A new way to safeguard WWF's conservation work

Everywhere that we work, we commit to full partnerships with the people who live there.

WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework (ESSF) helps us secure better conservation outcomes with and for local communities; ESSF also helps us avoid unintentional harm to people or nature. To ensure we meet this commitment, our safeguards framework requires that for all our projects, WWF first learns from local experts, that we work to build and earn their trust. It requires us to look closely at our desired outcomes and their potential implications—good and bad—so that we can address any risks associated with our work.

In essence, our ESSF and the systems and procedures that go with it will help us ensure our conservation work is more inclusive, more deeply considered, and even more effective in the future.

How it works


Learn From and Empower Communities

Graphic illustration of 8 figures sit and listen to two figures speaking to show the safeguard of 'learn from and empower communities'

Approaching conservation from an inclusive, people-centric perspective requires that WWF launch, assess, and revisit all of our work via listening deeply to the people who live on, near, and off of wild lands. This means identifying a diverse group that represents many levels of local society—including the most marginalized among them—and making space to listen to and learn from each of those perspectives so we can incorporate both new ideas and long-held wisdom into our conservation plans.

Respect and Protect People’s Rights, Beliefs, and Way of Life

Illustration of a temple, village, and figure with a farming scythe show the WWF safeguard 'respect and protect people’s rights, beliefs and way of life'

Whether by advocating for the legal and traditional rights of women, Indigenous and local communities, or other disenfranchised groups; honoring globally recognized processes like FPIC; or understanding and respecting traditional systems of natural resources management, WWF puts people’s rights, knowledge, and belief systems at the forefront of our work. We foster sincere relationships to ensure the people most connected to nature have a legally secure claim to the management of their land, and that our work doesn’t unintentionally harm their way of life.

Protect Nature and Wildlife

Illustration of two figures with binoculars stand on a watch tower looking out over a landscape with a person, giraffe, three elephants and three lions roaming in it to show the WWF safeguard 'protect nature and wildlife'

WWF weighs the investment, return, potential benefits and pitfalls, and ability of all of our projects to stand the test of time. We think through all the possible implications of our work. For example, if we need to build a ranger station, we must make sure it doesn’t negatively impact the ecosystem and species it is designed to protect. When we develop a plan to remove invasive species, we must ensure that our tactics—whether burns or herbicides or physical removal—don’t harm the people or wildlife who depend on that land. Good conservation requires nothing less.

Provide a System to Address Problems and Concerns

Illustration of two figures face each other, a shared speech bubble illustrating their discussion, to show the WWF safeguard 'provide a system to address problems and concerns'

When people’s homes, lives, and ability to make a living are in the mix, it’s natural for conflict to arise. WWF is committed to making sure that those conflicts are resolved in a timely, fair, transparent, and equitable way. We ensure there are accessible systems through which communities can raise concerns, vet ideas, and seek solutions, regardless of local power dynamics. We take it further too—if a situation can’t be resolved locally, an independent ombudsperson ensures the integrity of these efforts.

Provide Protection for Both People and Wildlife

Illustration of a ranger station with three houses, a car and ranger smiling shows the WWF safeguard 'provide protection for both people and wildlife'.

Government-employed rangers are often at the center of WWF’s efforts to protect wildlife, manage protected areas, resolve human-wildlife conflict, and safeguarding the natural resources local communities depend upon. Rangers must be protected, and they must also be protectors—not just of wildlife and natural resources, but the communities whose lives are connected to the places they work. So we help them meet achieve those goals in a way that ensures human rights are respected, protected, and, as far as possible, fulfilled.