10 Oct 2019


We’re onto something cool with our partners at furniture manufacturer, Koala. Their support has enabled WWF-Australia to work with the University of Queensland, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Sea Turtle Foundation to trial practical methods to cool the sand temperature of sea turtle nests and produce more males. Now the results are in and Koala CEO, Mitch Taylor reflects on why they decided to invest in nature.

Why did you initially decide to support turtles?

Mitch: Before supporting turtles, as a business, we already supported WWF to protect koala habitats through the sale of every mattress. With our sofas, we wanted to contribute to another Australian species. The Great Barrier Reef is a magical habitat with so much life, but unfortunately it’s in a lot of trouble at the moment, and so are the green sea turtles that call it their home. Due to a number of threats, including climate change, sea turtles are facing extinction. 

The gender of a sea turtle is determined by the sand temperature incubating their eggs. With increasing temperatures, research has found in the northern Great Barrier Reef this has led to 99% of turtles being born female. 

We had a unique opportunity to work with WWF-Australia to trial different cooling solutions to reduce the temperature of the nests. The trial on Milman Island has been a great success so far and we hope to implement the solutions in different areas to make an even bigger impact.

Hawksbill turtle hatchling being held
Hawksbill turtle hatchling being held © WWF-Aus / Christine Hof

How does it feel to hear the results from the turtle cooling project?

Mitch: It is amazing that the results already indicate such a positive change on the strength and sex of the turtles. 90% of the turtles, from the trialled nests, turned out male, indicating that a combination of shade and irrigation works and the project is going in the right direction.

Why do you think these results are important?

Mitch: We as a business can actually have a positive impact on the environment and lead positive environmental change. I hope we can encourage other businesses to do the same and support similar projects. The more people we reach with that message, the more we can achieve a change in the way people buy products. It's about educating customers to choose businesses that actually care about sustainability.

What comes next for turtles?

Mitch: The next step is further research and implementation in other areas. Ideally we can create solutions that can be implemented easily and are cost effective. As far as we can tell, a combination of natural shade and irrigation solutions work best. This result is very promising.

What have you achieved so far in your partnership with WWF?

Mitch: Koala has donated more than $700k to WWF and over $1 million overall to wildlife programs. We not only support the turtle project in partnership with WWF-Australia, but also symbolically adopt a koala with every sold mattress. Those donations are going to three main projects: 

  • The Noosa detection dogs project aims to secure the long-term survival of koalas in the UNESCO listed Noosa Biosphere Reserve by using detection dogs. 
  • For the South West Sydney koalas project, we have planted 3,000 plants in total at Cook Reserve, Campbelltown, to strengthen the connection for koala populations between Smiths Creek and the large core habitat bushland in Campbelltown’s east. 
  • The Coffs Harbour region koala corridors project seeks to protect and restore koala habitat in key areas of the Coffs Harbour region to enhance safe movement by koalas across this landscape.
Maya, the koala detection dog
Maya, the koala detection dog © Veronica Joseph / WWF-Australia

With the support of Koala, Maya, a detection dog helps map koala habitat.

What does sustainability mean to Koala?

Mitch: We’re working hard to make our business and products more than just sustainable. We want to be Thrivable. This challenges us to find positive outcomes and impacts. We believe that simply doing ‘no harm’ isn’t good enough and business can only thrive if society and nature also thrive. So we’re making ‘thriving’ our version of business as usual.

The way we define Thrivability is ‘Being better than average (for the furniture industry)’, ‘Being a force for good’, ‘Not being evil/illegal’ and ‘Pragmatic’.

We are also working on choosing even better raw materials. For example, our product team went on a long journey to find the right supplier for the timber that we use in our products. And now, some of our new products have poplar core and eucalyptus veneer. That core is grown and made in Spain. The raw material is manufactured in Spain. It’s a successful and big milestone for us. As we’re growing we have to continuously consider alternative materials, our conservation impact and on giving more transparency.