State of Corporate Conservation 2024: Building a Bridge Across Time with Conservation Action

As the only international NGO focused exclusively on enabling private sector action for nature, WHC has convened professionals working at the intersection of business and nature since 1990. This post is a transcript of WHC President Margaret O’Gorman’s 2024 State of Corporate Conservation speech, presented in New Orleans at the 2024 WHC Conservation Conference on June 4, 2024.

Good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to see you all here — to see returning friends and colleagues as well as new faces, It’s great to see everyone gathered here in New Orleans to celebrate and congregate for conservation, biodiversity, wildlife, nature.

I’d like to start today’s address with an observation by my grandmother who, as chance would have it, was also named Margaret. My grandmother lived to be 101 years old. At some stage in the last few years of her life, I had the opportunity to ask her what, over her long lifetime on earth, was the biggest change she had experienced.

She could have responded politically by pointing out that at the age of 37, she witnessed her country emerge from centuries of colonial oppression to become a republic. She could have responded practically by talking about how the telephone arrived in her home in the 1960s when she was married and bringing up her family — her phone number was 61 — or she could have responded flippantly and mentioned women wearing trousers, something she never did once in her life.

But instead, she responded philosophically saying that the biggest change she had seen in her long and full life was in the decreasing availability of time. She said over her life, people seemed to have a lot more things but a lot less time. In her world, in her experience, time had become a scarce commodity. In the early to mid-20th century, everyone visited. They stopped to chat, drink tea, play cards, catch up. By the late 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, people now just popped in to check in, saying “No, thanks” on the tea,” explaining that they just didn’t have time. My grandmother wondered, quite rightly, where had the time disappeared to, and how it was being spent differently to when she was younger.

I’ve had occasion to reflect on her observation over the years, and when I find myself rushing from task to task, I remind myself of what she said. And recently, when I think about nature and the work we do, I remind myself of not so much how much time there was when my grandmother was a young person, but also how much more nature there was when she was a young person. And I think about how the two are intrinsically linked — time and loss and recovery of nature.

On the one hand, time is our friend. Time makes our outcomes better: Well-designed conservation programs deliver greater impacts over time. Time makes our relationships stronger: When we work with the same people and the same companies for decades, we develop deep and trusting relationships. Time helps us get smarter: We acquire more knowledge and experiences, which in turn helps us design better programs and experience better impacts.

On the other hand, time is our enemy. Nature continues to decline over time — the goal to create a nature-positive world by 2030 leaves us with only 5 ½ years left to reverse decades of nature going in the wrong direction.

It’s not going to be easy to turn the tide for nature, but WHC’s community of corporate conservationists can show how it can be done, one program after another. Our 35+ years of experience has created an ecosystem of action and impact that we should be proud of.

In future years, we hope to expand this ecosystem of action and impact as we move forward with the organizational change, that some of you may know about — it’s an organizational combination, a merger, that we are currently undergoing with the World Environment Center. In a community where shiny new nature-based and sustainability-focused non-profits appear in numbers that rival cicadas during a periodic emergence, the combination of WHC and World Environment Center will see two non-profits with a collective 80 years of experience coming together to consolidate operations, pool respective strengths, leverage long legacies of success to deliver best-in-class thought leadership, technical and strategic support, education and capacity building to support company’s ambitions for nature, water, climate and social impact. We’re bringing our resources together to advance the change we need.

We’re very excited about this combination and look forward to creating an international business-focused NGO that draws on a deep pool of past experiences to create a cascade of future-focused efforts to support the entire value chain. The combination will not change anything at the program level – we will still insist that Every Act of Conservation Matters™, and we will still stand ready to support and recognize your nature-based efforts whether through technical assistance for operations or strategic planning for corporate efforts.

As we reflect on the time that WHC and WEC have been around — 35+ for WHC and 40+ for WEC — we can also reflect on those of our members that have been engaged with us all along. Michelle Oxlade from Covia pointed out to us last year that they have been members since 1989 — two years after our founding — with 21 programs certified with us starting in 1995. They have been members for 35 years, as have Vulcan Materials and WM. Members with slightly longer tenure, i.e. since the very beginning of WHC, include ExxonMobil, BP and DuPont, while in the 30 – 35 year range we have PPG, DTE, Bayer, Southern Nuclear and IBM.

