November 2008 - According to Third Sector (17 September), the main news source for Charities, a third of all charities have been forced to make staff redundant due to the slowing economy. However UK conservation charity the World Land Trust is clearly bucking the trend. Figures released by the Trust this week show a rise in donations of 26% for the year 2008. Determined to see a silver lining to the looming credit cloud, the Trust also feels that every penny donated will now go further due to the worldwide fall in land prices which will enable them to fund the purchase and protection of more critically endangered habitat across the globe.
Interestingly, at present it is the business fraternity who can be directly credited for the rise in donations. According to John Burton, WLT's CEO this is "Because we are a nimble charity able to respond to the needs of the business world, and because our projects are demonstrating the clear success of long term land conservation at the frontier of climate change mitigation. The business world is taking the threats to the planet very seriously, and while the Trust can only do so much, we can at least offer businesses a visible way of addressing their concerns. While it is easy to criticise this as Greenwash the World Land Trust believes that it is important to engage corporate support and to work with these companies to improve their environmental accountability as well as ensuring that their corporate donations are used to best effect to save critically threatened habitats."
It seems that, despite the economic downturn, businesses and individuals alike have not ceased to care about their impact on the environment. Support for the World Land Trust's overseas land purchase and protection projects is coming from a variety of corporate streams, particularly through CSR. Other companies believe that by making a commitment to 'green up' their image they can get an edge for their company in the corporate marketplace. More generally, John Burton suggested that "Perhaps, at long last people are waking up to the fact that the future of the planet is becoming precarious, and that has implications for us humans. Certainly the last two years have seen unprecedented growth in the donations to the World Land Trust." It is certainly reassuring that during a time when businesses are reorganising their priorities for the difficult time ahead, they are standing firm on green policies, something which has never happened in previous economic down turns.
The World Land Trust has recently launched an urgent appeal to safeguard Orang-utans in Borneo, where the main threats come from the massive conversion from tropical forest to oil palm plantation. Because of the huge profits to be made from palm oil, the land is much more expensive than the Trust usually has to pay however, according to John Burton, there may be a positive aspect for endangered species resulting from the credit crunch: "The last year or two has seen land prices world wide increasing dramatically, so the financial crisis may bring prices down, making every Dollar/Pound/Euro go further." The WLT helps its overseas project partners purchase and protect rainforest and other habitats, usually costing around £50 an acre. "Unlike money, we cannot just borrow more wilderness; once it's gone it's gone - there is no way of bailing out rainforests!"
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