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.

  • Date: 01 December 2022
  • Author: Enrique Prunes

The Upper Rio Grande’s first Basin Health Report Card was launched on Thursday, November 17th. The results, developed by leading ecosystem scientists and local experts to help residents and policymakers better understand the health of their local waters, are mixed: the Upper Rio Grande basin scored a “C.” There is not enough water in this region of the Rio Grande to meet the current needs of all users and sustain a healthy river ecosystem into the future.

The Upper Rio Grande, flowing from headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, through New Mexico, and ending in Texas, has supported people and wildlife for thousands of years. More than 6 million people in the United States rely on its resources. Native Nations, Pueblos, and Spanish acequias depend on the river for water, food, and shelter. The river also supports the Chihuahuan Desert, one of the three most biodiverse deserts in the world. As one of the five longest rivers in the US, an American Heritage, and Wild & Scenic River, the Rio Grande’s value as a critical watershed for the people and species of the Southwest region is unmatched.

The launch of the report card was similar to its development – it brought together people from all corners of the region to discuss the status and next steps for water in the basin.

Partnerships prove critical to tackling the world’s water challenges; there is not enough money, time, or resources for any one organization to “solve” the world’s water challenges on its own. The creation of the report card is part of a partnership among Audubon Southwest, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and World Wildlife Fund and engaged over 100 stakeholders from over 60 organizations. As discussed in the event and throughout the report card’s development, diverse engagement across stakeholders is needed to create a shared vision for protection.

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    Speakers representing the three states- Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas- presented during the event. Here, Mike Hamman, NM State Engineer, summarizes the changing water levels of the Rio Grande over time and the importance of tackling future water uncertainty.

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    Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury, U.S. representative from New Mexico's 1st congressional district, spoke to the value of water for life in New Mexico during her recorded remarks.

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    After the presentation, speakers answered audience questions, which ranged from details on the future scenario models to opportunities for continuing freshwater restoration even when it seems difficult, such as in the Forgotten Reach near El Paso,

Local Native Nations and Pueblo communities throughout the Upper Rio Grande region are valued members of water rights and management conversations. Engagement with these groups throughout the two-year report card development process was a clear priority, yet it was difficult to fully engage with those groups. Beyond the launch, WWF aims to utilize the report card findings to support advocacy efforts and ensure there are consistent opportunities for engagement and discussion.

This assessment is unique in that it includes existing and new information from across all three states: Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Furthermore, it provides regional specificity, highlighting that the indicator scores worsen from north to south. Some indicators may score an A in one locale, but score a C in another. This information allows for location specific management changes to improve on targeted indicators.

““The Rio Grande Basin is unique in its multi-state and binational nature and it makes sense that approaches to dealing with transboundary issues in the basin would be just as unique. This report provides important information for the upper and middle portion of the region and paves the way for discussion and the development of guidance and models that can be applied later along the international reach.” ”

Leslie Grijalva
Environmental Protection Specialist, Environmental Management Division Program Manager Rio Grande Texas Clean Rivers Program, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. Section

By convening action at all levels—from local communities to industry to governments—we can usher in a future of cooperation and water security.

  • Date: 23 November 2022
  • Author: Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement

Having just returned from COP27 in Egypt, I would like to share my reflections on the state of the climate dialogue. Food was back on the agenda this year in a major way. It’s an area where business can support solutions around sustainable agriculture, resilience, and land-use change. And while there was some progress overall at COP27, including a welcome step towards a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters, my biggest takeaway is that climate actions aren’t moving quickly enough.

Climate change could depress growth in global agriculture yields up to 30% by 2050. At COP27, we introduced, It’s Time: Solving the Great Food Puzzle for a 1.5° C Future, A WWF Food Manifesto. It calls for food-based climate action pledges to be implemented at the national and regional levels and identifies five decisive actions central to doing so. You can read about these actions here.

Without resilient agriculture, crop failures and food insecurity will likely lead to increased environmental degradation as agriculture shifts to new locations and communities exploit natural resources to accommodate lost livelihoods and incomes. This challenge is particularly acute in Africa.

