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: 10 March 2022
  • Author: Craig Beatty, Manager, Forests Research & Strategy, WWF

For millions of us, a walk in the woods changed from a pastime to a necessity during this pandemic. It’s about as safe and socially distanced as can be, and access to forests has often helped ease my mind. After being indoors for days on end, forests became a place where I could escape and unwind. Spending time in forests makes me feel better. But what’s the science behind that, and could forests be doing more for our health?

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  • Date: 15 February 2022
  • Author: Alix Grabowski, Director, Plastic and Material Science, WWF

We all know that plastic waste is a global crisis, but how often do you think about where plastic comes from?

Of all new plastic, 99% is made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, meaning the plastic that we use today starts trashing our planet long before it becomes trash. From the moment they’re made, these conventional plastics are contributing to climate change, degrading habitats, and threatening communities around the world.

Reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic are priority first steps in addressing the plastic crisis, but we cannot rely on these tactics alone. We will always need some new plastic to fill critical health and safety needs, but that new plastic does not need to be made from fossil fuels.

Plant-based plastic—also known as bioplastic or biobased plastic—comes from sources like algae, sugarcane, or used cooking oil, and can de-couple plastic production from the impacts of fossil fuels. However, plant-based plastic must be thoughtfully designed to build environmental, social, and economic resilience across ecosystems and communities. Over a decade ago, WWF realized that plant-based plastic and its sourcing was a cross-cutting issue that affected the habitats, wildlife, and people that we aim to protect. We convened the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA) in 2012 to advance knowledge on this critical and complex topic and ensure that plant-based plastic reaches its potential to benefit nature and people.

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  • Date: 09 February 2022
  • Author: Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer

Embedding climate consciousness into organizational culture can help attract and retain talent 

The Netflix film “Don’t Look Up,” which many of us have streamed while isolated at home, satirizes society’s inability to take swift action even in the face of the most dire threats. A not-so-subtle metaphor for the climate crisis, the movie struck a chord among those who are apprehensive about our collective future, and rightly so. With extreme weather events becoming more frequent, it is time to take bold action while there’s still time to limit the damage.

For businesses, beyond the fact that prioritizing environmental sustainability is the right thing to do for the planet, there are also clear business benefits in doing so. For one, we know that companies’ climate strategies have become increasingly important to today’s workers. Businesses that evolve operations and embed environmental, social, and governance (ESG) consciousness into workplace culture will be a step ahead in the race for talent in a highly competitive marketplace.

Most CxOs understand this. The recently released Deloitte 2022 CxO Sustainability Report: The disconnect between ambition and impact, a survey of 2,000+ C-suite executives across 21 countries, found that business leaders agree environmental-sustainability efforts have a positive impact on employee morale and well-being (84%), as well as employee recruitment and retention (77%).

Yet, according to Deloitte Global’s 2021 Millennial and Generation Z Survey, their employees may not be impressed. While climate change and protecting the environment is a top issue of concern among Gen Zs and millennials, less than half of millennials and Gen Zs Deloitte surveyed think business is having a positive impact on society. And about 60% fear that business’ commitment to the environment will be less of a priority as leaders focus on pandemic-related challenges.

So, where’s the disconnect?

While companies are acting—66% of those surveyed in the CxO Sustainability Report say their companies are increasing the efficiency of energy use, for example—they are less likely to implement more difficult, “needle-moving” activities that embed climate standards into their business ethos, such as developing new climate-friendly products or requiring suppliers and business partners to meet specific sustainability criteria. These “needle-moving” actions—along with others identified by Deloitte’s research—are indicators of broader and deeper climate ambition. Broader because they go beyond the four walls of the organization and deeper because they ingrain sustainable practices into their operations.

What can organizations do to turn their ambition into action, and action into impact? How can they evolve their climate commitments in ways that improve recruitment and retention?

They can start by educating senior leaders and the board on how to assess the impact of a changing climate on the business, as well as the business’ impact on the climate. Only then can they earn the broad senior leader buy-in and influence that will prompt “needle-moving” actions and effect meaningful transformation.

Businesses can also empower employees to act as climate changemakers. By engaging and educating employees on climate change impacts—decisions about what they consume, use, and buy—companies can help their people make positive climate choices at home and at work, while amplifying these actions through their personal networks.

Thinus Keevé, Chief Sustainability, Property and Export Officer at Australian supermarket chain Coles shares how their employees have felt the positive effects of transparency and participation, saying,

“Our team members tell us how proud they are of our sustainability work. They love it, they see it in stores, and they know what we are doing and how we are contributing.”

Ultimately, leaders that build on credible climate commitments and integrate sustainability into every part of the business will earn the trust of their stakeholders.

We’re in a decisive decade to act against climate change, and bold actions resulting in measurable impact are needed to accelerate the pace of intervention—while there’s still time to limit the damage. Organizations willing to “look up” and face climate challenges head-on not only can help improve our world, but they’ll also have an advantage in the battle for talent.


This post does not necessarily represent the views of WWF.

  • Date: 08 February 2022

Following the release of WWF's ReSource: Plastic Transparent 2021 report, we sat down with Lisa Morden, Vice President of Safety, Sustainability & Occupational Health at Kimberly-Clark, to discuss the company's involvement in the ReSource program, the importance of transparency, plus the greatest challenges and most promising solutions to the plastic waste crisis. 

