The CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare shares his tips to create change

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This article is sponsored by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.  »

The current discussion over climate change and how we need to change our behaviour in order to preserve our world is by no means new — but often people are still uncertain about how they can do their part.

It’s harder still in a professional context, especially given so many large firms and industries contribute to carbon emissions and environmental destruction.

But while we all focus on how things will change for us as humans, the animals around us are still on the brink of extinction, and there’s more we can be doing to address it.

Small steps may not seem like much but they’re a good start. We spoke to the CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Azzedine Downes, to see if he had any advice for people wanting to help reduce habitat destruction and environmental collapse.

So ultimately, what more can we be doing?

The first step is simple: think about where you’re travelling — really think, about how it might impact upon not only the environment, but also the wildlife that lives there — and make sure that you’re giving your money to places which don’t support negative practices.

Beyond that, the next step is getting behind a movement for change, whether it’s a policy decision for your company or the choice to get into something on the ground level.

Not sure of your options? Here are two critical areas where you can help:

Participate in the creation of habitat corridors

It’s as simple as planting a tree in the right place, at the right time.

According to IFAW, one of the biggest issues in Australia at the moment is the destruction of koala habitats, exposing the animals to car strikes, dog attacks, increased stress, disease and prolonged threat from bushfires.

Downes says, “Given that habitat destruction is the number one threat to koalas, we must and we will protect their habitat.”

The way forward? Participating in massive group tree planting days — an endeavour that could very easily be sanctioned as a company-wide personal development project or charity initiative.

Downes has had experience in this space already, and has seen the benefits, stating:

“In northern New South Wales, we are connecting with partners on the ground, the local community and private landowners and planting trees to restore wildlife corridors – we do this by hosting community tree planting days. Only last week, I took part in the largest one yet, 2,600 saplings planted in just over an hour!

The question remains, however, how significant the impact of tree planting can really be.

In truth, while all tree planting is beneficial, the extent to which it can help the existing environment really does depend on where the trees are planted.

“Once these saplings grow, they will connect fragmented habitat to provide refuge and safe passage for koalas through the landscape,” says Downes. “These new tree corridors will also provide homes and food sources for birds, gliders, possums, bats and insects.”

Go whale watching, not whale eating

Perhaps it’s not an answer that makes immediate sense — and it’s certainly not something that feels like it could change the world — but whale watching is actually contributing to the reduction of whaling.

In Iceland there’s a strong whaling presence, that has largely been eclipsed in public knowledge by Japan, with one country licensed and sanctioned to kill minke and fin whales.

IFAW has gone to great lengths to improve the level of awareness around this issue in order to combat the effect of continued Icelandic whaling.

“We developed the Meet Us, Don’t Eat Us campaign,” said IFAW.

“The idea came about because tourists visiting Iceland, would often go whale watching, only to be taken to restaurants afterwards and served whale meat! We developed a pledge encouraging tourists not to eat whale meat. In conjunction, we reduced demand for whale meat and worked with fishing and restaurant industries to promote alternatives to whale meat. To date, we have collected more than 100,000 signatures from visitors and Icelanders pledging to not eat whale meat, and calling for the cruel and unnecessary whale hunt to end.”

So although it may sound like it won’t have a huge effect, whale watching and publicising the real impact of whaling over the globe (not just in Japan) can have a sizeable impact — especially given that economically speaking, IFAW believes that whale watching is more lucrative for businesses than whaling.

After all that?

The most important thing you can do, both individually and as a business, is put your money where your mouth is.

Make smart, sustainable purchases from companies who are actively working to combat the degradation of the environment and destruction of habitats.

If you want to hear more about IFAW and get more tips on how you can make a difference, check out the video of Azzedine Downes below.

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