These members have stayed with us through corporate upheavals, economic ups and downs and changes internally to staff, ambition and engagement with biodiversity. Each one works with us in different ways, each has a different approach to creating uplift for nature, but each has remained steadfast and consistent in maintaining some engagement with biodiversity for 30 years or more.

And consistency is what it is all about. It’s only through consistent and adaptive management that we can deliver impact for nature. A conservation program in its first year will have some positive impact on biodiversity, whether attracting pollinators to a newly native garden, allowing a meadow to self-seed, setting aside land in permanent protection or even putting in place policies to stop poaching. All have an initial and important impact, but it’s in the subsequent years with adaptive management that we can return better and better results: more plants, more pollinators, more habitats on protected lands, more species not being poached. Over time, conservation results, like interest, compound. When we look across WHC’s portfolio of certified programs from the two programs first certified in 1990 and still actively managed and certified today to 2024’s cohort of 25 newly certified programs — when we look across all 625 programs worldwide, we find that on average, program scores increase the longer a program has been certified, showing that time returns better outcomes.

Better outcomes are critically necessary because acting on the biodiversity crisis with projects that restore habitats and species, reclaim degraded land for nature and transform highly managed lands from biodiversity deserts to oases of life and color is what we need to do to reverse the decades of loss and move towards the nature-positive future we all want and, to be frank, we all need.

One of the best things about this conference is that we get to celebrate, showcase and learn about the programs that are contributing to turning the tide on biodiversity loss. We get to hear about and be inspired by newly certified programs, recently renewed certifications and from efforts by our partners and friends.

Every year we receive applications adopting interesting approaches, and this year we’ve noticed that technology is playing a bigger role than ever before in program management and monitoring. OPG’s Western Waste Management Facility program on Lake Huron is using pre-programmed flight patterns for their unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — to monitor the invasive phragmites on-site and then using the data to manage the phragmites in a systemic way, while Anglo American is using heat mapping to direct its irrigation of its newly certified reforestation program in Peru.

Technology to support efforts to enhance, restore, monitor and measure biodiversity is a growing field — called NatureTech. A report released last year from Nature4Climate showed that Venture Capital investments in NatureTech has increased by 130% between 2020 and 2022, and in the last five years, accumulated VC investments in nature tech startups totaled $7.5 billion. This amount is still a fraction of what’s known as ClimateTech and other technology subgenres, but that it is now considered an investment category in its own right suggests a maturing market, which in turn suggests that there is a robust customer base for these types of innovations.

But, beyond technology, good old-fashioned ecological work on ecosystems remains key, and this year we reviewed some interesting restoration programs on of significant ecosystems and species. Anglo American’s newly certified program this year is in the high mountain semi-arid region of Peru. This region is home to forests dominated by Polylepis species, which have been listed by IUCN as threatened. Polylepis forests are mainly found on steep and less accessible valley slopes and have increasingly suffered from habitat loss and fragmentation. It is estimated that in Peru, Polylepis forests cover only 4% of their original distribution. Anglo American has committed to voluntarily protecting and restoring a 100-hectare Polylepis forest located within its operational boundary at Alto Asana. To achieve this, they’ve established a native plant nursery to supply the reforestation effort.

On the other side of the world, long term partner/member Freeport McMoRan’s PTFI program continues to deliver biodiversity benefit intertwined with social impact but this year, our Cert team and reviewers were struck by an effort that has scientific significance as well as ecological significance, which is the research project on the singing dog population on Papua. From Freeport’s Anne George and her colleague Kukuh Kusuma, we learned that the Papua singing dog, also known as the highland wild dog, is the rarest and most ancient canid in the world. Thought to have been extinct in the wild, they were only identified as recently as 2020, and the research team is trying to gain a greater understanding of the population of wild dogs found in the Grasberg mining area — studying the population with camera traps and radio collars, tissue collection, etc. and engaging and educating the community about the local population. One theory for their recent re-sighting is that the reclamation work at the mine that expanded the dogs’ habitat, with over 470 hectares of connectivity that allow for movement, provide shelter, food and breeding areas.