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  • Date: 03 February 2022
  • Author: Julia Kurnik, Director of Innovation Startups, WWF Markets Institute

To most people, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is a low-cost way to send a letter, but here at the Markets Institute, we believe it has the potential to deliver more than just mail.

In spring 2020, people stayed at home and cooked more, grocery store shelves were bare, and farmers serving commercial food businesses were stuck leaving healthy food to rot in fields. And this was all happening as food insecurity skyrocketed. These problems weren’t new, but exacerbated, so we began to rethink how we get healthy produce to people. This sparked conversations with farmers, food hubs, the USPS, USPS unions, elected officials, hunger relief groups, and others, a business case, and popular interest. The result? An idea for “Farmers Post,” a third-party led platform to allow farmers to ship produce directly to consumers via the USPS, improving market access for small and minority farmers while simultaneously expanding access to healthy, fresh, local produce for consumers across the US.

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  • Date: 01 February 2022
  • Author: Rodney Irwin, Chief Operating Officer, WBCSD and Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Market Transformation, WWF

Last year marked a turning point for nature - protecting our forests, grasslands, and oceans has become a business-critical issue for companies around the world. As we saw at COP26, nature is now right up there with climate change on the business agenda.

In fact, a new consensus is emerging - across global and national policymakers, major investors, NGOs and consumers - that our global economy must not just become net zero but also nature positive.

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  • Date: 06 January 2022
  • Author: Susan McCarthy and Lorin Hancock

For the first time we, the editors of Sustainability Works, want to step out from behind the curtain and talk a little about some of the incredible content we’ve had the pleasure to work on this past year.

As every other year-end wrap up has noted, 2021 was… a challenge. But one thing we are truly grateful for is the fact that environmental sustainability hasn’t fallen off the radar. In fact, it feels like this topic is more top-of-mind than ever before. As the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are felt more and more each day, there’s plenty to be concerned about and it’s easy to get discouraged. Therefore, it’s a relief to us—and hopefully you as well—to be able to discuss some of the solutions on this blog. We are truly seeing remarkable action from all sectors, with strong leaders emerging to help tackle our greatest challenges.

Here are a few of our favorite posts from 2021:

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  • Date: 20 December 2021
  • Author: Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement, WWF

With 2021 coming to a close, I want to reflect on the conservation impact we’ve made throughout the year. Thanks to our supporters and partners in conservation, we’ve turned another unprecedented and challenging year into one fueled with progress toward a more sustainable world.

Scroll through the photos below to see just a few of our successes in 2021:

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  • Date: 16 December 2021
  • Author: Amy Smith, Director, Forests, Sustainable Natural Rubber, WWF

Major commodity sectors, such as palm oil and pulp and paper, have been tackling sustainability and deforestation challenges for decades. The natural rubber sector is newer to the sustainability race. It only started addressing these issues over the last five years.

Despite the opportunity to learn from other sectors, the natural rubber sector still lags far behind in supply chain transparency and sustainability. While there’s been some recent progress, we are calling on industry leaders to fully join the race. They must disclose where their rubber comes from and the conditions under which it’s produced.

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  • Date: 10 December 2021
  • Author: Jason Clay, SVP, Markets & Executive Director, WWF Markets Institute

The elephants in the room these days appear to be credible traceability and transparency. Downstream buyers want to know more and more about where and how their food is produced. To date, this has generally been left to food manufacturers and government agencies to ensure, but in the age of social media and infinite cloud-based information that’s changing.

Companies can no longer set up their own verification programs and expect them to be considered credible. ‘Trust but verify’ is increasingly the norm—and for good reason. The more we find out about global supply chains the less comfortable we are. Most companies are relatively good about knowing their direct suppliers, but it’s clear the trust and expectations can’t be extended further upstream. A piece this week on açaí illustrates the point—companies cannot depend on certification programs to credibly verify conditions of isolated producers. And where there is chatter on social media about problems, companies cannot hide behind systems, they need data. Much can be done to fix this issue, some listed below, but it will be interesting to see what exporters actually do.

To be clear, the goal is not de-commodifying the trade of all food products. That would create chaos. The goal is to maintain the efficiency of the commodity trading system but to add additional data about where and how it was produced. Changing the rules about commodities is not uncommon—the color of #2 “yellow” corn was not officially agreed upon until the late 1960s, and GMO-free commodities are traded to the EU where the market requires that information. So, the system is flexible enough to change and robust enough to incorporate new data.

Still, it’s surprising that systems to eliminate slave, bonded, and child labor, as well as deforestation and other habitat and biodiversity loss and GHG impacts, are so prevalent in supply chains, but apparently are not always working. Traders have said that rules of commodity trading should be left to them, but to date, they have been unwilling or at least unable to address these issues. With regard to labor abuses, we have seen governments (e.g., the US and EU) take much tougher positions for anyone who touches a product produced with illegal labor (with the notable exception of illegal farmworkers in the US). We have not seen the same response for key environmental impacts—though countries are in discussions about deforestation. Perhaps the way to address that is for everyone who touches products with embedded GHG emissions to “own” those emissions until they are mitigated. That would speed up change. Think about it.

This post is an excerpt from the WWF Markets Institute's Rethink Food weekly newsletter containing analysis of emerging issues and commentary on recent news stories. Subscribe here.