Potential conservation benefits of a voluntary corporate certification program


Conservation on privately held and working land will be an important component of large-scale efforts aimed at tempering habitat loss to protect biodiversity. This realization has given rise to numerous voluntary conservation initiatives. The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization founded in 1989 to promote and certify voluntary habitat conservation on corporate lands through partnerships and education. To date, little effort has gone toward analyses of data generated through WHC’s certification program to test hypotheses about potential conservation benefits. To address this gap, we performed two distinct data synthesis exercises. First, we conducted a site-level synthesis using data from 1990 through 2015 to determine growth of the program through time. Second, we conducted a detailed synthesis of certification application data submitted between 2012 and 2015 to determine characteristics of recent efforts. We explored potential on-the-ground conservation benefits of WHC certification programs by looking at participating sites within the USA using two geospatial analyses. First, we examined the proximity of these sites to selected areas currently under conservation management and areas considered by The Nature Conservancy to be high priorities for future conservation management. Second, we examined the intersection of sites with mapped potential ranges of species of concern. To illustrate some of the activities associated with these sites, we provide three brief illustrative case studies. Collectively, results suggest potential for WHC certification to provide landscape connectivity and measurable conservation benefits comparable to some financially incentivized programs.

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We thank Thelma Redick for providing historical data and perspective. Gloria Smith provided invaluable assistance with data compilation. We thank Kara Bogden and others at Bacardi-Martini, USA, as well as Shannon Veader and the Conservation Team at Fidelity Investments for sharing their programs as case studies.

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Correspondence to Alex W. Ireland.

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Ireland, A.W., Napoli, L.J., Basiotis, K.A. et al. Potential conservation benefits of a voluntary corporate certification program. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 4889–4905 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00411-7

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  • Wildlife Habitat Council
  • Corporate conservation
  • Biodiversity
  • Private lands