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Baird's beaked whale © Robert Pitman

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Humpback whale playing with kelp

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Saving whales in boardrooms and on boats

Abbie Cheesman

Abbie Cheesman

Abbie is WDC's head of strategic partnerships. She works with leading businesses to help us supercharge our efforts to protect whales and dolphins.

To secure a future for whales, dolphins and our planet, we need to get everyone on board, including businesses. With such a huge influence over our world, businesses can help power up our efforts. We must work together.

I’ve been passionate about whales and dolphins for 30 years, a WDC supporter for 20 years and part of the WDC team for almost eight years. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the issues they face, which I’ll confess, can sometimes be a teary business.

two orcas
There are around 90 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, many of them endangered.

As head of strategic partnerships at WDC, I work with leading companies from different sectors to help us supercharge our efforts to protect whales and dolphins, looking at ways we can integrate with businesses, innovate and embrace technology – all things we urgently need to do as the task we face is huge and the timescales are urgent. It’s an exciting role that is stretching WDC into new areas, pushing us outside of our comfort zone and allowing us to collaborate and converse with some amazing people from industries as diverse as finance and banking, and space tech. Yes, banking and space tech.

Spotted dolphins

If you are able to make a donation, it would mean the world right now.

Help or hindrance?

You might be wondering: ‘why are you working with businesses – aren't they the problem?’. Here’s a different perspective: businesses have an enormous, some would say unparalleled, impact on the world, including the ocean and nature. While this impact can have negative consequences, it also presents an immense opportunity. Many businesses now operate over the entire world, with more influence and greater capacity for positive impact on nature issues than governments. Couple that with more agility when it comes to embracing new strategies and ideas, as well as some of the brightest and most passionate minds and you can see why, as an organisation, we simply can’t protect whales and dolphins without working closely with leading businesses.

Global network of people spreading our important message : save the whale, save the world
By working with businesses we can create tangible change across the globe.

We’ll never be afraid to call out companies when we see them acting in a way that harms whales and dolphins, but we will always offer our expertise and guidance to help them change course - you’d be amazed by how many businesses are happy to step up and do the right thing with a little bit of support and encouragement.

All this doesn’t mean we are replacing scientists doing fieldwork on boats with bankers – it's a realisation that our collective effort needs everyone. We need to be doing fieldwork, lobbying, campaigning and funding cutting edge research. And we need to be chatting to financial experts about how nature is valued and drive the kind of investment we need to save species from extinction. In short, we need the bankers and the boats.

Researchers in Southeast Alaska © Alaska Whale Foundation
Person in suit using calculator

We all need to work together if we want to save the whale, save the world.

Collaboration in practice

Over the last six months, we’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with leading businesspeople from the worlds of insurance, tech, financial, legal and professional services. Just like you and me, they are passionate ‘whale people’ who are driven to help protect these magnificent beings and their ecosystems.

WDC team at BES
The team at WDC have been busy bringing whales into the room at various corporate events

We’ve worked closely with our partner, Deloitte, to launch a report on the value of the ocean to businesses and the economy – an important piece of work in getting people to stop ignoring the ocean when making decisions on climate and nature. This report revealed that over 90% of global trade relies on the ocean, and that nature and its associated services underwrite 49% of global GDP! A powerful reminder that nature isn’t just something ‘nice’ for us to protect; our lives, our health and our economies are completely and utterly dependent on it.

Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Our lives depend on a healthy ocean, and a healthy ocean depends on whales.

Perhaps, like me, you feel that we should protect nature, and whales, because morally, it’s the right thing to do, rather than because it has a ‘value’. But as the financier and rewilding advocate, Ben Goldsmith, recently said: ‘Business has always valued nature. But so far, that value has been zero’. We’ve been working hard to shift this perspective, actively participating in events to spotlight the importance of protecting the ocean, and those who help it flourish: whales.

Blue whale tail
As these magnificent beings go about their daily lives, they benefit the world's climate, biodiversity and economies

Our series of events began at Guernsey Sustainable Finance Week, where we brought local and UK-wide stakeholders together to talk about the need for investing in the ocean and protecting the waters around the Bailiwick, where more and more whales and dolphins have been seen in recent years. The excitement continued when we became a charity partner of the amazing Blue Earth Summit event in Bristol in October, which brought together thousands of innovators, investors, ethical businesses and decision-makers. Plus, we set up the Ocean Consortium, and were joined by businesses like Barclays, Schroders, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Simmons and Simmons and Google to discuss how we can better use financial and tech products to help us build the tools, like SPACEWHALE, that are crucial to our conservation efforts.

Abbie and me in Guernsey
CBS speaking during BES
CBS panel members pic for BES

We can all become ocean ambassadors, gather more data, fill knowledge gaps, accelerate progress, and make an impact that matters by seeking ambitious and collaborative ways of working.

To round off the year, we participated in COP28 in Dubai with a full programme of events - a hugely important moment for WDC. As well as championing the role of whales as climate giants, we also launched our new report showing that whales and dolphins are themselves, suffering the effects of our changing climate. Everyone we met – from Special Envoy on Climate, John Kerry, to the wonderful ocean advocates, Philippe Cousteau and Dr Sylvia Earle – said that they were delighted to see whales and their vital role in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises being highlighted at the most important environmental event on the planet, in front of the world's leaders.

Ed Fox and Ed Goodall at COP28
Heidi Pearson, Ed Goodall and Chris Butler Stroud at COP28

It's your support that enables us to participate at these high level meetings where crucial planetary decisions are made.

As we move into 2024, I’m excited that we have built such an amazing foundation for our work with businesses and the many ways we can collaborate to achieve our vision – a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.

Please help us today with a donation

If you are able to help, every gift, whether large or small, will help create a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free.