The natural world is under threat. In the Amazon, more than 150 acres of rainforest are lost every minute of every day. Wildlife population sizes have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970. And this isn't just about the natural world - it's about our world as well. We depend on nature for our own survival, livelihoods, happiness, and as seen with COVID-19, our health - the destruction of nature only increases the chances of future pandemics emerging. Our broken relationship with nature is putting the future of people and planet at risk.Humanity may be responsible for the destruction of our planet - but humanity is also waking up...and stepping up.
Findings from a new eye-opening report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) commissioned by WWF, spanning 54 countries that hold 80% of the world's population, reveal that we're entering a new era of change - perhaps the most important era for the future of humanity and our planet.
The Eco-wakening is here, and the signs are unmistakable.
On Twitter alone, the number of posts related to nature loss and biodiversity has increased by 65% since 2016.
This increase in nature loss and biodiversity-related Tweets can be seen especially in emerging markets: an increase of 38% across Asia, 53% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 136% in Latin America (between 2016-2019) and a staggering 550% increase in India from 230,020 in 2016 to 1.5 million in 2020.
The popularity of Google searches for terms related to biodiversity and nature loss, relative to all searches, have grown by 16% globally since 2016.
Emerging countries in Asia and Latin America have seen the greatest increase in the popularity of searches for nature-related topics. In India, the popularity of such searches increased by an incredible 190%.
The popularity of Google searches relating to sustainable goods has increased by 71% globally since 2016.
Demand for sustainable goods has increased especially in high-income countries - specifically the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Australia and Canada. But this trend can also be seen in emerging countries. In China, 41% of consumers say they want eco-friendly products, and in India, sales of ‘natural’ [organic] products have grown by 13% since 2018.
In a 2019 online survey, 50% of respondents worldwide said they switched products or services because a company violated their values. The number one reason cited for the switch was to support products or services that ‘protect the environment.’
Another survey by Havas Group Worldwide reported that 2 in 3 consumers believe that when it comes to driving positive social change, brands bear as much responsibility as governments.
In the food, cosmetic and natural pharmaceutical industries globally, the number of companies committed to sourcing practices that protect biodiversity increased by 45% from 2016 to 2020.
In the fashion industry, 60% of brands in North America and Europe say that ‘implementing sustainability measures’ was one of their top priorities in 2020.
Last year, 540 of the world’s biggest corporations - including Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, Unilever, and Citigroup - signed up to a Business for Nature statement calling on governments worldwide to do more to reverse nature loss.
Since 2016, over 159 million signatures for biodiversity-related campaigns have been collected.
The most number of signatures for biodiversity and nature campaigns came from Brazil, with 23 million signatures - or 15% of global signatures.
In June 2020, seven major European funds threatened to withdraw their 2 trillion US dollars-worth of investments from Brazil unless key decision makers in the country did something to stop the surging destruction of the Amazon rainforest
Last September, political leaders participating in the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity, representing 84 countries from all regions and the European Union, committed to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.
As of 2019, legislations restricting single-use plastic items have been passed in 127 countries, following sustained global protest about the environmental harm that was being caused.
“While consumers have been advocating for sustainable products for years, 2020 marked a turning point. The combination of the pandemic, the escalating climate crisis and a newfound consumer consciousness sparked unprecedented urgency and action, with millions of consumers demanding change. This latest report is a clear call to action for our industry: act or be left behind. Consumers will seek and champion brands that commit to sustainability..."
"This report shows that nature has risen up the agenda of consumers, who are using their purchasing power to influence businesses to produce more sustainable goods. This year world leaders are set to agree on an ambitious global agreement on nature. We must use the momentum this research so clearly demonstrates, and work together - across society, business and governments - to change our course towards an equitable, nature-positive, carbon-neutral future."
“This provocative new report from the EIU underscores the growth of public interest - and concern - for nature worldwide. Strikingly, some of the countries that have seen the most dramatic growth in concern are the markets that investors and business leaders are betting on for their own future growth. The report's findings need to be taken to heart by - and be top of mind for - private, public and citizen sector leaders alike."
"This research shows how much people value the natural world, their willingness to protect it, and their increasing calls for leaders to take meaningful action...To tackle climate change and biodiversity loss we must address the root cause of these issues - an economy that has waste and disposability woven into it. This work can play an important role in bringing together businesses and governments to build a circular economy that eliminates waste, generates value, and regenerates nature."
“...Our customers are increasingly demanding green building solutions and investors and other stakeholders are also requesting more detailed information about our actions to protect nature. This has been a fast-growing trend. We are listening to their concerns about nature loss and biodiversity and are taking concrete actions. At LafargeHolcim, sustainability has never been as embedded into the business as it is now, and this will only increase..."
“Social media is undeniably a powerful way to deliver a message. At Meltwater, we have seen how this medium has the power to sway public perception. Being a global citizen now involves digital activism - from #MeToo to Black Lives Matter - companies must sit up and take note of the power of social in mobilising communities and amplifying key messages. When it comes to nature, online groups tirelessly continue the fight by spreading awareness on biodiversity-loss and climate change."
