World Wildlife Fund
“Philanthropy is still an important part of how companies are able to come to the table and support our work, but more and more we are seeing that they want to do more than just to write a cheque — they want to help out by engaging their sustainability plan, engaging their employees or customer base, and very often they want to attach marketing dollars to these initiatives as well.”
— Hadley Archer, Vice-President, Strategic Partnerships & Development, WWF-Canada
As consumers, we are all surrounded by eco-products and green initiatives. We see these products because the companies listened to consumer demands, and many of these customer behaviours and attitudes have been influenced by organizations working towards increasing conservation and sustainability practices, such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
WWF works to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature through conservation and sustainable development. WWF, one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations active in over 100 countries with almost 5 million supporters, spoke to The Canadian Business Journal about its initiatives and corporate programs that positively address the dangerous global trend of growing consumption straining the planet’s resources.
Hadley Archer, WWF’s Vice-President of Strategic Partnerships and Development, told The Canadian Business Journal, “We [WWF] are not anti-development, we are pro-responsible development. We promote a ‘conservation-first principle’ in respect to development. We acknowledge that development happens and that it’s in fact necessary — we can’t protect the environment just for environment’s sake, people need to eat, people need to make a living, and so on. We just think there is a better way to manage development, and manage it in a way that respects nature’s limits and needs. We should put conservation and sustainability first, and have these influence the development agenda, not the other way around — that’s what I mean by ‘conservation first’.”
WWF has been active in Canada for 45 years. While WWF-Canada answers to and works with its global counterparts, the organization has its own Canadian board of directors and CEO, and answers to Canadian supporters. WWF works on issues that are important to Canadians, as well as issues that have global significance. WWF is a non-partisan organization. Working on projects with timeframes of 10 to 20 years means that its efforts often span different political leaderships. To this Archer said, “While we try to influence the political agenda in support of our programs, we don’t take sides and we don’t engage in partisan activities. We encourage citizens to use their vote to help drive a progressive conservation agenda, regardless of party allegiances. We all use and need the environment, and it should be a non-partisan issue.”
To influence change effectively, WWF is well aware of the global economic map and how far the global networks extend. According to WWF’s research, about 500 companies control 70 per cent of all global trade in the key commodities that have the biggest impact on the environment (seafood, palm oil, sugar, lumber, paper, etc.). “It’s hard to educate and convince 7 billion consumers – 9 billion by mid-century – to live differently, so our strategy is to try and work with these companies in a variety of partnership models, and develop more responsible ways of doing business,” Archer said. “This allows us to punch above our weight — working with large, often global corporations helps us reach more people and have a greater impact. Instead of trying to reach billions of consumers directly, we reach them through daily touch-points like food and drink choices, retail outlets, and workplaces.”
WWF and Coca-Cola Canada (Coca-Cola) have built a unique Canadian partnership on the common ground of shared Canadian and corporate heritage — the polar bear. With nearly two-thirds of the world’s polar bears living in Canada, this Arctic species is an important part of our ecosystem and culture. To this Archer said, “Together, Coca-Cola and WWF have created a ‘cause marketing’ campaign called ‘Arctic Home’, building on Coca-Cola’s long-standing tradition of having polar bears in their marketing around the holidays. This program, which was executed in Canada and the U.S. in 2011, raises awareness and funds through a donation matching program for our Arctic work. Together, we’re helping safeguard the polar bear’s home in the rapidly changing climate.” Coca-Cola committed $2 million to WWF over five years, and match consumer donations up to US$1 million in its 2011-12 campaign.
Dave Moran, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola Canada, stated, “It’s our view that no organization or business or government alone can make the big changes that we need to make in order to survive long-term. We need to work together in order to build alliances between what we at Coca-Cola call The Golden Triangle — businesses, governments, and NGOs; in this case, Coca-Cola, WWF, and the local government. It is only when we have these three entities working together that we can really make huge advances. Coca-Cola is a 126-year-old operation, and if we are going to be successful 126 years from now, our success depends on the sustainability of communities in which we operate. This is why we, the communities, and the governments all need to make progress, because it is only when we all work together and we all make these fundamental changes that we can be sustainable.”