The singing dogs have a strong relationship with the indigenous people in the region who hold traditional knowledge about the species, its needs and its habitats. Some tribes believe the dog is their ancestor. Such knowledge is being integrated into the study, which is a trend we are seeing across conservation as more and more, indigenous and local knowledge is being given consideration and integrated into practice. And this knowledge is not only with tribes in remote regions like Grasberg — there is much such indigenous and local knowledge here in the U.S. if we take the time to find it.

I was recently at a meeting in Monterey California with the USGS, and members of the Rumsen Ohlone tribe talked about the importance of specific reeds to traditional basket making which had vanished from practice by the tribe. They spoke eloquently of reverse engineering from old baskets to identify the sedge used in the basketry and then finding the reed beds where they could collect the sedge. This is a small example of a connection between a community and nature centered on local and traditional knowledge.

Another interesting intersection between community and nature was seen in an application from Oxy’s Glenn Springs Holding company, where they described the decision to transfer management of some areas of the Copper Basin restoration project in Ducktown, Tennessee, to the Ducktown Basin Museum, a community not-for profit. The museum will manage the site and install public hiking and interpretive trails. The museum has pledged to continue to partner with Glenn Springs Holding to control invasive species along the trails for access, aesthetics, visibility and wildlife habitat in support of this program’s Gold certification.

I know that our work is not all “singing dogs,” museum partnerships or NatureTech. Not every program can be unique or innovative — our mantra “every act of conservation matters” still guides us all, and this inclusive approach results in real impact on the ground as can be seen through our certification numbers this year. Because of you, the people in this room, WHC has currently certified 623 programs containing over 1,600 projects across 18 countries. This past year we saw 274 successful program applications including 25 brand new applications. And, just as an FYI, Vulcan has already submitted applications for the 2024 deadline, and as Doreen Tadde, who many of you know, said, “This is the type of gungho-ness we like to see.” Thank you, Vulcan, for our making our Cert team’s life a little easier!

This year, we have recognized our second program on distillery lands with a new certification for Bacardi-Martini at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in the U.K. CalPortland has joined our building materials colleagues with two brand new certifications in California — we hope there are more to come — and Cemex continues to grow its number of certified programs to 35 with the addition of three new sites this year, two in Mexico and one in the Dominican Republic that received Silver level certification with only two projects working with a local partner to restore and manage a 741-acre wetland complex called Laguna de Los Cangrejos.

Our top three companies in terms of numbers of certified programs are WM with 164 certified programs with Bucks County Land Fill, its longest continually certified program since 2001 and currently certified Gold, Constellation has 68 certified programs and Cemex coming close behind with 66 certified programs. Now, it’s not the number of programs that’s most important — it’s the quality of those programs that’s key. At the heart of every application, the question we ask is simple: Is your program delivering uplift for nature because it is designed with an appropriate conservation objective in mind and implemented with the best practices to deliver on the goal?

And because we like to incentivize performance, we also ask: Is your program designed to deliver exceptional impact for nature? Two first-year certified programs this year were designed and implemented to deliver exceptional impact. At Johnson and Johnson, Warsaw Indiana, the team worked with WHC technical staff to find out where their existing program that had been on the ground for a while could improve, and thanks to the gap analysis we delivered — and the fact that the team followed our advice — the program is now newly certified Gold and is up for a pollinator award this year.

Another newly certified program that achieved gold is a place I always thought had potential for nature. When I lived in New Jersey, I would find myself often on Route 1 in the Princeton area and passing this heavily manicured office park called Carnegie Center. Every time I passed it, I thought about its potential. About the hundreds of acres of mown grass and about how much that land could deliver for nature if it was managed with imagination and a focus on biodiversity instead of for a look that I like to call corporate pastoralism, which we’ve all come to expect in such office park. So, all these years later, I was thrilled to find the Carnegie Center on the list of newly certified programs.

Its appearance on the list of newly certified programs was not a result of my wishful thinking, but the result of George Cella, the property manager who saw the potential for nature, and Kennedy Jenks, tenants at Carnegie Center, who advised and supported his efforts. It’s now certified Gold and shows that the prevailing narrative of what corporate landscapes should look like is not an eternal one. Imagine the impact if every office park had a George Cella and engaged tenants!

