16 Oct 2019


Businesses have a key role to play when it comes to protecting the planet. As the corporate sector drives much of the global economy, businesses have an important responsibility to ensure that the natural resources and ecosystems that underpin their operations are used sustainably. Companies are also primed to lead on rapid adaptation and on the innovative solutions needed by mobilising their staff and customers to drive change. There’s never been a more important time to act. Here are ten steps your business can take on the journey towards sustainable transformation. 

1. Know your impacts and risks

Water scarcity, climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse are among the most pressing environmental risks facing all sectors. A good place to start your sustainability journey is by assessing and understanding material impacts and exposure to environmental risk. It is only by understanding these larger implications of the underlying risk that businesses can develop a suitable response.

2. Set targets

Creating milestones and using standards will help your business demonstrate commitment to sustainability. There are many sustainability standards to enable companies to track progress on resource stewardship. WWF can help identify the commodity standard that is right for you. For instance, WWF-Australia has worked with some of Australia’s biggest seafood retailers and producers to transform supply chains. Through our work with John West Australia, more than 43% of their branded canned tuna sold each year in Australia is now Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable and bear the MSC eco-label. That's over 100 million cans!

Another example is the multi-stakeholder Science-Based Targets Initiative that enables companies to set science-based emissions targets, and create roadmaps to achieve these targets, so as to keep global temperature increase below 2°C and boost competitiveness in a low carbon economy.

3. Collaborate with peers

Collaborating with peers can improve efficiency and sustainability.

A great example is the Business Renewables Centre, an information hub powered by WWF, Climate-KIC, Institute of Sustainable Futures, and the NSW and Vic. governments. Hundreds of companies have now joined the BRC’s initiatives to share technical expertise on how to simplify, streamline and accelerate power purchase agreements for renewable energy.

It’s not just big businesses working together and sharing knowledge. 10 years ago, a group of 19 like-minded farmers came together to trial new methods for farming sugar cane that would also reduce pollution flowing into the Great Barrier Reef. Today, Project Catalyst, a partnership between WWF, the US-based Coca-Cola Foundation, works with over 100 farmers. Many innovative approaches from Project Catalyst are now widely accepted as a best practice for sugar cane farming in Great Barrier Reef catchments, due to their cost-effectiveness in reducing farm pollution.

Project Catalyst forum in Mackay, Queensland, February 2012
Project Catalyst forum in Mackay, Queensland, February 2012 © Reef Catchments Mackay Whitsunday, Isaac Ltd

4. Embrace transparency

Being open and transparent about challenges as well as achievements underpins your social licence to operate. Transparency is key to achieve transformation at scale. Disclosing your company’s sustainability performance can create incentives for other companies in your sector to follow suit and support cross-sector collaboration for sustainability. There is also a lot of value in companies sharing the lessons learned through their sustainability journeys with peers and other stakeholders.

5. Define your purpose and pivot business models for sustainability

A clear company purpose that drives business and sustainability can help customers make informed choices and live more sustainably. Food, energy and water are critical resource challenges for any company, and offering sustainable products to customers has become standard practice for many. Plastic pollution is now receiving the attention it deserves, focusing attention on circular and regenerative business models.

This is leading to creative and innovative types of partnerships. For instance partnering with VisionDirect, we’re working towards unlocking a circular economy in eyewear through the creation of ReefCycle sustainable sunglasses upcycled from a once deadly commercial gill net. This model is taking something that otherwise would be discarded and giving it new purpose and value.

Commercial gill net up close
© WWF-Australia

6. Invest in nature

Looking across the landscapes where you source materials and energy, and investing in nature with others, can deliver transformative change. Reversing environmental decline often requires a landscape approach that looks beyond company and sector boundaries and addresses conservation and development.

7. Be an advocate for nature

Calling for the protection of life on Earth is the new sustainability frontier. Reaching and influencing decision-makers and billions of consumers are key in driving more sustainable behaviour and addressing systemic challenges. But no organisation can meet this challenge alone. Just as business action and advocacy helped to secure a climate deal in Paris in 2015, it can help to supercharge global efforts to reverse nature loss in a way that benefits business. Having the courage to be a pioneer and using your authority and credibility can inspire others to advance social justice and sustainability.

8. Innovate for sustainability and deliver on the SDGs

Put sustainability at the heart of innovation and using the SDGs to shape outcomes offers the best return on investment. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement provide a universal agenda for change with significant business opportunity. The SDGs could create 380 million jobs and unlock $12 trillion – but only through partnership. WWF’s award-winning innovation program, Panda Labs, recently announced alongside ConsenSys the launch of Impactio, a platform which enables funding for projects at scale to support the advancement of the SDGs.

9. Leverage new tech

Using new technology can support innovation and help meet milestones. New technology is helping leading companies to innovate and revolutionise supply chains. For example, WWF and BCG Digital Ventures have launched the revolutionary OpenSC digital platform that tracks the supply chains of food and products, and helps consumers and businesses to avoid illegal, environmentally damaging or unethical goods via a simple scan of a product QR code.

OpenSC launch event
© WWF-Australia

10. Ask for help

At WWF-Australia, our planet is our business. Through strategic partnerships, WWF works with retailers, corporates and producers to protect the natural habitats and agricultural landscapes where they, and their supply chains, have an impact. We also work with businesses to engage their employees and consumers to support impactful projects, take action for nature and raise awareness of important environmental challenges. 

Get in touch today to discover how we can help make nature your business too. Visit wwf.org.au/partnerships or contact partnerships@wwf.org.au for more information.