In its global relationship, WWF and Coca-Cola focus on objectives around water conservation and efficiency (working in all seven international priority drainage basins for the major oceans and seas, from China and Africa, to the U.S. and Canada). The partnership also addresses energy efficiency and carbon reduction – Coca-Cola is a member of WWF’s Climate Savers program – as well as packaging and supply chain.
As far as packaging initiatives go, Coca-Cola eco-initiatives are about to get much larger. Some time ago, Coca-Cola introduced PlantBottle® in its Dasani product. PlantBottle® packaging is made with up to 30 per cent of plant-based material, and the company plans to roll out this concept to its whole product lineup by 2020. Further, Coca-Cola also envisions raising the bar by completely replacing the non-renewable packaging material resources to a fully renewable plant-based material, while assuring that the production of these renewable materials is done responsibly. Moran said, “While we are able to create a bottle made 100 per cent from renewable sources, we are not yet able to produce this packaging solution on a sufficient scale so we can really market it. An additional challenge has been having commercially viable bio-PTA technologies. That is why we have invested in three technology partners that we believe have solutions to make the first 100 per cent plant-based, fully recyclable PET plastic bottles on a commercial scale.”
On WWF’s relationship with the company, Archer said, “We have been working with Coca-Cola for some seven years on a global scale, and I was impressed how these passionate business people can be passionate about environment and sustainability. They are always looking for a way to satisfy their customers, but in a way that reduces their footprint — whether it’s socially or environmentally. Like any big company, they have a big footprint and they are not perfect, but they are really striving to always do better, and not just in an incremental way, but in a really transformative way.”
Loblaw Companies Limited
Working with WWF, Loblaw Companies Limited (Loblaw) made the commitment to source 100 per cent of all wild and farmed seafood products sold in its stores from sustainable sources by 2013. “We work with Loblaw not just to help them develop this plan, but also to achieve their objectives,” explained Archer.
“This is a very ambitious goal, and we consider it to be among the leading global retailer commitments on seafood. This initiative goes hand-in-hand with our efforts to rebuild the fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic and on a global scale.”
“This commitment has changed the seafood industry. The ripple effects are felt through Loblaw’s entire supply chain, from the fisheries that catch the seafood, through the manufacturers and distributors. It gives consumers an option that might otherwise be hard to find. By making this decision, Loblaw is helping drive global change,” Archer said. A number of other Canadian retail chains have followed in Loblaw’s steps and made commitments to sell sustainable seafood.
Bob Chant, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and Communication at Loblaw Companies Limited, stated, “At Loblaw, corporate social responsibility forms the foundation for our mission to be Canada’s best food, health, and home retailer. It is ‘The Way We Do Business’ and partnering with WWF reflects our approach. We are pleased to work collaboratively with WWF on various initiatives, in particular Loblaw’s industry-leading sustainable seafood initiative and environmental programs designed to mobilize Canadians in support for the environment.
“In 2009, we partnered with WWF as Loblaw embarked on a globally recognized, industry-leading sustainable seafood commitment – to source 100 per cent of all the seafood sold in our stores from sustainable sources, this includes products that contain seafood as an ingredient,” Chant explained. “This commitment involves more than 2,500 products and 250 vendors. With the help of WWF’s counsel and expertise, we have made significant progress and have inspired other retailers to follow suit.”
Besides this ground-breaking initiative, Loblaw also launched a national charge for a plastic shopping bag program in 2007, keeping plastic bags out of the landfills. The company donated a portion of the proceeds from this program to WWF ($4 million over the past four years).
Chant said, “Paid for from the proceeds of our pay-for-bag practice, Loblaw and WWF have partnered on national conservation initiatives like National Sweater Day, Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, and Green CommUnity School Grants, each of which involve Canadians across the country in environmental activities.
