World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

  • Date: 03 March 2021
  • Author: Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement

Today, we celebrate World Wildlife Day as a way to raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

You may notice that the WWF logo looks different today. Along with some of the world’s best-known corporations, NGOs and sports teams, we are removing nature from our branding to highlight the dramatic loss of biodiversity globally and the social and economic risks it poses. Our move supports our year-long campaign, “Love It or Lose It,” which calls on everyone to show their love for nature.

Global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have suffered an average two-thirds decline in less than half a century, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020. If the world carries on with “business as usual,” rates of biodiversity loss seen since 1970 will continue between now and 2050.

WWF’s newest report, World’s Forgotten Fishes, finds that nearly one third of freshwater fishes are threatened with extinction – a catastrophic number for the at least 200 million people who rely on freshwater fish as their major source of protein, many in land-locked and low-income countries.

From an economic perspective, nature’s free fall presents significant material risk for business and finance. By using up natural capital faster than natural systems can replenish it, and not accounting for its value or destruction, we’re putting $44 trillion in economic value generation at risk - more than half of global GDP.

We all depend on nature for our survival, and business is clearly no exception. Global economies are embedded in nature. When we extract natural resources and produce waste, we are damaging the economy and undermining nature’s ability to support it. As demonstrated in The Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity, we need to move away from incentivizing short-term, unsustainable growth and instead create sustainable economies.

By improving the way we manage protected areas and working lands and increasing large-scale investments in nature-based solutions, we can address biodiversity loss and climate change, while also conserving the natural assets so critical to building sustainable economies. This concept has gained momentum, as the Biden Administration has signaled support for the recommendation to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

One way to ensure the future of nature is to orient your company’s climate policies to the AAA Framework for Climate Policy Leadership. It emphasizes that business leadership on climate change must include policy leadership if we are to deliver emission reductions at the speed and scale needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change. And it calls on business to adopt science-based climate advocacy agendas in line with limiting average global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Five critical steps for business to take are outlined in AAA’s Open Letter to America’s CEOs.

In May, the private sector has a significant occasion to influence the global protection of our natural resources, as nations gather at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Our leaders have a promising moment to adopt a Paris-style global agreement for nature that could help secure a nature-positive world by 2030. Business and finance have a responsibility and opportunity to help ensure governments adopt an agreement that supports nature and sustainability, unlock new business opportunities and ultimately promote life on Earth. Read more about how business can get involved here.

As the world stands on the threshold of recovery from COVID-19, a pandemic born of our destructive encroachment upon nature, we face a choice: return to business as usual or imagine and create a better future. This World Wildlife Day, as our iconic panda is lost from our branding, think about all we could lose without biodiversity -- and the role your company can play in preventing such devastating loss and by joining other leading companies to support and carry out nature-positive solutions.

Let’s fight for a healthy and productive future. Only together can we secure it.

  • Date: 25 February 2021
  • Author: David Williams, Sustainability Manager, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

At Williams-Sonoma, Inc., wood furniture makes up a significant portion of our merchandise, and procuring wood from sustainable sources has been a top priority for our company for years. Our goal is to make products that our customers can feel good about. To accomplish this goal, we consider all aspects of product development and manufacturing to ensure we source materials responsibly and have a positive environmental and social impact throughout our supply chain.

Last fall, we were honored as an industry leader in responsible wood procurement by the Wood Furniture Scorecard. This was particularly gratifying because the work underlying our score wasn’t easy.

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  • Date: 24 February 2021
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

Each year, the Markets Institute @ WWF identifies top issues, trends, and tools that could impact our food systems, to drive forward critical discussion of actions needed to address climate change and the loss of habitats and biodiversity. One category of tools that consistently emerges is new business models—the need for ones that address not only traditional financial indicators, but that also seek to confront social and environmental inequity in our systems. The Institute explores such models; one example considers the potential for the US Postal Service and farmers to come together to offer consumers fresh produce that is both affordable and accessible.

