Seeds of Change

A guide to saving life on land for philanthropists and changemakers

Share this page

Our planet and its inhabitants are under threat. In the past 50 years, the world’s human population has doubled, and we are using the Earth’s resources at an unsustainable rate. Natural habitats are being destroyed and wildlife populations have fallen by 60%.1 Many species are endangered or already extinct – and if we don’t reverse climate change, mankind could also join that list.

Global biodiversity funding is estimated to be up to USD 91 billion annually2 – it sounds a lot but to reverse biodiversity’s decline by 2030, research suggests the world needs to spend up to ten times as much for the next ten years. Public sector funding is not likely to increase soon3 so it’s up to all of us to act, whether as philanthropists, investors, business leaders or individuals.

It’s a big issue and it can be hard to know where to start – so we have prepared a guide to enable you to make a difference and help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on land.

Seeds of Change is published on the United Nations International Day of Forests 2021, so we focus on deforestation below - but you can download the full guide to read more about the issues and solutions, learn from experts and other philanthropists, and find concrete tips to address climate change, land degradation, poaching and much more.

A guide for all who wish to protect life on Earth!

Seeds of Change combines the expertise of more than 50 environmentalists, philanthropists and changemakers, with UBS’s 20+ years of experience in advising clients on making an effective impact. Find out how you can make a difference.

Wise words

Sir David Attenborough
Photo credit: Gary Morrisroe

Sir David Attenborough

Vice President, Fauna & Flora International

"We are living in a changing world. Our natural world is in peril. The consequences of this unfolding disaster will affect us all. As biodiversity declines, so ecosystems begin to unravel and with them we stand to lose the valuable services that nature provides: clean air and water, medicines, food, storm protection, climate and weather regulation – the list goes on. The case for saving biodiversity has never been stronger, clearer or more pressing."

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE
Photo credit: Stuart Clarke

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

"As we look around the world today – at the conflicts, the destruction of the environment, the human and animal suffering – it almost seems absurd to say that my wish is for a more peaceful, healthier and happier world. Yet this is the world we all yearn for. With the image of such a world in my mind and in my heart, it is easier to take action, every day, to move things in the right direction. Of course, the road is long and full of disappointments but still it gives me energy to keep going with that goal in sight. Without hope there is no hope."

Fast facts: Forests and our role


Forests cover around a third of the world's land. They are home to almost 75% of mammal, bird and amphibian species, and around 60% of all plants.4


About 350 million people live close to or in a dense forest, and depend on them for their subsistence or livelihood.5

Climate change

Half the world's primary forests have been cut down in the past 75 years.6 Deforestation is thought to cause about 10% of all global CO2 emissions – more than the whole European Union.7


Deforestation increases human interactions with wildlife that are prone to transmitting pathogens.8

Your diet

Beef production is the main cause of deforestation in the Amazon, with further trees cleared to grow soya to feed livestock.9

Your toiletries

Another big driver is palm oil, which is in about half of all packaged products on supermarket shelves, even soap.10

Your packaging

Three billion trees are logged annually for paper packaging - and this number is projected to grow over 20% by 2025.11

Your clothing

More than 150 million trees are logged every year and turned into fabrics including viscose/rayon, modal and lyocell.12

Take action – some tips

As an individual

What about:

  • home cooking more to avoid packaged products which often contain palm oil?
  • reducing your meat and dairy intake?
  • avoiding packaged food when an alternative exists?
  • reducing the frequency of deliveries?
  • looking for products with sustainable business certifications?

As a business

What about:

  • further enhancing your ESG policies?
  • examining your company’s supply chains to check if your paper, fabric or wood is coming from a sustainable source?
  • launching programs to incentivise your employees to reduce waste and recycle effectively?
  • offering volunteering activities for your employees to connect with and protect nature? It is also great for their well-being!

As a philanthropist

What about:

  • supporting programs that prevent deforestation, focus on restoration and/or encourage agricultural systems to shift towards regenerative agroforestry? Check out UBS Optimus Foundation for concrete ideas.
  • campaigning to encourage your government to enforce regulation to protect forests? Share this guide.
  • joining a collective giving circle – like the UBS Climate Collective – to get more hands on and work alongside other philanthropists?
  • contacting a UBS Philanthropy Advisor to have a tailored conversation?

As an investor

What about:

  • looking into sustainable farming and agriculture to avoid further deforestation – for example by investing in new technologies like data-driven vertical farming, straw paper mills, cultured meat and plant-based proteins?
  • investing to combat impacts of water scarcity – for example, companies active in conserving and restoring water ecosystems and related natural habitat and biodiversity?
  • Speak to your UBS advisor or contact us.

This is just a small selection of the guide, highlighting action on deforestation. To understand other issues surrounding SDG15 Life on Land, including biodiversity, poaching, and climate change, read the full Seeds of Change guide…

In focus

Two of the guide’s contributors, each a catalyst for change

Nicole Rycroft

Canopy founder and Executive Director

Award-winning conservationist, Nicole and her non-profit Canopy have protected 25 million acres of forests to date. Canopy works with businesses to ensure they are not sourcing their paper, packaging or textiles from endangered forests. They have partnered with more than 750 publishers, printers and fashion brands, including Penguin Random House, the Guardian, H&M and Zara.

Canopy is a UBS Optimus Foundation grantee and Nicole is an alumnus of the UBS Global Visionaries program.

Dr. Suzana Padua

IPE President

IPE is one of the largest environmental NGOs in Brazil and has planted approximately four-million trees as part of projects to link forest fragments and protect endangered species. A big focus is education – to garner the support of local communities but also to train professionals in sustainability and campaigning.

Suzana is a UBS Global Visionary

Sneak peek

Some key quotes from the guide

The philanthropist

Saskia Kress

Saskia Kress
Filmtank & Interactive Media Foundation, Germany

"In our internationally-awarded virtual reality (VR) project, “Inside Tumucumaque“, people experience what it feels like to be various animals, for example, a tarantula in the Amazon and see the world through a spider's senses. Through this unique perspective, visitors gain a deeper understanding of why we need to bring the relationship between humans, animals and nature back into harmony."

The global non-profit

Kevin Juma

Kevin Juma
The Nature Conservancy, USA

"The Africa Forest Carbon Catalyst is a blended finance approach to conserving and restoring forests. It finds and supports sustainable and profitable forest-related enterprises and projects, and prepares them for investment. From there, it harnesses blended finance to deliver the projects at scale."

TNC is a UBS Optimus Foundation grantee

The impact enterprise

Shara Ticku

Shara Ticku
C16 Biosciences, USA

"As demand for palm oil skyrocketed over the last 50 years, producers engaged in slash and burn tactics to destroy the tropical forestland and carbon-rich peatlands along the equator. Palm oil is a land-intensive process and a massive contributor to climate change. C16 has developed a new, cleaner, way of producing palm oil – using something called biomanufacturing, similar to how we make beer, wine and cheese."

Shara is a UBS Global Visionary

The researcher

Darrel Webber

Darrel Webber
Earth Innovation Institute, USA

"How can we protect our forests? First, we must understand how much it costs countries to keep them. Second, we must help them find ways to offset those costs through alternative development routes. To do this, they will need partners – partners with knowhow, partners who will buy the products, and partners to share the financing and risk of exploring new approaches."

This is just a taster – to learn about all the issues in greater depth, read the Seeds of Change guide…

If you’re passionate about the oceans, please check out our previous guide, Sea Beyond the Blue

Need our expert help to shape your giving? Get in touch…