Since 2009, we have reduced the number of plastic shopping bags from our stores by 3.8 billion, a 71 per cent reduction in bags coming from our stores.
“Whether it’s on issues as important as the state of the world’s oceans or as small as turning down your thermostat at home, our corporate partnership with WWF is a great example of how retailers and non-profit organizations can work together to educate Canadians about social and environmental issues facing our planet and to make positive change.”
As the world’s largest IT company, HP recognizes the need to lead in the field of sustainability. In Canada, HP is championing WWF’s Living Planet @ Work employee engagement program, working to sign up 500 companies to take actions on the environment, and to help these companies engage employees in green initiatives. The Living Planet @ Work program provides strategic guidance, green business ideas, free tools, and support that empowers these companies to seek out greener ways of doing business. The website reads, “By inspiring individuals, we’re not just driving more sustainable business practices, we’re creating environmental advocates who will lead a wave of environmental change at work as well as in their homes, schools, and communities.” In addition to providing free tools and resources the Living Planet @ Work program aims to raise valuable funds for WWF’s research and conservation work through workplace giving.
Lloyd Bryant, Vice-President and General Manager, Printing & Personal Systems & Environmental Programs at HP Canada, stated, “As the world’s largest technology company, we at HP embrace our role as a global citizen, recognizing that what we do and how we do it matters. We are proud to champion WWF’s Living Planet @ Work program because it empowers Canadians to make a difference. HP believes that partnerships like the Living Planet @ Work program are part of a new way of doing business where not-for-profits and corporations work collaboratively to create change on a global scale.”
Frances Edmonds, Director, Environmental Programs, HP Canada, added, “Global citizenship has been core to HP’s success for many years. Part of the Living Planet @ Work program is empowering other organizations to succeed in achieving their own green initiatives. And the results to date have been very encouraging. We’ve seen participants commit to writing their first sustainability report, and implement responsible consumption and sustainable procurement.”
The global partnership between HP and WWF (also part of the Climate Savers program) focuses on reducing HP’s overall carbon emissions from the entire supply chain — emissions from the producer side (on the factory level), and especially on the user side. As a technology company, HP recognizes that the biggest carbon footprint they have as a company is the actual product usage — when users plug in and use the products on daily basis. HP made a strong commitment on its operational side, but also committed to lower product energy consumption. The results are impressive: HP achieved a 50 per cent reduction in energy consumption of its products by the end of 2011 (compared with 2005 levels), exceeding the original goal of 40 per cent. The company also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities by 20 per cent below a 2005 baseline, meeting its goal two years early.
“HP achieved some pretty significant results around using recycled content in their equipment but also recycling — taking back and responsibly managing their products. HP has been very active, lobbying different levels of government and encouraging the entire industry to do more. HP is an important partner of WWF globally,” summarized Archer.
While the corporations continue to change and improve attitudes towards sustainability and conservation, the current global downturn overshadows progress of Canadian initiatives in sustainability and conservation. WWF’s research notes investment and changes in regulations and policies that support renewable energy development are slow in Canada as a whole. The attention to oil, coal, and gas in Canada is disproportionately greater than the interest in the potential of renewable power that remains untapped. Archer points out that, “Globally, in dollar terms, the investment in renewable technologies has for the first time in history outpaced the investment in non-renewable technologies. For the world, I see this as the sign of hope.”
Over the past 20 years, WWF has seen an upward trend line in development of green products, technologies and eco-labels. Unfortunately, this trend has not resulted in a reduction of per capita consumption, presenting a major challenge as the planet’s population continues to grow at an exponential rate. Archer concluded, “I think that we are still at the beginning of our sustainability journey. We know that we can’t disconnect economic growth and environmental impact, but we have not yet fully figured out how to engage the mainstream on this principle. Meanwhile, people have not yet taken the full stock of their lifestyles, but as a species we are looking to do more and do better. We all want to create a better future for our children, and that requires a healthy planet with established, sustainable business practices.”