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  • Date: 20 February 2021
  • Author: Nandita Sampath, Microsoft

Today we celebrate World Pangolin Day, honoring one of the most trafficked mammals in the world that many still have never heard of. These elusive creatures are found in Africa and Asia, and are the only mammals covered head to tail in a suit of scaly body armor. In 2019, an estimated 195,000 pangolins were trafficked for their scales alone, with more than 1 million traded over a ten-year period. Their scales are in demand for use in traditional medicine, their skins used to make leather products and their meat consumed as a delicacy in certain Asian countries. While pangolins have been in trouble for over a decade, their potential link with COVID-19 as an intermediary host transmitting the virus from bats to humans has increased their notoriety.

Catalyzed by Microsoft’s commitment to end wildlife trafficking online, company volunteers partnered with WWF in 2020 to help protect pangolins by developing tech innovations to transform ongoing conservation efforts.

A Hack for Pangolins

As part of Microsoft’s annual Global Hackathon, Microsoft Hack for Good volunteers and WWF wanted to see if a solution could be developed through a hackathon approach to address illegal wildlife sales taking place online.

Traffickers exploit social media and e-commerce platforms to buy and sell protected species like pangolins, furthering their plight from illegal trade. These species, which previously were primarily traded in-person through local marketplaces and meetups, are now available for advertisement and shipment all over the world. As a founding member of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, Microsoft has focused on Bing Shopping and Bing Ads to prevent the trade in pangolin and other endangered species products. However, reviewing wildlife listings requires a degree of manual filtering as sales listings increasingly rely on images and not key words. The hackathon team set out to design an algorithm that could assist online companies in automatically identifying pangolin products for sale.

In July 2020, 30 Microsoft volunteers from around the world accepted this challenge and collaborated with WWF to create a first-ever proof of concept for an image recognition algorithm that identifies pangolin leather products online. In just three days, and virtually across six international time zones, Microsoft volunteers labelled a training set of 5,353 pangolin images with 99% accuracy, trained an image recognition model that could identify pangolin leather products on Bing Shopping with 86% precision, and designed a user interface that allows visualized results in real-time. With these results, it is possible to scale this algorithm to more pangolin product types and incorporate new keywords, languages, and platforms. This will ultimately help to create a hybrid review system that leverages the power of AI and human expertise to draw connections between repeat sellers, locations, and inventory, with the potential to disrupt pangolin trafficking networks.

Spotting for Scales

With wildlife on their minds following the success of the Hack for Good event, Microsoft volunteers partnered with WWF again in October 2020 to participate in the Coalition’s Cyber Spotter program. Through this program, volunteers received training from WWF staff on how to identify pangolin, elephant and big cat products for sale online. Through three one-day ‘sprint’ searches covering several hours, 115 volunteers identified 300 listings across wildlife product categories. The resulting data was shared with Coalition company partners for action, as well as emerging trends such as changes in key search words used to avoid detection.

A Better World for Pangolins

As Microsoft volunteers set their sights on goals for 2021, continued collaboration with WWF to protect endangered species online will remain a priority. Whether it’s working to expand the prototype developed through the hackathon to include additional species categories, or reporting suspicious listings online, volunteers will march forward with the goal of seeing more pangolins offline and in the wild by the next World Pangolin Day.

  • Date: 01 February 2021
  • Author: Dr. Vishwanie Maharaj

Whether found off the coasts of Alaska, Madagascar or Indonesia, abundant fish populations are critical to the survival of countless communities and thousands of wildlife species. Fish provide critical nutrition and economic security for us on land, while also stitching together food webs below the ocean’s surface.

The connections we share with the marine world are complex yet incredibly resilient—but even nature has its limits. When there is imbalance in this relationship the disruption affects entire ecosystems and ultimately the global food supply. If a tuna stock, for example, experiences declines in the eastern Pacific Ocean, all parts of the ecosystem—including our communities—will be impacted. And it doesn’t matter the size of the boat, there will be fewer fish for the same amount of effort. Ultimately that means reduced access to food for millions and fewer fishers with work.

