Behind the Scenes with Daniel Buchner, Associate General Counsel
In our Behind the Scenes series, we speak to WWF staff to learn more about their work and what makes them tick. For today's post, we caught up with Daniel Buchner, an associate in WWF's General Counsel's office.
Describe your role at WWF and what a typical day looks like.
I’m in the General Counsel’s office, and our role is really to take on whatever legal work needs doing on any given day. While each of us in the GC’s office has our own areas of experience and expertise, we are all expected to be able to handle anything that comes to our office. In any given day, I can be providing legal review of grant agreements, negotiating a contract with an IT vendor, helping one of our country offices develop a programmatic project with an indigenous community, and registering a new lobbyist to undertake our advocacy work. I really enjoy the variety, and I think it helps me and the other lawyers have a comprehensive view of the organization’s direction.
What are you currently reading or watching on TV?
I am a pretty avid consumer of media, but I’ll keep to just one in each category. I’m currently reading Shakespeare for Squirrels, which is from one of my favorite fiction writers, Christopher Moore, and part of his Fool series. And I’m always watching several things at once, but my current focus has been Showtime’s The Chi, which has just such natural and passionate acting, great dialogue, and a super soundtrack.
Is there a project you are working on that you are excited about?
I’m definitely excited about the work we’ve been doing on our new impact investment entity, WWF Impact. There is a lot of curiosity and a lot of expectations around how these activities may be able to drive some real at-scale progress on our conservation mission, and I am honored to be a part of the team of folks that has been working on building its portfolio.
What brings you joy outside of work?
Way too many things! My family of course – my two kids who are at the perfect age where they’re totally functional humans but still think I’m Superman. And I have a bunch of hobbies including playing bluegrass music, some woodworking/furniture-making, growing food, and cooking. I just really like making stuff from scratch.
What previous experience have you had that led you to WWF, educational or professional?
I was working at a large law firm doing the billable hours thing and specializing in certain areas of tax law, but I went to law school because I wanted to be able to use my skills for good. I have always been very into policy, including regarding the environment and social justice, so when an opportunity came up in the GC’s office at WWF, I jumped at the chance. Even 11 years later, I remain so grateful for the opportunity to be working for this organization.
Describe your favorite moment in nature.
My dad is originally from South Africa, and on one trip back over there, we visited a reserve that had these night hikes/jeep rides through the bush. I have never felt anything like that – both the vulnerability of being almost entirely unprotected along with the staggering diversity of life that we saw over the course of the night. I will never forget standing near a watering hole as hippos and kudu drank, while all these little nachabi monkeys (that’s the Afrikaans word for them, I have no idea what they are called in English) were jumping up and down from the trees. The entire world was alive when I’d normally be asleep. Truly magical.
What advice would you give a young professional who is interested in sustainability?
I don’t know that I have any particularly valuable advice, but I believe strongly that humans will not have a future on this planet unless we undertake drastic changes to how we use energy, grow/distribute food, exploit land, etc. So I can’t imagine a more important career pursuit than one that advances the sustainability of human activities.
What’s your favorite quote and why does it resonate with you?
Back to my favorite author, Chris Moore, from the book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Friend. The quote is: “Blessed are the meek, for to them we shall say, ‘attaboy.’” I don’t know why that’s my favorite quote, but it probably has something to do with the cynicism with which all Gen Xers are endowed. I’m at the tail end of that generation.
What does the future of sustainable business look like to you?
To me, it’s when the costs of the business’ activities – the labor costs, the environmental costs, everything – are all truly taken into account and equitably addressed. If a business relies on a manufacturing process that creates pollution or creates products through resource extraction for its profit, the cost to the environment must be built in and paid by that business. Without that compensation, businesses are essentially getting a subsidy from the natural world. I look to a future where moving to supply chains that reflect the cost to nature will drive industries away from environmentally unsustainable practices.