26 September 2019

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Thomas Vellacott (1996) is CEO of WWF Switzerland. WWF‘s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment, and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. Thomas is passionate about nature and has supported WWF since he was eight years old. Before joining WWF professionally, he worked for Citibank and McKinsey & Co.  Here, he discusses what success in his role means. 

A man in his 40s standing in tropical foliage. He has greying hair, blue eyes and tanned skin, and he is wearing a black t–shirt & grey jacket with a WWF pin of a panda on his lapel.After 100 days in office, chief executive officers are expected to present their first breakthrough achievements. I have now been CEO of WWF Switzerland for about 2,500 days, so, by the same logic, I should have a lot to show. But the reality is more complex. In nature conservation, success is achieved in partnership with others. It’s impossible to distil, for example, WWF’s precise contribution to the growing population of lynx in the wild, or to sinking CO2 emissions. Attribution of success is not that relevant: often it amounts to little more than a vanity indicator.

What does count is that the alliance fighting for our planet is growing. The number of volunteers working with us has tripled in the last five years. Meanwhile, over 600 companies have signed commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Climate Accord. Investors have become an important driving force for sustainability, with the share of sustainably managed assets growing fast and accounting for over a quarter of the overall market. 

The current transformation of our economies towards greater sustainability is faster and goes deeper than any transition since the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, we are far from being on track to limiting global heating to under 1.5 degrees. Nor have we succeeded in reversing the global extinction crisis. Securing a living planet for us and for our children is the ultimate achievement to aim for. A collective success story that each of us will only ever make a small contribution to individually—but a success story we need to write together, even if it takes longer than 100 days.

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