Sustaining the world’s fish stocks is a shared value that often brings WWF together with diverse industry members throughout the seafood supply chain and governments, and very often these relationships are front and center during international convenings. But as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Committee on Fisheries holds its annual meeting against the back drop of converging global crises, the livelihoods of small-scale fishers and fishing communities will be front and center, which is good news even for the biggest vessels in the largest fleets.

Globally, small-scale fishers land 35-50% of all wild-caught seafood, and while that is a significant amount of the annual catch, the percentage tells only part of the story. About half of the small-scale workforce is made up of women, and it’s a sizeable labor pool—nine out of 10 jobs in the fishing industry are in small-scale fisheries.

Small scale fisheries are diverse and supply both global and local markets. Different tools are used to incentivize a transition to sustainable practices, a common pathway to fisheries reform. However, a major challenge is connecting local fishing communities that have unique needs with easy access to the right tools and to develop local capacity to put those tools to work.

Online hub for sharing better practices

This week WWF joined a coalition of partners to launch the Small-scale Fisheries Resource and Collaboration Hub, or SSF Hub. We joined together with over 100 fishers, fish workers and their communities and allies representing 19 countries with the goal of empowering small-scale fishers to share knowledge and learn from one another. Today the Hub hosts case studies, management tools, and free online courses, all of which are designed to help the world implement the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

“Having access to information and experiences from around the world contributes to the empowerment of small-scale fisheries actors, allowing them to better engage in or lead decision-making processes about their livelihoods,” said Vera Agostini, Deputy Director/Capture Fisheries of the Fisheries Division of FAO.

Empowering small-scale fishers requires meeting them where they are. That’s why the SSF Hub hosts conversations in 20 languages with innovative features that include instant translation. While there are access issues in many parts of the world, the website is optimized to allow users to access resources and discussions on phones, tablets, and computers.

Now we need to spread the word. If you’re a seafood buyer with local suppliers who work alongside small-scale fishers, let them know about this new Hub. Sustainably fishing our ocean is possible—but only if we work together to solve the challenges big and small.

  • Date: 28 January 2021
  • Author: Erin Simon, World Wildlife Fund and Ellen Martin, The Circulate Initiative

Plastic crediting has recently emerged as a promising—but not yet proven—way companies can help fix a broken piece of the plastic value chain: waste management.

Conceptually, a plastic credit is a transferable unit that represents a specific quantity of plastic waste. Plastic crediting has developed partly in response to the challenges companies face in managing their post-consumer waste in complex waste management systems. The associated concept of plastic neutrality is a way for companies to claim to “balance” their plastic footprint through credits that pay for the removal of plastic in the environment equivalent to their plastic pollution footprint.

And, while we’re encouraged by the possibility of a low-effort way for many companies to take action on the issue of plastic pollution, we must ensure this action is meaningful.

In this nascent stage of crediting development—before the point of widescale adoption—the plastic crediting value chain must course correct to ensure that the development, implementation, and adoption of credits are making transformational impact.

Today, The Circulate Initiative (TCI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released our separate perspectives on how to shape the path for plastic crediting going forward. Between TCI’s evaluation of best crediting practices and WWF’s parameters for a credible program, the consensus between our organizations is that plastic crediting must leave a positive impact on people and nature. To get there, all programs should mitigate risk, align on best practices and be leveraged only when they contribute to systems-change.

Mitigating risks

Plastic crediting programs have the potential to drive important investment to our waste management systems. However, if not designed and implemented well, plastic crediting programs could do more harm than good, from greenwashing to derailing legitimate efforts on plastic waste reduction.

Not unlike the carbon counterpart for climate, plastic crediting activities can lead to misleading claims like “plastic neutral” and other potentially misleading language around offsetting. This language is especially dangerous when crediting is used in place of a more impactful plastic mitigation strategy. Companies should not be able to cheaply “buy” their way out of responsibility to the plastic they make by purchasing credits, without addressing change needed in their products and supply chains. Any crediting scheme should provide strict rules around what claims can and cannot be made with purchased credits and provide guardrails around communicating claims in a transparent, effective way.

