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What do tigers, a can of Coke and valuing the rainforest have in common? They can all help save the world.
"Stay with me for a minute here," says Carter Roberts, laughing.
Conservation, ultimately, is all about achieving harmony between people and nature. As President & CEO of World Wildlife Fund, Roberts leads the organization in pursuit of that goal. And it can be found in the most unlikely places.
Tigers, once abundant throughout Asia, now stand on the brink of extinction. Rampant poaching, habitat destruction and climate change have decimated both the range and population of this iconic animal. So WWF has set about the hard work of reversing that trend, with the goal of doubling the wild tiger population over the next ten years. This requires establishing parks in tiger range countries, creating benefit sharing with local communities, shutting down poaching networks and changing the way commodities like palm oil and timber are grown in these regions. And here’s where the harmony comes in: saving tigers and restoring their habitat benefits hundreds, even thousands, of other creatures in the process – including people.
Tigers may seem like an obvious focus for WWF. But what about the can of Coke? The choices we make every day draw down on the planet’s finite store of natural wealth. So WWF engages with leading corporations to design products and establish supply chains that are good for the planet and the bottom line. "We want to help everyone – consumers, producers, purchasers – make better choices," says Roberts, "and in so doing, tip global commodities markets toward sustainability by using less land, water and energy to make the goods we consume."
WWF’s partnership with The Coca-Cola Company focuses on perhaps the most precious natural resource of all – water. The world’s largest beverage company and the world’s largest environmental organization are working together in a global effort to restore critical watersheds, reduce the company’s carbon footprint and set new standards for supply-chain sustainability.
Roberts started his career working for some of the largest companies in the world, and brings that business acumen--unique for the CEO of a large conservation organization--to the work he has pioneered with WWF: the greening of supply chains and the use of WWF’s brand to change consumption around the planet.
“This is my life’s work--saving the most important places on Earth and lightening our footprint on the planet,” says Roberts. “The methods we use are constantly evolving, but the vision is clear: we succeed when tigers and their glorious forests are flourishing, and when the biggest governments and companies on Earth value nature and the benefits it provides to us all.”
Educated at Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Roberts knows the songs of almost all the birds of North America and has traveled to the strangest places to pursue them. His work with WWF takes him around the world, and along the way he has climbed, hiked, paddled or swam in the most remote corners of the planet – from the Himalayas to the Gulf of California to the coral reefs of the Pacific. He has written extensively and given speeches to diverse audiences on the subject of species extinction, the value of nature and the imperative to reduce humanity’s footprint on the planet.
Roberts lives outside Washington, D.C. with his wife Jackie, sustainable energy specialist for the Environmental Defense Fund, and their three lively children.