WWF recently launched, Scaling and Accelerating Adaption in Food Systems in Africa, a report that assessed Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). It found that adaptation plans must be broadened to include shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets combined with radical cuts in food loss and waste alongside improved food production. Only by adopting full food systems approaches, from farm to fork, can we achieve food security and a stable climate. African countries must set more ambitious targets, but finance must also be allocated to the continent and channeled to the local communities that will implement solutions.

By narrowly focusing only on agricultural production, negotiations failed to deliver a transformative plan on food. Nature is humanity’s first line of defense against the impacts of climate change, but climate change itself poses an immediate and existential threat to our natural ecosystems –on which our food systems rely. Ecosystem services, such as pollination of crops, water filtration, flood mitigation, waste decomposition, carbon sequestration and climate regulation are worth approximately $125 trillion dollars annually, providing valuable economic benefits to agriculture, society and business. These economic externalities and system dynamics need to be reflected in policy and finance. There is still hope though that with a joint working group on agriculture and food security over the next four years, it is possible to increase the ambition and build a more holistic approach. Read more on WWF’s hopes for the work ahead here, as well as a joint open letter to negotiators and ministers from 100 organizations urging for more ambitious action to accelerate the transition to more equitable and sustainable food systems.

As U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry so eloquently stated in the run-up to Sharm el-Sheikh about the fight against climate change: “it’s not just the work of one government, or public or private sector, bilateral or multilateral. There’s only one way to secure the future. We have to summon the greatest effort we’ve ever assembled, with the greatest sense of urgency. And we must win this fight, because the alternative is beyond unacceptable.”

Unfortunately, a disappointing roadmap was released by 14 of the world’s largest agricultural companies to address deforestation associated with palm, beef, and soy production in biomes around the world. While the roadmap demonstrates progress for some commodities, it represents a step back for others and ultimately falls short of the 1.5° C pathway that was promised at last year’s COP. There’s a clear path for agricultural companies to shift food production to degraded land.

This message was sent by the newly elected Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, in his address at COP where he stated, “I am sure that Brazilian agri-business will be a strategic ally in our government looking for regenerative and sustainable agriculture. We have 30m hectares of degraded lands. We don’t need to deforest one square meter to be one of the largest food producers in the world.” And while a more sustainable agricultural model is a good step, nature-based solutions also need to be part of the equation.

 We have the opportunity to invest in nature to mitigate the worst effects of climate change as well as be prepared for changes that threaten our ecosystems and our economies. Using land for farming and conserving and restoring nature’s ability to provide multiple benefits, resources, and services is not mutually exclusive. As Secretary Kerry so adeptly noted, “the alternative is beyond unacceptable.”

For more on WWF’s take-aways from COP27, see our closing press release here.

  • Date: 17 November 2022
  • Author: Erin Simon

Take a moment and look around. How many single-use plastic items can you spot?

No matter where you are, single-use plastic isn’t far behind – whether it’s a shopping bag, food packaging or even a bottle of medication. And more likely than not, many of these items will end up contributing to the 11 million tons of plastic pollution that enter our oceans every year.

Consumption of single-use plastic has exploded in recent years, creating a global crisis that impacts nature, people, and the climate. To reduce this stress, we need to start by reducing how many resources we take from the planet– and just as importantly, start valuing the resources we already have in circulation. That’s where reuse systems come in.

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  • Date: 15 November 2022

On America Recycles Day 2020, the United States announced a target recycling rate of 50% by 2030. It’s an impressive goal, and there’s a lot of work to be done to get there. Just two years into that goal, not enough progress has been made. With about 22,000 municipalities managing their own recycling systems, we need national ambition and consistent action to change the way we recycle.

That’s why OneSource Coalition is putting Extended Producer Responsibility—also known as EPR—at the forefront of today's America Recycles Day 2022.

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  • Date: 15 November 2022
  • Author: Yvette Cabrera (NRDC) and Pete Pearson (WWF)

COP27 (the 27th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the international climate convention) is underway and we face the stark realization that we are missing our climate targets globally.