Another risk is the threat to progress on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) implementation. WWF has identified EPR as a necessary and effective intervention for addressing plastic waste. Specifically, there is concern that the widescale adoption of crediting activities will either not coordinate with local EPR implementation, or even be seen as an adequate alternative to EPR. As governments adopt EPR policies, it remains to be seen whether voluntary credit schemes will support or threaten their progress. Participants should be aware of the risk that bespoke programs may interfere with effective interventions.

For a comprehensive list of the risks associated with plastic crediting, see WWF’s Position on Plastic Crediting and Plastic Neutrality.

Aligning on best practices

Currently there are 32 claims and crediting programs in the marketplace, but no formal, agreed-upon standard or methodology framework to determine credibility or bring transparency to the process. This gap creates a landscape mired with inconsistencies and vulnerable to risks, which can ultimately lead to unintended consequences for the environment, communities, and the shift towards circular systems.

In the absence of standards, TCI identified 11 best practices that should guide the development, approach to impact, implementation and adoption of certification and credit programs. Across the existing 32 standards, no single program has adopted all 11.

While we understand that best practices take time to develop well and aren’t readily available the moment new programs come to market, it is important that crediting organizations embed and embrace best practices as they evolve and strive for continuous improvement. Best practices are indispensable to reinforcing environmental, social, and legitimacy safeguards that must be embedded within any plastic crediting program.

But crediting systems must also be designed to contribute towards systems-change: amendable for continuous improvement, driving progress towards more circular systems, and designed with comprehensive EPR in mind. See WWF’s Principles for Credible Plastic Claims here..

Pursuing as additional action, not a singular strategy

Best practices and risk mitigation can ensure crediting programs create meaningful impact on waste management and pollution, but they will only contribute as a meaningful tactic on plastic waste if taken as a supplemental action to a holistic corporate plastic strategy. Companies must first prioritize the reduction of their own plastic waste footprint – eliminating unnecessary plastic, moving to responsible sourcing of the remaining plastic, and working to increase the reuse, recycling, and composting of their products.

Both TCI and WWF are invested in embracing innovation on plastic waste as a force for solving complex problems in a complex environmental crisis. But to embrace innovation we must also lay the groundwork for its success – and for plastic crediting, that means pushing for plastic crediting systems which follow best practices in governance, social, and environmental issues, to ensure plastic crediting drives impactful and transformational change and lives up to its potential to deliver much-needed investment to waste management.

  • Date: 27 January 2021
  • Author: Katherine Devine, Director of Business Case Development, WWF

The Possibility Is Closer than You Might Think

Many large companies have made environmental commitments to reduce embedded greenhouse gas emissions in the products they make or sell, yet are struggling to reach them. Scope 3 emissions pose a particular set of challenges—all the indirect emissions that occur both up and downstream in a company’s value chain, including from primary production, such as those emitted while producing milk on dairy farms. Within the food industry, supply chains are complex, with many ingredients going into diverse product portfolios. The dairy industry’s Net Zero Initiative¹ (NZI) has established the goal of reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050 and has set a bold agenda to achieve this goal. Recent analysis conducted by The Markets Institute @ World Wildlife Fund—based on assumptions and data shared by stakeholders in the dairy industry—demonstrates that achieving net zero for large farms is possible with the right practices, incentives, and policies within five years. If businesses also step up to make investments and collaborate with dairy farmers in their supply chain, the potential to reach these goals can become even more tangible.

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  • Date: 25 January 2021
  • Author: Leigh Prezkop, Food Loss and Waste Specialist, WWF

Nearly 10 million tons of food grown on farms never leaves the farmgate. This is startling considering as many as one in six Americans faces food insecurity and over 50 percent of our land base is used for agriculture. With the technology advancements we have seen in agriculture over the decades, from mechanical harvesting equipment to precision techniques, it seems possible that we could also improve forecasting and distribution to more fully use the surplus that we grow.

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  • Date: 12 January 2021
  • Author: Jason Clay, Executive Director, WWF Markets Institute

Every year the Markets Institute identifies and publishes a list of global issues, trends, and tools we think will most affect food and soft commodities in the coming year. We have just released the list for 2021. These emerging developments may not yet be apparent. Thus, this list is intended to create awareness and shift our thinking and actions.

