve forests.

WWF is working to support the transition to deforestation-free commodities, such as beef, soy, palm oil, timber, and so on. As a founding member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, for example, WWF works with producers, other industry players, environmental NGOs, and researchers to push for the adoption of locally appropriate indicators and metrics that help producers reduce the footprint of the beef they produce. In collaboration with National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, we are securing commitments from other companies in the beef and soy supply chains to eliminate deforestation in the Amazon, Cerrado, and Chaco ecosystems specifically.

Just as the global, interconnected food system means that environmental and economic impacts can reverberate around the world, so too can positive commitments to protect forests ripple out across the entire industry. As one of the largest single buyers of beef, McDonald’s influences producers, processors, distributors, and other companies at every point along the value chain. Today, it is sending a clear message to all of them: the future of beef is deforestation-free.

  • Date: 14 February 2017
  • Author: Richard Holland, director, markets programme (interim), WWF

One way to tackle daunting, seemingly impossible, challenges is to break them down into manageable “chunks” and share-out responsibility for these among a large number of willing and qualified people. Such is it with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted by 198 governments in September 2015 and which comprise some 17 goals and 169 targets, mapping out a routeway for the world community to 2030. 

Action to address these targets is being picked-up by partnerships of governments, companies, international organizations and civil society working from the local to global levels. In effect, it’s a type of large scale crowd-sourcing exercise and certainly one that is unparalleled in its ambition to eliminate extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet in just 13 years.

To make progress toward the targets many of these programs and partnerships need information, tools, organization and funding which will come from hundreds, or more likely, tens of thousands of sources. Voluntary sustainability standards represent one set of ready-made tools and platforms that can help business take positive steps towards several of the 2030 targets. And do so in a way that supports many millions of small-holder farmers, fishing communities and forest owners improve their standards of living, while satisfying growing consumer demands for more ethical products.

The ISEAL-WWF Report “SDGs mean business: how credible standards can help companies deliver the 2030 Agenda“ provides a clear explanation as to the role that credible voluntary sustainability standards can play in helping business contributing tangibly to the SDG agenda, and start doing this now.


The Report provides examples of results that have already been achieved towards the Goals for food security, health, gender equality, water management, decent work, sustainable consumption and production, climate change, life undersea and on land, and for partnership.

Voluntary standards are of course no “silver bullet”. They are only one means to make progress and ultimately governments and businesses will need to combine these with many other efforts and measures. Still they can be employed efficiently by businesses at every link in the value chain – enabling producers, harvesters and processors to achieve a recognized level of sustainability, and traders, manufacturers and retailers to address the impacts of their supply chains. In doing so, they contribute across a number of SDGs.

As well as helping tackle challenges described by the SDGs, the use of voluntary standards generally align well with business interests in many sectors. Indeed at their best they allow companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors, anticipate increasing consumer demand for new products, secure access to needed resources and increase the value of their brands.

By providing a way to link economic interests with contributing to the SDG agenda, the chances of attracting more people to get involved should increase. In this way voluntary standards can help generate a few of the many, many hands that will be needed to achieve the SDG goals over the coming 13 years.

  • Date: 25 January 2017
  • Author: David McLaughlin, VP, Agriculture, Markets and Food

In a global movement to protect the world’s tropical forests, countless companies, governments, NGOs and indigenous peoples’ organizations have committed to ending deforestation. Many include the world’s largest food companies who have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their agricultural supply chains, including from the production of palm oil. While this international ambition shows great promise, the challenge now rests with finding a way to ensure that these commitments are successfully implemented.

Fortunately, the increased availability of publicly available spatial data from satellite imagery and other sources has revolutionized the way the world sees and can respond to deforestation. Platforms such as Global Forest Watch (GFW) have extended the accessibility of global datasets to track deforestation in near real-time, and carry with them new possibilities to better protect forests.

With support from GFW, World Wildlife Fund–US is piloting a new tool, the Jurisdictional Risk Assessment, or JRA, to enable companies and governments to leverage this wealth of data to prioritize their own efforts to reduce and end deforestation, particularly as they relate to addressing illegal deforestation.

The JRA allows palm oil buyers, governments, and other end-users to assess and compare the extent and rate of past deforestation activities within the palm oil producing districts of Indonesia. More specifically, the JRA is based on a set of key risk assessment indicators, designed to capture only deforestation that is achieved in a manner that is not permitted, or which takes place where certain laws and policies prohibit deforestation or conversion in Indonesia. For example, the tool identifies districts that have experienced historically higher rates of deforestation in primary forests, protected areas, peatland, and certain sections of the country’s Forest Estate through activities considered illegal such as through the use of fire for land conversion. By highlighting jurisdictions associated with higher risk, palm oil buyers can better prioritize their traceability and due diligence efforts toward achieving their commitments to deforestation-free supply chains. Similarly, governments can use the analysis to prioritize domestic efforts to meet climate targets through policy measures and land use planning to reduce deforestation.

