World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Businesses: Making the fight against wildlife crime a priority

  • Date: 04 April 2016
  • Author: Sheri Turnbow, Senior Director, Private Sector Engagement, WWF

Four years ago, WWF launched its “Stop Wildlife Crime” campaign as a response to an emerging poaching crisis in Africa. We were among the first organizations to notice the serious spike in the number and severity of elephant and rhino poaching incidents on the ground, and we led the charge to make the issue a priority for government action, including here in the U.S. In part due to WWF’s efforts, Congress, the U.S. State Department (including then Secretary Hillary Clinton) and even President Obama all joined the fight, culminating in the President issuing a first-ever Executive Order on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking in July 2013.

The result was a National Strategy that not only called for the U.S. to adopt a whole-of-government approach to fighting wildlife trafficking and work with NGOs, such as WWF – it also called for collaboration with private sector companies to educate consumers, remove illegal wildlife products from supply chains and reduce demand for these products. Today, corporate America has literally come to the table and joined us in this fight. In a meeting earlier today at the White House, senior Administration officials were joined by the CEOs of major U.S. companies and trade associations alongside NGO leaders, including WWF CEO Carter Roberts, to discuss over a dozen new corporate commitments to help combat wildlife trafficking.

WWF has long been a proponent of harnessing the agility and influence of the business sector to shift markets toward sustainable practices. Typically, this effort has focused on a company’s own supply and value chain – ensuring that every aspect of business from raw ingredients; to energy used in manufacturing; to packaging – is handled in a way that minimizes the impact on our planet. We’ve seen incredible conservation success with this approach. The conservation gains we’ve been able to achieve with partners in business has been so monumental, in fact, that we’re now applying this model to other areas of our work: particularly to help combat wildlife crime.

The connection between companies like Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Natural Habitat Adventures, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association with the illegal hunting and trade of wildlife may not seem direct. But just like a company that depends on water to make its products has an interest in making sure water resources remain stable, these businesses that rely on the beauty of nature and wildlife are making sure there’s plenty of wildlife for generations to come.

Let me give you some examples.

Royal Caribbean carries more than 5 million passengers annually to destinations around the world. WWF and Royal Caribbean recently launched a partnership that aims to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. But above and beyond their own operations, Royal Caribbean understands that their customers purchase and bring home souvenirs while visiting distant ports. Inadvertently, these customers may purchase trinkets made from ivory or turtle shell, purses from pangolin or caiman leather, or other souvenirs that fuel this deadly trade.

Not only is Royal Caribbean aware of this possibility; they’ve decided to take action to prevent it. By the end of this year, the company committed to work to identify and eliminate the indirect sale of goods made from illegal wildlife products; educate travelers on the issue of wildlife crime and influence buying behavior; train approximately 64,000 crew globally on the identification of illegal and unsustainable wildlife products and the harm caused by this trade; and engage industry and corporate leadership to lend their voices to tackling wildlife crime through public events.

Natural Habitat Adventures and The Adventure Travel Trade Association have made similar commitments to bring the fight against wildlife crime into the mainstream. Both have pledged to educate both staff and customers on spotting and reporting illegal wildlife products. These companies are also pioneers in conservation travel, finding ways to incentivize local communities to value their wildlife more alive than dead.

Discovery Communications Inc. also joined the efforts towards combatting illegal wildlife crime through a donation to WWF in support of rhino translocation work in Namibia, Nepal and India made possible as a result of successful anti-poaching efforts in these countries. Discovery announced advocacy commitments on World Wildlife Day on March 3rd in support of the Global Anti-Poaching Act and utilizing their reach to their three billion cumulative global subscribers to help stop the demand for endangered wildlife products and encourage companies engaged in fueling the supply to change their practices.

The challenge of stopping wildlife crime is daunting, especially as poachers are getting more daring, creative, and technologically savvy. It’s going to take all of us—individuals, government, and business—working together to put an end to this threat once and for all. The commitments from the businesses mentioned above, along with many others, show me that we are on our way.