This year the process has been complicated by COVID-19 which could have dominated the list (we predicted the increased likelihood of zoonotic diseases in our 2017 list). The pandemic has disrupted lives, food systems, and much more, and its long-term impacts remain to be seen. We have tried to look beyond the pandemic to lasting changes and influences on our global food system. We are also interested in the extent to which the pandemic experience is a trial run for our responses to climate change.

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  • Date: 28 December 2020
  • Author: Anthony Tusino, Program Officer, Policy & Government Affairs

Over the past year, it is estimated that 10 million metric tons of plastic waste have entered the world’s oceans. Our traditional linear economy—where we use, consume and throw away plastics at an alarming rate—has created a world where plastic is found in almost every habitat; from neighborhoods to forests to waterways, and even the deepest point in the ocean. The time to end plastic pollution is now. We have made encouraging progress over the past year, with more than 750,000 activists calling on governments around the world to solve the plastic crisis. WWF is proud to share the progress we have made in 2020 and look forward to a future free of plastic waste.

Advancing National Policy

In 2020, the call to curb plastic pollution was heard on Capitol Hill. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act builds on the success of existing legislation to better understand the impact of plastic on our environment, to establish U.S. leadership in combating waste leakage and development of materials recycling, and to combat marine debris by investing in new technology. The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act will set the stage for new national action to combat marine debris and advance effective waste management.

The introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Act has advanced national conversations around our domestic reliance on virgin plastic. We cannot fix our linear economy by focusing only on the management of plastic waste. We must reevaluate the ways in which we use and rely on plastic. Extended Producer Responsibility mechanisms, like those in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, have the potential to reduce consumers’ reliance on virgin materials while simultaneously allowing for new investment in our recycling systems and ensuring that plastic producers are responsible for the waste they create. WWF supports a domestic Extended Producer Responsibility system where consumers, corporations and governments can work toward a truly circular economy. In 2021, we are looking forward to advancing this national movement.

Understanding Impact

Reflecting on the past year, WWF has made incredible progress in understanding the impact of plastic on our natural world and how we can work with partners in the private sector to advance our vision for a circular economy. In June, we released Transparent 2020, the first report of our ReSource: Plastic Footprint Tracker pilot effort. We tracked the footprint of five major companies and found they accounted for 4.2 million metric tons of plastic waste, 70% of which is either landfilled or mismanaged. By understanding the footprint of large corporations, we can better understand and provide recommendations for what interventions need to be taken to reduce those footprints, including suggestions for redesign of packaging to eliminate unnecessary plastic, or by shifting to sustainable inputs.

Recognizing the impact that our commercial fishing practices have on the health of our oceans, we released the comprehensive report “Stop Ghost Gear: The most deadly form of plastic debris” in October. The report spotlights the problem of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear (ghost gear), which makes up 10% of the ocean’s plastic waste and impacts 66% of marine mammals, 50% of seabirds, and every species of sea turtle. We laid out a series of actions that governments, fishing gear producers and designers, fishers, and the general public can take to tackle it.

Building Coalitions

We have also worked to transform international conversations around plastic waste and waste management practices. A United Nations Treaty on plastic pollution has been endorsed by almost 2 million global activists and more than two-thirds of UN member states. With the release of “The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution” in October, we found that plastic pollution causes $13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems every year. Together, 31 large corporations have supported the call for an international treaty.

We also launched the U.S. Plastics Pact alongside our partners at The Recycling Partnership and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The Pact focuses on four main goals to remove problematic packaging from our system and work toward an economy that prioritizes the use of recycled content. With more than 80 members spanning industry groups, corporations, state and municipal agencies, national environmental organizations and members of academia, the Pact will release a roadmap to circularity in early 2021, with national footprint tracking and policy recommendations to follow.

In 2020, we have made great progress in understanding the impact that plastic waste has on our communities and our natural world, even amid a pandemic. We have also built on enormous ambition across our members, our private sector partners and national and international policymakers. 2020 was a momentous year for combating plastic waste and 2021 will build on this success to end plastic pollution.