Tuesday, Apr 7 2015
We were thrilled to be able to attend the World Parks Congress in Sydney in November of 2014 (made possible by the generous support of CFA and partners) to learn from and reconnect with colleagues and to share our own work. With four of our Board members also in attendance we were able to get a good scan of the state of conservation across multiple sessions and panels.
Our original hunch from our launch meeting in 2007 was that if we took this effort forward, Wildlife Friendly® could fill an important niche in the conservation and certification community not being addressed in the same way by other efforts. This hunch was reconfirmed by what we saw and heard in Sydney. We came away from the Congress with our commitment to making the world a more wildlife friendly® place stronger than ever.
There are a growing number of enterprises around the world that have been awarded Wildlife Friendly® certification. These enterprises protect over 100 key species in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas; conserve over twelve million hectares of diverse habitats (wetlands, forests, grasslands); and benefit over 200,000 people who co-exist with wildlife through direct ownership, full and/or part-time employment. Our certified products include: fibers (yarns and hand made products); jewelry, apparel and accessories; food and spices; semi-processed ingredients (essential oils, herbs); handmade paper; and green energy products, and are sold in local, regional and export markets. Certified Wildlife Friendly® products have been sourced and featured by global brands like Whole Foods, Puma, Walmart, Aveda, General Mills, S&D Group and Yves Rocher among other top companies and retail outlets working to provide quality products to their customers while promoting conservation and community development.
Through our Network we are working with global brands, whose consumers are increasingly well educated about their products and services and the consequences of production, to incentivize their supply chains and to send a strong market signal to producers to support a transition to more sustainable practices.
Sitting squarely at the intersection of biodiversity and business, beyond being a certification body, Wildlife Friendly® is a movement to catalyze change and to scale out information-sharing and best practices across three main categories:
1- Global Consumers
2 - Global Sustainable Brands
3 - Local Communities and Communities of Practice
These efforts are proving to be increasingly relevant in the face of Climate Change both on public lands, in the buffers around protected areas and on the matrix of private lands in between. For resilience and the provision of ecosystem services, especially where governments may be weak, corrupt, or political will or funding is not readily available, we are finding Wildlife Friendly® certification and the Network are able to play a critical and unique role.
Another reaffirmation for us has been the important storytelling component of our work. The sometimes complex, but always compelling, stories of people, planet and profit continue to be one of our most valuable currencies. I share a few of these mini-stories highlighting the people behind the products and our impacts below:
1) In Zambia, poachers have turned in their snares for training
in agriculture and access to a thriving sales and distribution network working comprised of almost 80,000 farmers that has sold its range of products under the It’s Wild brand from rice to peanut butter to soy nuts to Walmart, General Mills and the World Food Program and regionally across Zambian retail outlets;
2) In Argentina, herders and ranchers in Patagonia now have an economic incentive to protect rather than kill-on-sight the endangered Andean cat & apex predators like pumas and are adapting improved management practices in order to sell their green “Cashmere with a Conscience” to global fashion brands;
3) In Nepal, sustainably-harvested essential oils and paper handmade from an abundant nettle are conserving areas where deforestation threatens red pandas, snow leopards, and other species. Featured by Aveda and S&D Group, among other retailers, access to international markets has greatly improved the livelihoods of harvesters with no other means to reach beyond subsistence;
4) By facilitating habitat conservation and restoration activities across the globe—there are implications for climate change as well, as exemplified by our certified enterprise in Kenya, which has been issued carbon credits verified as offsetting 1 million metric tons of CO2-e emissions per year.
There, a critical elephant corridor has been restored between two national parks while providing former squatters with deeded land and jobs through creation of poaching patrols, restoration activities, and a cotton clothing eco-factory whose products have been featured at Nordstrom’s, among other outlets;
5) And in North America private lands outside of protected areas provide safe passage and corridors for wide ranging wildlife as ranchers sharing land with wolves, bears and mountain lions are bridging the domestic and wild by maintaining habitat and protecting biodiversity as an integral part of their production systems;
6) In the upper reaches of Central Asia, improved herding practices have made space for the domesticated camels, yaks, and sheep on which the local populations depend and given snow leopards room to roam, all made by possible by the sale of yarn, felt handicraft, and woven goods.
7) And in the trans-boundary afromontane forests straddling the shared borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and encompassing four national Parks is the last stronghold for the world’s remaining 880 mountain gorillas. Here a first-of-its kind Gorilla Friendly™ tourism certification is being developed through a 3-year consultation process in close partnership with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and in consultation with the mountain gorilla range state governments and private sector, to protect this iconic flagship species for future generations.
In order to be successful change catalysts for brands and their consumers we need to keep an eye on global consumer trends and demographics especially when the brand strategists seem to be in agreement that things are shifting. While they each have their own proprietary market research and use different terminology, BBMG / Globescan has dubbed this growing segment of consumers the ‘Aspirationals.’ What the supporting research from BBMG / Globescan’s 2014 Aspirational Consumer Index tells us is that we are no longer constrained by a small percentage of ‘advocate’ ‘treehugger’ consumers residing in wealthy countries. Aspirationals now comprise 38% or 1/3 of global consumers or 2.5 billion people with the top market in 2014 being India. If the demographics of the Aspirationals continue to align with global Biodiversity Hotspots maps we in the conservation sector have a huge opportunity to drive transformational change. In crisis we often find opportunity so lets not miss this one.
About the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network: Certified Wildlife Friendly® represents grassroots producers, artisans and conservation heroes from around the world including two World Bank Development Marketplace Award winners, a U.N. Equator Prize winner, leadership in the world’s marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets, a Time Hero for the Planet, and a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee.
 See http://bbmg.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/BBMG_GlobeScan_TheAspirationals.pdf for more on the BBMG/ Globescan 2014 Aspiration Consumer Index results
 Elephant Pepper/Development Marketplace: http://wbi.worldbank.org/wbdm/idea/improving-natural-resource-managment-wildlife-rich-areas and Ibis Rice/Development Marketplace: http://wbi.worldbank.org/wbdm/fr/stories/wildlife-friendly-rice-captures-elite-market
 Proyecto Titi/UN Equator Prize: http://www.fws.gov/news/blog/index.cfm/2012/4/10/Womens-Artisan-Cooperative-Wins-2012-Equator-Prize
 Becky Weed/Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool (Under 'Special Section' Heading): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,7601000228,00.html
 Anne K. Taylor/National Geographic Big Cats Initiative: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/anne-kent-taylor/
About the author: Julie Stein (Julie@wildlifefriendly.org) is a Conservation Biologist who has worked as a consultant to large carnivore and endangered species conservation with a focus on human/wildlife conflict issues in the Greater Yellowstone, Latin America and Africa for over 15 years. She volunteers as an Environmental Leadership Mentor for graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and is a co-founder of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, currently serving as the organization’s first Executive Director. Ms. Stein holds an M.E.S. in Conservation Biology from the Yale School of Forestry. She has been a CFA member since 2014.
Photo Credit: Olivier Behra