Tackling the Causes

WWF's conservation work tackles not just threats to biodiversity, but the drivers behind these threats – the social, economic, and political reasons why these problems exist in the first place.

There are many drivers of environmental degradation – and they are complex and interlinked.

We have identified 5 that are particularly relevant at the global level to natural resource overexploitation, pollution, and climate change - and so vital to achieving our twin goals of conserving biodiversity and reducing humanity's ecological footprint.

WWF engages with the key actors behind these drivers – specific organizations, businesses, communities, and individuals.  By engaging with these actors, we hope to influence their current trends towards more sustainable ones.

Our 5 global priority drivers are:

1. Laws and regulations

What: National and international laws, policies, and frameworks relating to e.g., water, wildlife, forestry, fisheries, land use, poverty, development, agriculture, energy, and CO2 emissions.

Why is this a driver? Such laws, policies, and frameworks have a great deal of influence on the chance of conservation success.

Learn more about WWF's policy and advocacy work.

2. Public sector finance

What: The funding to environmental and development issues that is under governmental control e.g., through government budgets, multilateral banks, national and regional development banks, international aid, subsidy and sector support.

Why is this a driver? Such funding influences where and how resources are committed and the degree to which environmental concerns are considered.

Learn more about how WWF engages with public sector institutions.

3. Private sector finance

What: The funding to environmental and development issues that is under private control, e.g., through private banks, superannuation funds, insurance funds, and investors in business and industry.

Why is this a driver? Such funding influences development, business and industry, technology transfer, and a range of other sectors that can have an adverse environmental impact.

Learn more about how WWF works with Business and Industry.

4. Business practices

What: The standards, guidelines, and ethics of businesses working in sectors that affect the environment, such as agriculture, fisheries, timber, pulp and paper, water, mining, and energy.

Why is this a driver? Without environmentally appropriate standards, businesses and industries working in these sectors are likely to increase biodiversity loss and humanity’s ecological footprint.

Learn more about how WWF help transform business practices.

5. Consumption choices & beliefs and attitudes towards nature

What: For example, whether people choose sustainably sourced products, environmentally friendly transport options, or green energy; the effects of cultural food preferences on the environment; the way people treat natural places; attitudes to human-wildlife conflict.

Why is this a driver? What we believe and choose to do has enormous impacts on the environment.

Learn what YOU can do to be part of the solution.

Drivers in action

It’s easy to see how, for example, a huge tourism resort could threaten an as yet undeveloped coastline, or how poaching is a threat to tigers.

WWF and many other groups have had much success in conserving particular places and species by fighting inappropriate and even illegal developments and activities such as these.

But to ensure long-term biodiversity conservation and sustainable footprints, we need to go to the root of the threat: the factors that currently favour or allow damaging or unsustainable activities.

In the case of the resort, for example:

  • Is the local or national government prioritizing short-term economic development at the expense of long-term, sustainable development?
  • Will tomorrow’s tourists prefer mass tourism over more eco-friendly options?
  • Are investors supporting the resort for short-term profits?
  • Are national laws not strong enough to protect important natural areas?
  • Do tour operators not have adequate standards to ensure their activities are not damaging the environment?
These are the ultimate drivers which need to be addressed so that developments and activities are routinely carried out in a sustainable manner in appropriate places – and we no longer need to fight individual battles.

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