Traceability has long been a challenge for food companies, particularly in the palm oil sector. Complex supply chains leave food companies with significant difficulty in verifying the extent to which their products are associated with deforestation and illegal activities, exposing them to a variety of legal, financial, and reputational risks.

In Indonesia, district heads, known as bhupatis, have significant authority over the granting, development and enforcement of rules surrounding palm oil concessions. As a result, the Jurisdictional Risk Assessment is conducted at the district level. While the pilot focuses on palm oil in Indonesia, it could be adapted in further phases for other commodities and geographies associated with deforestation.

Among other important considerations, the JRA is based primarily on remote sensing data and does not quantify social risks (e.g., land insecurity, labor rights). It is also based on historic data but could potentially be developed to self-update with more current data flows as they become available. The JRA is not intended to be used as a standalone tool with regard to procurement decisions across jurisdictions. However, it can complement other sources of information (in particular, local knowledge and consultations) to paint a broader picture of deforestation risks and underlying conditions in order to facilitate decision-making.

Forests are increasingly recognized for the numerous critical roles they play on this planet, from filtering the air we breathe and purifying the water we drink, to providing habitat for a vast array of biodiversity, and providing an important buffer against the impacts of a changing climate. Their destruction poses direct threats to the very livelihoods of local communities as well as the business interests of local and multinational companies. By shining more light on deforestation risks, companies, governments, and all those seeking to end deforestation can better prioritize their efforts to strengthen due diligence and sustainable production practices at scale—a positive step for everyone, all 7.4 billion of us.

  • Date: 22 December 2016
  • Author: Kris Johnson, TNC; Derric Pennington, WWF

The Cedar Rapids Water Division has its headquarters, appropriately, just a few hundred yards east of the Cedar River, the source of drinking water for this second largest city in Iowa. This building is the epicenter of the Water Division’s work to provide clean water for the 126,000 residents and numerous industrial and food production facilities located in the city.

Rising levels of nitrate in the Cedar River make this work more important than ever. The Water Division building was also the location of a recent workshop organized by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and Cedar Rapids. In this unique meeting, farmers, watershed coordinators, and partners from producer organizations and state and federal agencies crowded around large, interactive TVs to “design” a watershed that could support profitable farming and provide clean water as well.

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  • Date: 21 November 2016

WWF’s Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA) works to encourage the responsible development of plant-based plastics. Members of the BFA, including WWF’s lead on packaging and material science, Erin Simon, recently traveled to the Northern Great Plains, one of only four remaining intact temperate grasslands in the world.

The BFA members journeyed to the Northern Great Plains to see how sustainable agricultural practices can help conserve and protect the prairies for generations to come. The members were on a fact-finding mission: to see first-hand how they could leverage their collective power to achieve WWF’s goal of sourcing crops (or “feedstock”) for plastics production in a way that also protects this ecologically-sensitive region. Here is a look at what they learned about the importance of ecosystem health in their travels.

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  • Date: 17 November 2016

During World Water Week in Stockholm on Sept. 1, 2016, WWF’s Lindsay Bass, The Coca-Cola Company’s Greg Koch and LimnoTech’s Paul Freedman took a seat to participate in a recorded SIWI Sofa session, “Balancing Act: What Now for Corporate Water Goals?”

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  • Date: 16 November 2016
  • Author: Durrel Nzene Halleson, WWF-Cameroon and Ludovic Miaro III, WWF Regional Africa Office

Seven African countries today showed their commitment to addressing climate change by pledging to shift to sustainable palm oil production. Their pledge, which has the potential to protect 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, is welcome news because deforestation and forest degradation account for 15 percent of all global carbon emissions.

The pledge was in the form of the Marrakesh Declaration, signed today on the side lines of the global climate negotiations in Morocco. Thirteen percent of the world’s tropical forests are within the borders of the seven countries that are part of the agreement. Threats to the forests in these countries are on the rise, in large part to meet the regional demand for palm oil production, which is expected to nearly double in the next four years.

Palm oil is found in numerous everyday household products—from candles to chocolate to laundry detergent. It’s the world’s most produced, consumed and traded vegetable oil, accounting for 38 percent of global vegetable oil consumption from 2014 to 2015.

Africa—particularly the Congo Basin, which is home to the world’s second largest tropical rain forest—is a new global hotspot for palm oil development. The production of this commonly used commodity provides economic development and rural livelihood opportunities. And the end product—palm oil—is in high demand regionally. In Central Africa, estimated annual palm oil production is about 574,764 tons, far below the regional demand, which is estimated to grow from 2.5 million tons in 2015 to about 4.5 million by 2020.

African countries are keen to increase production through attribution of new lands for industrial large-scale plantations. Much of this land is forest land that’s considered to be ecologically sensitive. Palm oil expansion on this land can lead to extensive deforestation, biodiversity loss, destruction of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas and other negative social and environmental impacts if not planned carefully and in a responsible and sustainable way.