The Carnegie Center’s application, operating in a landscaped habitat, is the most common project types submitted as part of an application this past year. Grasslands habitat comes in close second. In species projects, avian projects are the most commonly submitted, giving credence to the idea of birds as both a gateway species to greater engagement with nature and a keystone species whose presence can indicate health of an ecosystem. The high number of avian projects also speaks to the fact that almost every habitat type we work with can support bird species, both common and rare and that birds, by their very mobile nature are definitely “build it and they will come” types.

Another “build it and they will come” approach that we are seeing a great interest in is in microforests — these lovely little forests, sometimes the size of a tennis court, are perfect for the industrial lands we work with and are a great way to get employee and community engagement for a short, impactful period of time. These forests are small, but because of the mixture of plants and the density with which they are planted, they provide faster ROI in terms of growing and reaching maturity to support other species. Studies have shown that diversity of plant species supports greater diversities of wildlife and that dense plantings can crowd out invasives more effectively than not. These microforests work well in places that are not wilderness areas, protected areas or key biodiversity areas, work well with the lands available to us and work well in places with people and industry and impact. They work well because they focus not just on rare species but also on keeping common species common for all.

Whether it’s the Carnegie Center’s efforts, the microforests at WM’s Harlem River Yard Transfer Station, the meadows at Kinder Morgan’s Elizabeth River terminal, the bat hibernacula at CRH’s Montpelier quarry reclamation site, the programs we review and certify every year are redefining how a workplace can exist in harmony with nature. Each program eats away at a belief that nature’s place is elsewhere.

Of course, at the heart of this believe and in an echo of our expectation of corporate pastoralism, is our addiction to lawns — these monocultures support little to no life and require enormous amounts of effort and inputs to maintain. Some estimates in the United States suggest that lawns cover 10 to 16 million hectares, which is more than the combined land used to grow barley, cotton and rice. Imagine taking 50% of these hectares and converting to habitats that can deliver benefit for biodiversity. Imagine the money we would save from not having to maintain in such an intensive way, the water we would save from not having to irrigate in dry climates, the energy we would personally save from fewer mowers and other power tools and the time we would save from not having weekends centered around lawn maintenance. And finally, imagine the biodiversity we could cause to blossom by designing our spaces for nature.

It’s a novel idea to think about a 50% reduction in lawn across our landscapes, but it is possible. And to be bold, a goal of 85% reduction could be adopted — Toyota North America has done that. For the third year in a row, Toyota has worked with us to identify opportunities to convert manicured lawns at its manufacturing centers across North America to meet a goal in its environmental action plan to convert 85% of manicured areas to more natural habitat for native wildlife. If we all adopted Toyota’s lofty goal, that could be 13 million more hectares managed for biodiversity. Can you commit today to reducing lawn cover at home or at your place of work by 85% — maybe start with 50% over this next year?

Now, I’m no expert but on exactly how to achieve this goal but lucky for you, we have plenty of people attending conference giving panel presentations and available over the course of the next two days to help you. Some in the audience will remember Doug Tallamy, who gave a wonderful keynote at our conference a few years ago. He has returned to us this year to talk about his campaign to bring nature back to backyards. It’s called Homegrown National Park, and he will be joined by Shubber Ali, whose Garden for Wildlife platform seeks to make it easier to bring nature to backyards and Damon Abdi from Louisiana State University. They’re all in a panel about the benefits of native plants and growing healthy places for people to be facilitated by our own Savanna Delise.

Also focused on building healthy futures, was our keynote speaker from Thrive New Orleans, Chuck Morse this morning — I hope you enjoyed his informative talk advancing new systems for economic opportunity, climate resiliency, and community stability across the city. It’s tough to follow a speaker who is also a pastor. And we’ve another great keynote speaker tomorrow. If there are any weather nerds in the audience, and who is not at some level, a weather nerd, make sure you check out our speaker tomorrow. He will be a real treat. Matthew Cappucci is an award-winning meteorologist who is the cheerful voice of the Capital Weather Gang that delivers forecasts in Washington metro region. Matthew is a stormchaser who can be seen all over the U.S. in his work for MyRadar, and most recently, was all across the great plains collecting giant hail and looking for super cells. So, however many hurricanes you have tonight, make sure you turn up tomorrow to learn about tornadoes. Matthew is a passionate advocate for taking the time to stop and look up in this world. This is the type of guy my grandmother would appreciate — someone who takes the time to pause and look around while also being very busy and productive.

