World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

Better business for a better Earth

At World Wildlife Fund, we believe deeply in the private sector’s ability to drive positive environmental change. WWF Sustainability Works is a forum for discussion around strategies, commitments, technologies and more that will help businesses achieve conservation goals that are good for the planet and their bottom lines. Follow WWF Sustainability Works on twitter at @WWFBetterBiz.

filtered by category: WWF Markets Institute

  • Date: 06 March 2024
  • Author: Danny Miller, Lead Specialist, Aquaculture, WWF

You are what you eat – or, more precisely, you are what you’re eating has eaten. Corn, for example, is so present in the diet and processing of the cows, chickens, and other animals eaten by Americans that the author Michael Pollan, in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” quotes one researcher who calls us “corn chips with legs.”

For companies that produce animal proteins – the beef, fish, and fowl that make up so much of our dinner menus – knowing what is in animal feed is a key to knowing whether their animals are getting the right nutrients.

But there’s a surprising little secret in that world: most livestock and aquaculture producers don’t know the sources, much less the practices, associated with the production of ingredients in the feed that they give their animals.

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  • Date: 29 January 2024
  • Author: Jason Clay, Executive Director, Markets Institute at WWF

Each year the Markets Institute at WWF releases a list of potential emerging developments that will affect the global food system and will be important for producers, consumers, the private sector, and governments to consider. The topics are identified through research, interviews, data analysis, gleanings from others, and especially through discussions with the Markets Institute’s Thought Leader Group. Here is a condensed version of our full report. As always, we welcome feedback, so please get in touch.

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  • Date: 09 January 2024
  • Author: Jason Clay

With COP28 now in our rearview mirror, it’s clear that insufficient attention has been paid to what is perhaps the most complex climate issue of all: How to reduce the environmental footprint of producing food and address the impact of climate change on future food production. To address these issues, we should consider what I call the “1% Solution,” which would add a 1% environmental service payment to the price of food exports.

Current market prices do not cover the actual costs of food production in many, if not most, parts of the world. Those costs include what are often referred to as social and environmental externalities—unacceptable impacts like deforestation and conversion, soil erosion and degradation, poor livelihoods for farmers and farm workers, malnutrition and insufficient food.

Most governments can’t afford the fundamental changes to their food systems necessary for more sustainable food production, even as global population and food consumption continue to increase. Global trade, meanwhile, has doubled every 20 years, from 6% of global production in 1980 to 30% in 2020. What if we tapped into that explosive growth in trade to cover the cost of sustainability?

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  • Date: 12 December 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Over the past decade there have been increasing references in the media about climate change’s disruptive impact on food production. But there is already a more systemic impact on the global food system that we are missing — what I call climate loss.

Climate loss is pre-harvest food loss: the uncalculated losses farmers suffer from not planting a crop, changing crops due to weather, or extreme weather reducing or wiping out a crop before harvest. It can also be caused by increased predation, pests, and diseases that are triggered by climate change.

This is not a new issue. Farmers have long had years when they could not plant crops, or at least the desired crop, because of weather. But the situation is now more extreme than ever.

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  • Date: 06 December 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Transforming any food system will require new policies and difficult choices. This is particularly true if we acknowledge from the outset that by simply improving the way we produce food, we can achieve 80% absolute reductions of food-related GHG emissions and 50% for the rest of food’s footprint. Current improvement rates will not cut it. We need nothing short of transformation.

The first questions are where the biggest impacts that need to be addressed exist, who is producing them, why, and what incentives could induce them to change. These are the targets. We need to move the bottom, the poorest performers. And since our goals are metrics, our assessments should be as well. The biggest impacts and the most wasteful production come from the least efficient producers.

The bottom 10-20% of producers of any commodity produce 60-80% of the impacts but only 5-10% of the product. By improving their efficiencies, we can achieve absolute reductions of environmental impact at a scale that is both significant and sufficient. More importantly, a focus on these producers is the only way to reduce impacts by 50% absolutely. Working with the better producers will not fix the problem.

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  • Date: 01 December 2023
  • Author: Emily Moberg, WWF

Setting deforestation- and conversion-free commitments can come with a steep learning curve. One of the first hurdles to overcome is deciphering some commonly used—and commonly misunderstood—environmental science terms and concepts. One of the questions I get the most often: what is the difference between cutoff dates and target dates? In the following post I’ll delve into specific definitions and context, along with why this is so crucial to get right.