“It is clear that people around the world are looking to adopt environment friendly solutions and more and more are expecting business to help enable nature to bounce back... It is an opportunity for innovation and transformation at scale and there is no time to lose. The Mahindra Group has launched projects in energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation to trigger a low carbon way of life...There can be no business if nature is compromised.”
“Over two-thirds of Kenyans depend on nature for their livelihoods, especially the vulnerable in society who benefit the most from these fragile ecosystems. This research clearly shows that people are concerned about the impact of its destruction. It is time to address the issue with more action towards nature protection, conservation and restoration from governments and the private sector..."
"This research shows a growing concern for nature loss and we are seeing millions of Scouts worldwide use their energy to create awareness, and solutions to restore and protect nature... Young people today are not surprised by this trend, and they are driving it...they recognise the enormous challenges facing our planet and the important role of young people in creating a more sustainable world. They are using their voice to push for change from all corners of society and the world."
“Nature and biodiversity loss will decrease the global effort to alleviate poverty, hunger, water security, food supplies, climate change and human health. Therefore, public sentiment and concern as highlighted in this report is a very important influence to shape collective action and mobilise a broader movement to help preserve biodiversity and help prevent nature loss".
“We understand that our customers want and expect us to be operating responsibly...As a leading media and entertainment organisation, we have a powerful voice to reach, engage and inspire millions to act on protecting the environment. That’s why we’ve campaigned for nature for more than a decade, and plan to take more action, as we did last year when we set our ambitious target to be net zero carbon across our entire value chain by 2030”.
“Currently, biodiversity is not yet considered as pressing as climate change. However, nature and biodiversity are pillars of sustainability that should be incorporated into our core business... Mirroring this research, we see environmental awareness among Japanese citizens increasing. Sompo has been providing environmental education programs for 27 years in collaboration with an environmental NGO. The number of participants increased three times in 2020.”
“At Suzano, nature is intrinsically connected to our business, stakeholders and our people. For any business it is unacceptable to think biodiversity is separate from business. We all depend on biodiversity and this research shows people are becoming more aware about it. Sustainability, social development and independent transparency is also important for stakeholders, including investors. . We have seen many public platforms that are monitoring country and business performance on these issues..."
"Covid-19 has produced irreparable losses, emphasized our interdependence with the natural world and perhaps consequently driven a shift in consumption. Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about nature preservation and sustainable production and this trend shows no signs of slowing. The adoption of sustainable practices is not just about improving credentials, it makes business sense. Climate change and nature loss presents a risk to all businesses."
“There has never been a more important time to invest in the protection and regeneration of nature, from a future risk and resilience perspective, from an economic perspective and because, as this report shows, that is what our consumers are asking for. And this is the next generation telling us."
“ If there is one factor that will predominantly drive the trend of ‘business for nature’ , it is the young citizens of today. Today’s youth are much more intensely aware of and engaged with nature than previous generations...they are in the forefront of making informed choices about the products they buy, the causes they support and the companies they choose to work for. It is the last element that will force companies to pay attention to nature; for not doing so will be at the risk losing the battle for talent."
"This year must be a turning point for nature and biodiversity. Later in the year world leaders are scheduled to negotiate a global framework for addressing the nature crisis. This new research shows that people all over the world are concerned about nature loss and that concern is growing, and decision makers should pay attention...We cannot miss this opportunity to transform our relationship with nature and secure an equitable, nature-positive and resilient future for all."
"In the digital world I saw the opportunity to reinvent myself. I feel lucky that in the world of television I have projects that I love and enjoy, but I felt that many things were changing... Social media is a channel that allows me to talk about my purpose in life, which is the environment, love for my family and all those issues that were actually very difficult to talk about on television.”
"Beyond fame and accumulating millions of likes, views and followers, the content creators (on social networks) who have endured have been those who had the need to communicate something deeper... they managed to find personal purposes that ended up becoming the fundamental tool to inspire others to stop being passive agents and become active leaders in their home, community, city, country or the world".
“The science and the economics are clear. The public sentiment is now clear. And - the solutions are clear too. Society is supporting a transformation of our economic and development model towards one that finally values nature as our moral duty to all life on Earth, and for the crucial services it provides to our economy, wellbeing, health and security. This is a truly historic ‘eco-wakening’ and the chance to rebalance our relationship with the planet.”
This year can be a crucial turning point to reverse nature and biodiversity loss. In only a few months time, world leaders are scheduled to attend a key United Nations conference to negotiate a global framework for addressing the nature crisis. The decisions they make during this conference will impact decades to come, in all aspects of government, business, and civil society.
This is our biggest opportunity yet to wake the world. Sign our 'Voice for the Planet' petition below to urge world leaders to take urgent action and make decisions that will benefit both nature and people.
"When we're faced with the size of this (planetary) challenge...the most powerful thing you can do is to use your voice."
Maisie Williams, WWF Ambassador
At WWF, we're working to ensure that the Eco-wakening isn't just a phase, but our future - a future where both people and nature thrive. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates on our crucial work and ways you can get involved.