By Chad Tragakis, Senior Vice President in the Corporate Practice, Washington, D.C
“Life on Earth is under serious threat.” This isn’t the teaser for a new Hollywood blockbuster pitting humans against blood thirsty aliens. I wish it were. Instead, it’s a warning from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which recently released a major report describing the world’s ongoing (and so far, losing) battle to save plants, animals, natural habitats and geographic regions around the world.
Biodiversity protection and species conservation are important aspects of corporate responsibility. In fact, addressing biodiversity has long been one of the Global Reporting Initiative’s core performance indicators, and they now make some excellent resources available to companies who want to learn and do more in this area. In recent years, some companies have begun to address biodiversity in earnest. But many more have not. There is a lot that companies can do in this regard – some more than others, of course, depending on their size, line of business, geographic footprint, and specific environmental impact. But every company can do something, even if it is simply financial support for organizations working to preserve habitat critical to threatened and endangered species.
Stepping back for a moment, we know that an important benefit of corporate responsibility is that it can enhance and protect a company’s brand. But what if that brand (or corporate logo) is synonymous with an endangered animal? In such a case, the value and importance of biodiversity to the company is immediately and significantly elevated.
A recent Washington Post article reminded me of a great partnership that the Global Environmental Facility, the World Bank, the International Union for Nature Conservation and the Endowment Fund for Biodiversity have launched. The initiative matches companies whose symbols or logos include threatened plants and animals with organizations that direct funding to the conservation of that species.
Ford, a Hill & Knowlton client, has a great program to help save wild mustangs (one of its iconic brands, of course), and Exxon has long championed preservation of the tiger. Now, through the Save Your Logo program, Lacoste is helping to preserve habitat critical for the real world version of its famous crocodile, and French insurance firm MAAF is funding programs to protect dolphins, its corporate logo for more than 20 years.
Think about how iconic the bald eagle is to the American brand? Wouldn’t it be shameful if we Americans were to let that beautiful, noble and symbolically important animal disappear? And while we as a nation would live on were that to happen, something important to our national soul would be lost. So too would Lacoste, Exxon and the other companies’ whose iconic symbols are animals live on. But something more than their logos and brands would be diminished were those species to disappear forever.