Over the next two days, we’re taking the time to pause, to recognize and reflect on the work that we have all done — over the next two days, you will have the opportunity to learn from your peers and from experts in the world of business and nature in a diverse selection of sessions curated expertly by our conference team from what was, this year, a record number of submissions. You can learn about native plants or nature tech. You can sit in a session about reclamation or nature-based solutions on operations lands. You can learn from experts about engaging employees in conservation action. Sessions about effective communications, measuring biodiversity, nature-positive journeys and urban forestry are all on tap today and tomorrow, including a session about conservation happening here in New Orleans and the region.

When we started to move our conference to different locations after the pandemic, we realized that we have a great opportunity to showcase local conservation efforts, and tomorrow, we are so excited and pleased to showcase four stories from New Orleans and Louisiana. And to add to the local flavor, with its return for the third year running, our Makers’ Pavilion makes space for local independent artists and artisans representing the best of the Big Easy. I know I always find some really great gifts and pieces at our Makers’ Pavilion, and I am sure you will too. Our exhibitors are here to provide you with expert advice and guidance on the services they offer, so please make sure to stop by and engage.

And, of course, our time together will also be enlivened by our awards program. This year we are presenting 23 project awards, the three big awards — for Employee Engagement, Corporate Conservation Leadership and Gold Program of the Year, and as well as our Ibis Award that recognizes programs that have overcome significant challenges. And yes, our Spirit Award is back for the team whose creativity and focus on fun impresses the judges at our dinner on Wednesday night. Remember to bring your team spirit.

This time of year, as we prepare for and attend conference, is WHC’s time to reflect on our work over the last 12 months — work we have done for our members but most importantly, work we have done with our members. In the past 12 months, we have published four white papers, which have used your programs as case studies to illustrate topics as diverse as nature-based solutions for pollution prevention, the nature-positive journey, one on avian conservation and one on reptile and amphibian conservation projects. We couldn’t write these white papers without your work, so thank you for having great programs that we can share across our community and beyond.

Your work has also informed our webinar series — this past 12 months, we hosted 11 webinars, reaching over 2,000 people who either viewed live or watched the recording afterwards. The webinars have been getting very creative recently. We welcomed Josh Hydeman, an award-winning conservation photographer, to talk to us about photographing bats; WHC staff took to their kitchens to present tasty menus made with invasive species; and, following the success of our bug hotel challenge, we launched a new building challenge called Create the Ideal Avian Abode, which is open for submissions through November 1 of this year. These webinars and all others are all available for anyone to see on our website.

These webinars are so important because they serve to inspire, and webinars like the photography one reminds us in a very visual way, why we are doing what we are doing, reminding us that all of our efforts, whether in educating, certifying or implementing, are in the service of a greater goal – to help recover what we have lost. Our goal is, in some ways, to help turn back time.

And all evidence points to the fact that we need to do it as a matter of urgency. The global conservation NGO, the World Wildlife Fund publishes the Living Planet Index. This report shows the annual rate of change in animal population size across the globe. It’s published every two years and is an important record, an important document of our declining world. The most recent index finds that that globally, monitored populations of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined in abundance by 69% on average between 1970 and 2016, and in that global average is hidden the fact that in some regions of the world like Latin America and the Caribbean, species have declined in abundance by close to 90% or more.

A report by the American Bird Conservancy has found 2.9 billion fewer birds in our skies than there were in 1970. This study brought together 48 years of data from multiple sources like the backyard bird count and the Christmas Day bird count — all events that WHC members participate in and submit data to — but 2.9 billion birds lost is a number that is very difficult to fathom. For a single species, it’s no easier to understand the numbers — the ABC’s report tells us that the dark-eyed junco, a little sparrow that lives across the temperate regions of the USA and Canada, has lost an incredible 175 million individuals from its population, while its cousin the white-throated sparrow has lost 93 million.