WWF offices in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon (including Congo Brazzaville) are working towards supporting the emergence of a palm oil sector that protects biodiversity, community rights and integrates socio-economic development. In Cameroon, for instance, WWF has been supporting the government in the development of a national strategy on sustainable palm oil. In the Congo, we have helped the government identify about 706,000 acres of potentially suitable land for plantations in the savanna areas. In Gabon, we are supporting companies to get Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification. And in the DRC, WWF is supporting the government to rehabilitate inactive or abandoned industrial plantations to prevent conversion of new forested lands.

It is crucial to work across sectors and with different stakeholders to ensure that palm oil development is indeed sustainable and inclusive.

That is why WWF welcomes the Tropical Forest Alliance’s (TFA) 2020 Marrakesh Declaration for the Sustainable Development of the Palm Oil Sector in Africa, a shared pledge by governments to develop national palm oil sectors in a way that delivers environmental targets while respecting national land use plans and the rights of indigenous peoples. The declaration incorporates the principles and ideals held by WWF based on the promotion of the RSPO principles and criteria and other best practices, including promoting partnerships between large agro-industries and smallholders, rehabilitating old abandoned industrial plantations, replanting aged plantations, and oil palm expansions in savannah areas instead of conversion of HCV forest lands.

TFA 2020 is a unique platform that convenes the power of public, private sector and civil society players for advancing broader deforestation-free supply chain initiatives. If we want to reduce tropical deforestation from key agriculture commodities by 2020, it will be critical to work across sectors to ensure that deforestation-free commitments are actually implemented on the ground and in a sustainable way. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction and governments must keep their pledge to ensure that palm oil development moves forward in a sustainable way that protects forests and is inclusive of local communities.

  • Date: 03 November 2016
  • Author: Kerry Cesareo, WWF-US Senior Director & Deputy Lead, Forests

Over the last 20 years, credible certification has resulted in hundreds of millions of acres of forests being protected, either through responsible management or avoided deforestation.

Today, over 470 million acres of forestland are certified as responsibly managed under the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC’s) rigorous standards. When consumers see the FSC label on the paper, wood, and other forest products they buy, they can feel confident that their purchase is not contributing to deforestation or forest degradation. The same is true for credible labels related to responsible agriculture, such as the Rainforest Alliance and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ‘Next’ labels, as the expansion of farms and ranches severely threaten the world’s forests.

Saving the world’s forests will be impossible without these market-based systems. But more is needed.

We need to reinforce the building blocks of certification and take their benefits to broader scales by plugging in a focus on governance--especially in places where weak governance and enforcement undermines conservation efforts.

Enter the jurisdictional approach to addressing deforestation and forest degradation.

At the heart of this approach are the governments, companies, and community members in a government jurisdiction (e.g., district, state, or province) that have a common interest in forest conservation. Bringing these voices together makes it possible to craft lasting solutions by combining the market power of companies, the lawmaking and enforcement ability of governments, and the ingenuity and deep ecological knowledge of the people who live in the forest.

Working at a jurisdictional level also helps ensure that efforts to protect forests in one place don’t simply kick the deforestation problem down the road. And engaging all concerned groups within a jurisdiction makes it possible for the public and private sectors to work through big challenges collaboratively, such as how to meet the target each country set in Paris in December to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

But how do jurisdictional approaches work? Who is involved and what strategies are being used? Jurisdictional Approaches to Zero Deforestation Commodities, a new WWF paper, addresses these questions by mapping out a variety of initiatives underway in more than 25 jurisdictions.

Given that the initiatives are in the early stages, the jurisdictions are serving as petri dishes—where different methods are being tried to scale up deforestation-free production of commodities.

For example, the State of Sabah, Malaysia is pursuing a plan focused on large-scale certification of palm oil. By 2025, it intends to evolve palm oil certification within its borders from a tool that promotes good management at the plantation level to one which would assure that all palm oil produced in the State meets the criteria of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.

In contrast, an initiative jointly announced by Marks & Spencer and Unilever at the Paris Climate Conference last year seeks to leverage global demand signals rather than work in any one location in particular. The two companies are developing criteria by which any jurisdiction can demonstrate that it is effectively tackling deforestation. Companies can then reward this progress and move closer to zero deforestation in their own supply chains by preferentially purchasing from these jurisdictions.

The findings in this paper will guide WWF as we ramp up our own jurisdictional work in the coming months. We also will use them to explore ways to energize and focus knowledge exchange among governments, companies, and organizations that are leading the experimentation with jurisdictional approaches. Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 is one important platform where this is happening, and is already supporting an analysis that will build on the lessons from our paper and examine a few jurisdictional initiatives in more depth.

Certification is an indispensable tool for conserving forests. Jurisdictional approaches to addressing deforestation offer a way to amplify this impact by bringing together all actors that share a landscape or jurisdiction to forge a unified conservation agenda.

  • Date: 24 October 2016
  • Author: WWF and Ceres

The global food sector uses more than 70% of the world’s freshwater supply, most of this for growing crops. Through their massive purchasing power, the companies that buy, process and sell the food we eat have the power to raise the bar for sustainable water use in farming. Through the AgWater Challenge, Ceres and WWF have identified the key ingredients of meaningful agricultural water stewardship by food & beverage companies. Here is the recipe:

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