Securing the Standard: Next Steps for Conservation Certification

By Margaret O’Gorman, President|November 30, 2016


In conservation, “adaptive management” is a term used to describe a process whereby monitoring information is used to make adjustments or corrections to actions in order to achieve desired outcomes. Many projects recognized by WHC’s Conservation Certification use adaptive management to strengthen their outcomes.

The concept of adaptive management can also be applied to systems and processes. This is exactly how we at WHC will approach the updates needed to strengthen Conservation Certification and the processes that support it. As we review the first year of applications against our new standard, we continue to embrace its original design elements while seeking a more formal approach to its development through adaptive management.

The elements that originally informed the design of Conservation Certification were drawn from best practices in voluntary sustainability standards design. These elements are:

These design elements remain foundational to Conservation Certification. Its future development will continue to be informed by these design elements, as well as by best practices in voluntary sustainability standards that are focused on adaptive management across three key areas: standard setting, compliance to the standard and impact reporting.

Early next year, we will begin to work on the foundation documents that will drive these developments. We will seek the best practices and align ourselves with standards bodies like the ISEAL Alliance to ensure that we reap the benefit of existing multi-stakeholder efforts to define certification standards that meet the needs of both business and the conservation community.

As we do that, WHC will continue to be guided by our belief that “every act of conservation matters.” We will remain accessible and recognize value in the smallest efforts while scaling up to address efforts that are site-based as well as efforts that are landscape-scale. We will remain supportive of our participants while also building a strong team of independent reviewers to ensure compliance with Conservation Certification. We will also drive change by creating a credible mechanism to report impacts through Conservation Academy webinars, Corporate Conservation Success Stories and White Papers to showcase exceptional efforts, while also using the data we collect through the Conservation Certification website to create a metrics-based assessment of corporate conservation.

As WHC continues to develop Conservation Certification, we must continue to invest in it. We must continue to invest in the technology to both support our applicants and inform the impact statements from both a site-based and landscape scale.

As we invest, we see each program becoming a natural asset account for our participants and each application review providing a statement on that account. We envision every effort contributing to a company-wide metric that integrates operations along the “stream,” across different landholdings and beyond geopolitical boundaries. We see the private sector’s impact being measured in ways that are meaningful to multiple stakeholders, both internal and external to the business. Increasingly, the rest of the world sees these opportunities too.

In other news:

From December 4th through 17th of this year, nations, academics, NGOs and the private sector will meet at the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). WHC will be there. I am speaking at the Business and Biodiversity Forum. The theme of the Forum is “Mainstreaming Biodiversity,” which calls for integrating conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in business plans, beyond corporate social responsibility strategies. The Forum is focused on the production sectors of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, but other sectors are also represented by companies, including WHC members CEMEX and General Motors.

While the CBD is a UN instrument focused on government decisions and actions, the inclusion of the private sector at COP13, represented by the number of thought leaders assembled for the Business and Biodiversity Forum and the amount of side events that contain a corporate voice, shows a growing recognition that companies have a role to play in protecting our planet’s biodiversity; that their actions need not be confined by national regulations or lack thereof, and that their conservation actions can add value to both the bottom line and the planet.

As the private sector continues to evolve in its interactions with nature and as leading companies continue to show the way and set the benchmark for biodiversity, it is critical that Conservation Certification, and the infrastructure that supports it, continues to adapt to meet members’ needs, align with contemporary conservation practices and priorities and drive change by clearly showing impact.

Read more WHC blogs.