I talk a lot about this loss of species, the loss of color and the loss of sound from our environment — and I talk about the loss of habitat. I recently read an interesting observation that we shouldn’t call it habitat loss. The author Kate Bradbur, writing in The Guardian newspaper about the destruction of an entire family of hedgehogs in favor of a parking lot, says, “We cry habitat loss, but it’s theft really — no species is so careless as to lose their homes.” Sometimes, I hesitate to talk about these losses or thefts because it makes me sad, and it should make us all sad. I learned the term to describe this feeling of sadness at the loss of nature recently — solastalgia.

Solastalgia is sadness caused by negative environmental change that has happened — the loss of nature, the degradation of ecosystems, etc. It’s kin to a term you may also know: ecoanxiety, which is focused on future loss and degradation. But solastalgia is all about what we once had and what we no longer have, and the sadness that is in the distance between the two situations.

This distance can’t be measured in feet, inches or miles. It can only be measured in time. As Tennessee Williams, the great dramatist who once lived and wrote in New Orleans, said, “Time is the longest distance between two places.” And solastalgia is the way we mark that time and distance.

If we think about 69% of biodiversity disappearing since the 1970s, it means that people who were born in the 21st century are experiencing an entirely different world, a nature-poor world, and they may not know what they are missing . They won’t feel solastalgia the way those of us born in the mid to late 20th century do. Someone who has never experienced nature richness can only mourn its loss in the abstract. This could be a good thing in terms of emotional health and well-being, but the further we travel from a nature-rich past, and the lower the likelihood of solastalgia, the harder it will become to bridge the distance back. In this instance, time is not our friend.

The generations that were born and lived in nature-rich times must convince the generations that were born under nature-poor circumstances that they should seek a future from the past, to a time when there will be 175 million more dark-eyed juncos, 93 million more white-throated sparrows, and achieve other nature goals like 20,000 more right whales, four million more acres of restored forests and over 1/2 million square miles of lands protected or managed for nature, in the USA alone.

We need to build a bridge across time with conservation action. We need to make sure that the generations that are taking up the challenge to return nature to its past vibrancy can see to the other side of the bridge and what is possible. We build this bridge through the work we do, the plans we hatch, the programs we recognize and the stories we share, from the successes and failures we encounter.

Building this bridge between what was and what will be may seem like a mammoth task — in fact, it is a mammoth task. But we build the bridge one conservation action at a time, one project, one program, one strategy, one microforest, one pollinator garden. This approach of breaking down mammoth tasks into single actions was encapsulated beautifully in a book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The author tells the story of her kid brother, in tears of frustration sitting at their kitchen table with an unstarted assignment to write an essay in the birds of America due the next day. He had a blank page, a word count due and a massive task ahead. Seeing his mounting panic, his father calmed him saying, “Bird by bird. Just do it bird by bird.” That’s how we build our bridge to a nature-rich future — bird by bird, forest by forest, wetland by wetland.

And the great thing about this approach is that — breaking news — conservation action works. In a recent paper published in the journal Science, a group of authors set out to better understand the outcomes of conservation actions and whether such actions actually contribute to the halt and reversal of biodiversity loss. In a global meta-analysis of conservation projects, they found that in 75% of cases, conservation improved the state of biodiversity or slowed declines. The study found that interventions targeted at species and ecosystems, such as invasive species control, habitat loss reduction and restoration and protected areas management are highly effective. Some may say that Captain Obvious wrote that paper, but it can be good to get science on our side when we’re pressing the cause of conservation action. This is the sort of research results that we love to read because it validates our efforts and makes us feel part of a crew whose individual efforts make a collective impact.

This approach of working together in many different ways is, in my opinion, what makes WHC and its membership unique. And we embrace a diversity of approaches, we acknowledge that every act matters and we create a nature connection from the corporate office to the site of operations.