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  • Date: 29 November 2023
  • Author: Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Markets Institute

Most of my career I’ve tried to anticipate issues, or at least identify them as they unfold, build awareness, and encourage others to work on them and share their results with others. Being early gives one the ability not just to watch things evolve but to shape them directionally. Recruiting key actors with skin in the game allows them to “own” issues and solutions. It is much quicker, not to mention cheaper, to create change before investments are made in a wide range of different, often competing strategies.

In December 2011, Ban Ki-moon convened a side event at COP17 in Durban, South Africa that focused on halting deforestation. The event identified the global food system as a key driver of deforestation and habitat conversion. Christina Figueres, Jane Goodall, Richard Branson, Achim Steiner, and two or three others including myself participated in the discussion. There was resistance, including in WWF, to opening the climate tent to include food.

A dozen years later, concerns remain about adding complex issues like food production to the climate debate, as some feel it might slow or even derail efforts to move from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives for energy and transport. There has been much progress for energy and transport, but we still need strategies that make the transition cheaper, faster, and scalable by sharing knowledge, methodologies, experiences about what works and doesn’t, and technologies. As this critical five-year “stocktake” begins at COP28, are we reaching our goals?

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  • Date: 20 November 2023
  • Author: Katherine Devine, WWF

It started when my three-year-old was around 18 months. I would make my way downstairs to begin one of the most important morning rituals: preparing my coffee. I say my coffee because, while it is for me and my spouse, I’m the one that downs more than half our pot most days.

I open the cabinet, take out a bag of locally roasted beans, and pour it in the burr grinder. My kid then begins what we’ve now dubbed “The Coffee Dance,” where they like to dance to the rhythm of the coffee grinder. I don’t think I will ever stop doing The Coffee Dance, even when my kid loses interest, which I’m sure will be sooner than I’d like.

While the coffee is grinding, I fill up my electric tea kettle to warm the water. I get out one of my (three) French presses or, if I’m feeling fancy, my Chemex. I pour in the ground up beans, followed by a little water to let them bloom briefly, then the rest of the water.

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  • Date: 03 November 2023
  • Author: Fernando Bellese, Senior Director for Beef and Leather Supply Chains, WWF

Leather is a byproduct of beef production, but increasingly consumers of leather are calling for leather manufacturers to help ensure that hides they process are sustainably sourced — not coming from cattle raised on land that was deforested and converted to pasture, but rather supporting biodiversity and reduction in food sector emissions.

Cattle ranching is the major driver of deforestation in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, where millions of hectares of forest are cleared each year to make way for new pastures. The beef (and therefore leather) industry also contributes indirectly to deforestation through its supply chain.

Leather companies have begun to organize their efforts and manage their supply chains to combat deforestation. Last week, at the annual Textile Exchange conference in London, World Wildlife Fund, Textile Exchange and Leather Working Group launched the Call to Action Working Group, a collection of consumer brands, including fashion, retail, and automobile companies, that are striving to eliminate leather from their supply chains that is produced from cattle raised on recently deforested areas.

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  • Date: 24 October 2023
  • Author: Katherine Devine

While I may have visited my first coffee farm in Costa Rica while studying abroad, I fell in love with coffee production a few years later in the Dominican Republic. Assigned by the Peace Corps to a small town, Juncalito, I was fortunate to be placed with extremely kind people, in a stunning landscape with a perfect climate, and given the pleasure of working with the Juncalito Coffee Producers’ Association. At this formative time in my life, I was privileged to experience firsthand the challenges faced by smallholder farmers and their tenacity, love for the earth, and truly delicious coffee.

Katherine Devine

When I learned last year that my team at WWF would be working on a series of papers on measuring and mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across key commodities, and that coffee would be one of them, I jumped at the chance to work on the project.

During my time in the DR, I saw firsthand how climate conditions can affect productivity and quality, making the difference between earning more for specialty coffee and selling for rock bottom commodity prices. I was curious to dive into WWF’s research to learn more about GHG emissions in coffee production, and what could be done to support farmers facing the direct impacts of climate change.

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