Photo by Harshil Gudka on Unspalsh

You'll probably remember from your school biology classes or, at the very least, from The Lion King's "Circle of Life" speech, that the earth lies in a complex balance.

Everything – from the grass that lines the sidewalk to the mosquitoes that bite you in summer – everything has a role to play in keeping the world spinning. As inhabitants of this world, keeping that balance intact it is both our responsibility and a vital component of self-preservation.

Life on land is number 15 of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this article, we highlight two organizations that are working to protect life on land.

The Smithsonian Global Health Program

Recognizing no species is "irr-elephant"

26,197 species are threatened with extinction by man-made factors – habitat destruction, invasive species, overexploitation, illegal wildlife trade, pollution and climate change.1

Finding ways to protect endangered species has many challenges. One of them is that their diminished population makes conducting and analyzing medical research difficult. Suzan Murray with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Global Health Program (GHP) works to address issues related to the health and survival of wild species. Rhinoceros, cheetahs, lions, apes, elephants and bats are but a few of the animals they currently work to help.

And their work stretches even further than that. Realizing that 75% of human infectious diseases come from wildlife, they are finding ways to save both people and animals by monitoring wildlife, training veterinary professionals and developing local skills and lab capacity.

Rapid-response teams address urgent wildlife needs while deepening partnerships with local communities. So far, the GHP has discovered two new Coronaviruses in bats, diagnosed a novel pathogen in east Africa and is working to develop more efficient tracking of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. They also built a veterinary pathology lab in Uganda, and are working along with Chinese partners to protect Giant Panda health in China.

We must embrace the idea that we are connected and that the survival of all life depends on the health of others. We have the responsibility to help. And we still can.

– Suzan Murray, wildlife veterinarian and head of the Global Health Program Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Suzan is a member of the UBS Global Visionaries program. We are proud to support the program members and accelerate the positive impact of their social enterprises.

Canopy

Making paper usage a little less "tear-able"

Less than 20 percent of the world's forests remain intact and more than three billion trees are logged for packaging and viscose fabric annually.2 As experts predict that resource use will double by 2030, the pressure is mounting.3

Canopy is a not-for-profit dedicated to protecting the world’s forests, species and climate, and supporting indigenous communities' rights. They work with more than 750 publishers, printers and fashion brands (Penguin Random House, the Guardian, H&M and Zara just to name a few) to develop policies to eliminate the use of endangered forests for the production of paper, packaging and textiles.

As a result of Canopy's work, 25 million acres of forests have been protected or placed under logging moratorium; the first modern North American straw pulp mill was enabled; Harry Potter was the 'greenest' book in publishing history and the wider industry's eco-footprint has improved.4

We will be remembered for what we "leaf" behind. Canopy is helping to make sure it's a legacy of preservation rather than destruction.

We don't need to be using 1,400-year-old trees to make pizza boxes and books.

– Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director, Canopy

Like Suzan, Nicole is also a member of the UBS Global Visionaries program. We are proud to support the program members and accelerate the positive impact of their social enterprises. 

What we can do

Cultivating seeds of change

In the face of large ecological concerns, it's often tempting to think that we, as individuals, are powerless – that the damage has gone past the point of recovery.

Yet, we all have a part to play in making life on land more sustainable. As sustainable investing is no longer a niche topic, we can create real impact with our investments. So how can you evaluate corporate sustainability?

Learn more about our Chief Investment Office's approach to sustainable investing for private individuals

Our Chief Investment Office (CIO), which is responsible for researching market trends, sees seven sustainability challenges for investors to consider:

  • Does the company have a climate change policy? Does it source renewable energy and use ‘green’ buildings?
  • Do they have robust environmental management systems and relevant environmental certifications?
  • How high is employee turnover?
  • How much water does the company actually use, measured by a standard metric such as water intensity?
  • Are supply chains well managed (e.g., with sustainable sourcing policies, fair trade certifications, social welfare and wellbeing programs for suppliers)?
  • Is there evidence of oversight committees for audit, board effectiveness, and environmental, social and governance issues?
  • What are their human rights policies and community development programs, and are they a signatory to any industry-specific initiatives to promote sustainability?

Developing good habits starts with thinking about how to be a better inhabitant. And, whether within a company, institution or your own life, sustainable practices are the only way to protect the habitat we have.

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