While WHC has deep roots at operations, we are increasingly working with corporate and group offices. Over the past year, we have seen a continued increase in interest in the new frameworks for reporting and disclosing nature impacts. We have framed this work as a nature journey for companies and have helped companies at different points of their journeys. Some companies like Johnson & Johnson do their own analysis as to their engagement with the frameworks and came to us for validation, while others like Chemours seek our support up front to assess what they needed to do to get ready to align and report. There are many prescriptions out there about how to develop and implement a nature strategy but, in our experience, over three-plus decades, we know that each company’s journey is different.

We found that especially to be true when we hosted a group of corporate-level nature and nature-adjacent professionals at our Business and Nature Summit last November. This summit was designed to provide those building a nature strategy with a primer on the ever-changing world of nature-related frameworks like TNFD, SBTN, Nature 100 and GRI and an opportunity to exchange thoughts on the challenges they face moving this work up and down the corporate hierarchy. The conversation was rich and focused a lot on connecting site-based work to corporate needs, on wrapping strategies around actions that were already happening and on making sure that the operations remained supported and engaged in action.

This year, we hope to convene some of these same people again, not at our Business and Nature Summit but at the global meeting for biodiversity that is happening in Cali, Colombia, in October. This meeting, COP16, is the bi-annual gathering of countries coming together this year, and it’s a good time to remind the decision makers that companies have a role to play in reaching the targets of the Global Biodiversity Framework. So, WHC will be bringing a delegation of members to Cali to showcase their work in different events across the meeting. One of our showcase opportunities will be in work our Rob Campbell is doing on a multi-national publication about positive incentives for biodiversity restoration using case studies from WHC members to show that action is possible.

With our members this year, we have spurred a lot of meaningful action — over the course of the past year, WHC Consulting has visited 235 corporate locations to support work to develop, maintain or grow a corporate conservation program. In addition, the consulting team worked in-depth with 64 companies to deliver support in the form of conservation assessments, custom conservation trainings, tree plantings, writing guides and toolkits for specific site use, creating habitat and species guidance documents, delivering biodiversity management plans and supporting company-wide nature-related signature initiatives.

This year, Shell USA and Penske supported us to develop a biodiversity guide which will be distributed to Indy race venues across the country. This is a great example of promoting nature in non-traditional places. Toyota asked us to develop planting lists for nature playgrounds at several of their on-site childcare centers this year. These lists include sensory-friendly native plants — ones that feel interesting, sound interesting and look interesting. This is a great example of thinking outside the traditional landscaping box and deploying nature in play.

Our Social Impacts team also worked on deploying nature in play by installing a natural playground in southeastern Michigan this year while also overseeing the planting of 120 trees in industrial landscapes in Michigan, Arizona and Texas and initiating a new program funded by the EPA to deploy 84 air quality sensors in highly impacted communities in Michigan and Illinois. Working in Port Arthur Texas with Energy Transfer, the Social Impact team discovered yet another benefit of urban forestry — to mitigate the increased lightning strikes caused by the urban heat island effect.

Urban heat islands, as Chuck Morse mentioned, exist where cities experience temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the surrounding countryside. This is caused by the absence of natural surfaces like trees and soils that can absorb the heat. Urban heat islands seriously compromise human health. One of the effects of urban heat islands is increased lightning strikes due to increased temperature contrasts. Urban forestry contributed to lowering temperatures in urban heat islands which can in turn reduce lightning strikes, so it’s not a stretch to say that trees protect us from lightning — the benefits of urban forests just keep stacking up.

We’re always learning new things at WHC, and I hope you learn new things over the next couple of days. But as you do, I want you think about what side of the bridge you are on? If you were born before 1970, and there are a few of us here who were, your job is to acknowledge and communicate that you came into a nature-rich world and to use your resources, your wisdom and your power — also any super powers you may have — to create the enabling conditions for those in the room who were not born into an environment of rich and abundant nature to build back so that those who are yet to be born get to experience the juncos, the sparrows, the forests and lakes in ways that have almost been forgotten.

Together we’ll take the time, and we’ll do it bird by bird. We’ll convert our lawns to meadows, plant forests to alleviate lightning, research singing dogs, develop corporate nature strategies and engage and educate those around us in the effort. We’ll start today. Because, as the ever-quotable Ben Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.”

Thank you.

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