Cultivating Change: The Role of WHC’s New Executive Advisory Committee

The pace of change in the world of business and nature frameworks, regulations, programs and toolkits continue to challenge our collective ability to keep up on reading and understanding the emerging ideas and the nuances in the conversations that follow.

WHC filters this flow of new information through the lens of working for over three decades in this space and having a deep knowledge of what is possible in complex corporate environments. Having been in this space for such a long time, introducing nature through diverse business drivers to initiate engagement and action, we are very excited about the emerging tools and frameworks. WHC’s nimble and responsive culture has allowed us to quickly incorporate new frameworks and directions into our technical and consulting offerings, as can be seen in our recently published white paper on the Corporate Nature-Positive Journey.

But we are always more challenged to change when it comes to incorporating these new issues mindfully, usefully and credibly into our standard for voluntary broad-based biodiversity actions, WHC Certification. Good voluntary standards have excellent change management mechanisms with governance, consistency and transparency as key elements — and WHC’s global standard, which has been a hallmark of corporate action since the latest iteration launched in 2016, is no exception.

When WHC launched this certification standard, TNFD or SBTN did not exist, EU-CSRD had not become part of the conversation and it would be years before COP15 delivered us a Global Biodiversity Framework with a significant and specific role for business. Since the launch, the changes made to WHC Certification have been minor. Application deadlines were moved to better accommodate workplace pressures and meet external timeline needs. Program scores are adjusted annually to ensure that only truly exceptional programs achieve Gold Certification, and the three tiers of recognition are consistent. Minor changes to questions and scoring on questions were made to increase clarity. All these changes were made internally, published externally and captured as a historical governance record for our standard.

But, as we consider the changes now needed to ensure WHC Certification is aligned with and leveraging the new frameworks and initiatives, we must establish a change management process with external stakeholders and experts just as we did when we first developed the standard. At that time, we sought expert input into the content of the certification program to ensure we were advancing the latest and best conservation research and methods and were setting expectations at a level appropriate to ensure impact. Stakeholders at the time were drawn from government, civil society, consultants and even some companies.

Today, as we tackle questions of harmonization, alignment and cross-walking with the new frameworks and standards, we are standing up an Executive Advisory Committee (EAC) to support the effort. The committee’s charge will be to provide input into the development and next iteration of WHC Certification. The committee will consider questions of how specifically our existing standard supports nature-positive journeys by business, how it could support this journey better and how it could be built upon to better serve the needs of the private sector and deliver more impact for nature.

WHC has an opportunity to build on the longest-standing standard for broad-based business action for nature to ensure that a corporate nature strategy aligns with emerging risk and disclosure frameworks. At the same time, these updated standards will drive meaningful action at operations and along the supply chain and return data and metrics for reporting needs and adaptive management — a loop connecting ambition to action and impact.

To build such a loop is challenging, but WHC has tackled challenges in the past with design principles rooted in pragmatism, simplicity and transparency. The members of our EAC will have the chance to contribute to another new thing for nature by building on the deep roots and experience of WHC and its members working with and for nature.

Learn more about the goals and responsibilities of the EAC, and submit a nomination by June 30 here.

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