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Species populations have declined by 52% since 1970.  That’s half the population just in my lifetime.  Is that really true?  The facts are there, in black and white for all to see in the latest Living Planet Report – a scientific analysis published by WWF and partners focusing on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. 

At first sight, it seems like a dark read.  But it’s not all doom and gloom.  The end isn’t nigh.  In fact it’s an essential tool to help us understand what we need to do to protect our natural resources for the future.  We just need to be realistic about the impacts of human consumption and make better choices. 

That’s because we depend on nature.  Not only as individuals, but also as businesses.  Everything we produce, buy, transport and sell has some sort of interdependence with nature such as water, carbon, forests or species.  According to the Living Planet Report, the two primary threats to populations are habitat loss or change and exploitation, for example deforestation, over abstraction from rivers or over fishing.  But that doesn’t mean we have to live without – well, perhaps we might if we continue the way we are going according to the Living Planet Report.  Currently we are living beyond our means of one planet.   

WWF sees businesses as part of the solution to the challenges that the Living Planet Report uncovers.  That’s why we are working in partnership with M&S, supporting its Plan A commitments, to address ways in which the retailer can help to maintain and restore nature, to ensure resilience for the business and resources for the future. 

Businesses need to understand their environmental footprint and address the risks that this might create, transforming how they do business.  That’s exactly what M&S is doing with support from WWF.  A 10 year span of working together has seen some great achievements in terms of more sustainable sourcing and making a positive contribution to the natural world. 

Jungle of Sabah

Heart of Borneo

Where to start?  Why not at the beginning, with M&S’ contribution towards a priority WWF conservation programme, called Heart of Borneo, to restore an area of forest in Sabah thereby protecting the habitat of the amazing orangutans.   

Forever Fish campaign

And then there is the contribution towards protecting the marine environment through the Forever Fish Campaign, which has raised over £2 million in support of WWF’s international marine conservation work across the UK, Africa and the Coral Triangle.  Take a look at our latest film celebrating what’s been achieved through Forever Fish and thanking UK consumers for their support.    


Human and elephant conflict 

Looking to the future, the new phase of the partnership will support our work to address human elephant conflict in India – which has undoubtedly increased as a result of agriculture encroachment on the homes of these majestic animals.  All of these conservation projects can demonstrate an indirect benefit to business in their own ways.  When it comes to supporting Plan A commitments, we’ve been looking closely at the direct benefits particularly within sustainable sourcing; identifying and mitigating risk to business when it comes to the natural world and its resources.   

WWF’s Seafood Charter

Unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048. As the first retailer to sign up to WWF’s Seafood Charter, M&S has taken steps to address the fact that more than 70% of the world’s commercial marine fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished.    

Water stewardship

The past three years saw us identify and mitigate risks within the M&S fresh produce supply chain, resulting in implementation of projects on the ground in Kenya and the Western Cape of South Africa.   

But it’s not just about what businesses are doing.  You can add value as an individual, challenge where your products are coming from. Are they part of certification schemes like FSC for forest products? We must take this opportunity to scale up our positive impact  and advocate for change, one of the easiest ways to do this is to keep in touch with our up and coming WWF campaigns.

My advice to others is commit to change, commit to this being at the heart of your business like Plan A and stay focused on the long term goals.   

M&S and WWF are doing what we can – but we can’t do it alone. 

WWF Living Planet Report 2014

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