But there is hope. Food loss and waste (FLW) are significant contributors to human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for 8-10% of emissions globally. Reducing FLW alone can cut methane emissions by up to 15%, which is half of the Global Methane Pledge of 30% reduction by 2030. To drive down emissions and keep global warming below the critical 1.5ºC, food loss and waste reduction is a top climate solution that must be accounted for in countries’ Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) towards the Paris Climate Agreement.

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  • Date: 14 November 2022

Mention deforestation and the mind automatically travels to Brazil, where wide swaths of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado savanna have been cut down and converted into farmland. In fact, the largest cause of deforestation in Brazil is the conversion of forest areas to pasture for the production of beef.

Brazil is one of the world’s largest beef producers – and because of that, it also produces a lot of leather. But while nearly 80 percent of the beef processed in Brazil is used for domestic consumption, more than 80 percent of the leather produced from cowhides in Brazil is exported, for use in the automobile industry, footwear, handbags and apparel.

The leather industry has long positioned itself as being unable to take significant steps to fight deforestation claiming that the cowhides used by tanneries are only a by-product of beef production. Tanneries get their supply, they say, not from farmers but from meatpackers, making it difficult if not impossible to trace whether the hides came from cattle that were raised on deforested land.

These circumstances are starting to change. Beginning with support from the Moore Foundation and now with an additional grant from the Tapestry Foundation, World Wildlife Fund is working with brands and tanneries in Brazil to develop Deforestation and Conversion Free (DCF) sources of hides, catalyzing efforts to ensure that hides don’t come from deforested land. Challenges persist: a single cow can be owned by many beef ranchers as it’s raised from a newborn calf to fully grown and ready for processing. But several tanneries are starting pilot projects to address the challenges of tracing the origins of those hides.

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This is the start of a journey that will take time to realize outcomes. The goal is not just to eliminate illegal deforestation from the supply chain, but rather stop ALL deforestation, legal and illegal. By accelerating the development and identification of verification methods, standards, and incentives to certify DCF leather originating in Brazil, WWF and the Tapestry Foundation are aiming to enhance traceability in cattle production and the leather value chain to drive a more sustainable future for the industry.

“We’re in the very initial stages of this effort,” said Fernando Bellese, senior director for beef and leather supply chains at WWF. “It’s one thing for the large tanneries to participate in pilot programs, but our goal is to develop solutions for indirect suppliers with cow or calf operations to help other players in the downstream supply chain, including smaller tanneries, to participate in the discussion. That will only happen if we can develop a credible verification system that is trusted by consumers, retailers, brands and other downstream buyers of leather to apply additional pressure for the production of DCF leather.”

“The Tapestry Foundation continues to work in concert with WWF to ensure the groundwork is laid for a leather supply chain program that is sustainable, successful, and delivers solutions that will create impact,” said Julia Furnari, Director, Tapestry Foundation. “In partnership with WWF, we are building accountability and trust into leather supply chains and, ultimately, establishing new standards for traceability.”

Leather is big business in Brazil, and the cowhides produced there find their way into automobile interiors, shoes, purses, clothing, and upholstery. That is where the urgency of this effort needs to be felt — and heard.

To learn more about leather’s role in DCF production, read: Leather Also Has a Role to Play in the Fight Against Deforestation

  • Date: 07 November 2022
  • Author: Linda K. Walker, Senior Director, Corporate Engagement, Forests, WWF

WWF and HP accelerate forest protection, management and restoration in key landscapes in Australia, Brazil and Peru

As a part of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and HP Inc.’s expanded forest conservation partnership to help protect, restore and improve the management of nearly 1 million acres of forest, our collaboration will accelerate forest protection and restoration efforts in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, a global biodiversity hot spot and home to some of the last jaguar populations on Earth. We will also accelerate conservation efforts in two new landscapes: Madre de Dios in Peru, near the headwaters of the Amazon River basin, and the forests of eastern Australia, home to endangered koalas and other species that have been severely impacted by recent wildfires. Work in these three critical landscapes totals nearly 450,000 acres (182,000 hectares).

WWF and HP’s approach recognizes the paramount importance of protecting and better managing existing forests, then restoring forests that have been lost. Our work is grounded in a commitment to put people first, ensuring that each effort prioritizes Indigenous people and community engagement, social safeguards, transparency, and equitable benefits. By doing so, we are not only ensuring a future for forests but also for those who depend on them.

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  • Date: 26 October 2022

Despite the period of historic drought that has crippled parts of the Northern Great Plains (NGP) over the past two years, during the spring of 2022, WWF and Air Wick’s One Square Foot (OSF) initiative reseeded 2,961 acres of marginal cropland back to native grasses and forbs totaling 128,981,160 square feet.

The goal of this three-year collaborative initiative is to restore a minimum of 1 billion square feet (approximately 23 thousand acres) of previously plowed grassland back to thriving prairie for wildlife, pollinators, and sustainable ranching operations.

Although historic levels of drought forced some scaling back of the planned rate of reseeding, by closely monitoring weather trends, and planting in areas where precipitation patterns were favorable and chances of reseeding were relatively high, the project was able to make headway. Grassland ecosystems are highly complex and there is still much to discover about their restoration and conservation. In a sense, grasslands can be compared to forests, but on a smaller scale. Restoration takes time and patience.

Joe Russell, who manages the Veebaray Cattle Company 30 miles west of Sydney, Montana, was one of the first ranchers to participate in OSF. In the fall of 2021, 235 acres of marginal cropland on the ranch were reseeded back to grassland.

This past summer, the first signs of real grassland recovery began to show, with bright yellow prairie coneflowers—great food plants for seed-eating birds and native pollinators—dotting the formerly plowed field. Grassland ecosystems can take years to recover in the best of years, so to see the land respond so quickly to the reseeding effort is promising.

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  • Date: 25 October 2022
  • Author: Katherine Devine and Leigh Prezkop, WWF

There has been a perfect storm of issues circulating - covid, climate change, and the war in Ukraine, each of which has a significant impact on our food system. The impact of the conflict in Ukraine is expected to continue to push food prices upward. Globally, as major exports are stuck in fields and ports in Ukraine and Russia coupled with rising fertilizer and fuel prices, food prices remain high. Some estimates suggest that each month of conflict will lead to a year of turmoil. We are at six months and counting.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published No Grain Left Behind, a report that revealed that the average post-harvest loss for corn and soybeans in the US is higher than both grower estimates, and extension accepted levels. This scale of potential loss shows how vital it is to work towards more consistent, accurate, and global measurements of post-harvest loss. The average in-field corn loss on US farms (not including on-farm storage) is about 4.7%, whereas anticipated industry levels were 1%. When scaled to the national level, this is about 503 million bushels of corn worth $2.07 billion, based on 2019 production figures. For soybeans, about 4.5% is loss in-field, whereas 3% is the anticipated industry loss. With the scale of US commodity production, the level of corn loss alone found in this study when scaled to national levels was nearly equivalent to the total 2021 corn exports to Mexico, the second largest buyer of US corn for that year.

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  • Date: 16 October 2022
  • Author: Pete Pearson, Global Initiative Lead — Food Waste

I have a confession: I want to leave my current job by 2030. That is the date the world has set to realize a 50% reduction in food waste.

Working for the world’s largest conservation organization on some of the biggest issues that will define our future, including the future of my own children, seems like something most people would be excited about. But the truth is, I wonder each day why it’s so difficult to get the world committed to ending food waste.

Of all the nature and climate solutions we debate, I’d contend that reducing food loss and waste is the least contentious. There are so many benefits: it can measurably reduce carbon and methane emissions; it could ease pressure on land and water ecosystems used for food production; it helps alleviate global food insecurity and hunger. Yet there is not wide scale global adoption of food waste reduction as part of climate commitments. To date, only 38 governments have food loss and waste reduction as part of their national climate goals. Why so few?

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