26 October 1999


26 October 1999

Press Briefing



At a Headquarters press conference today, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the WILD Foundation announced the winners of first-ever WILD Awards for environmental responsibility in the private sector. Also, UNEP announced its new Goodwill Ambassador: actor and recording artist Jason Raize, who plays the Character Simba in the Broadway version of The Lion King.

At today's press conference, representatives of UNEP, the WILD Foundation, the recipient organizations, the new UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and wildlife expert Jim Fowler addressed correspondents.

Established by UNEP and the WILD Foundation, there are four categories of WILD Awards for responsible use of wildlife in corporate advertising. The winners are as follows: Mutual of Omaha and its ad agency Bozell Worldwide will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; Nedbank South Africa with agencies Ogilvy and Mather, and The Hardy Boys will receive the International Excellence category; Canon USA Inc. and its in-house agency the National Excellence Award; and Georgia Power and its ad firm Pollak, Levitt & Nel the Regional Excellence Award.

The Director of UNEP's Regional Office for North America, Adnan Amin, said the UNEP Global Environment Outlook 2000 report delineated environmental emergencies in a number of areas, including biological diversity. Tropical forests and marine fisheries were overexploited. Numerous plant and animal species and extensive stretches of coral reefs would be lost due to inadequate policy responses. The UNEP undertook scientific assessment activities, but to get the message out it turned to partners from outside the intergovernmental framework. Today's awards recognized efforts by companies to that effect.

Then, introducing UNEP's new goodwill ambassador, Mr. Amin said that for more than a year, The Lion King had been running on Broadway to sold-out audiences and critical acclaim. The play eloquently pleaded for saving the environment and preserving endangered species. Its message was brought home through its title character, Simba. He added that UNEP had an affinity for Simba –- which was the Swahili word for "lion" and Swahili was the language in Kenya, where UNEP was based.

Mr. Amim added that Mr. Raize, who played Simba on Broadway, was able to connect emotionally with audiences of all ages. He was professionally and personally committed to conveying the environmental message, especially to children. With him as a spokesman, the environmental issue would become more real to people everywhere.

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Mr. Raize told correspondents that raising awareness was key to protecting the environment. His work gave him a rare opportunity to communicate with a diverse group of people, and the younger generation in particular. He looked forward to working with UNEP to transmit the environmental message, conveying the urgent need for awareness in the new millennium, and having fun in the process.

Next, the President of the WILD Foundation, Vance Martin, said his organization had for 25 years been working to save and protect wildland areas and the people dependent on them. Modern society depended on wild areas as much as rural societies and villages, he added. The annual WILD awards honoured companies that used nature images responsibly and then completed the ecological cycle by supporting the environment and environmental groups.

Wildlife expert and media personality Jim Fowler noted that The Lion King had been the first movie since Bambi for which the artists had drawn from real animals. A central challenge was to affect public attitudes and make people care. Mutual of Omaha and The Lion King both worked for that goal. He called for a hard look at how to present the natural world in a way that was meaningful for the average person, working to support his or her family.

Fear about wildlife was being injected into society, he said. That was one reason why he had been unable to bring a baby lion cub into United Nations Headquarters. People were operating on misconceptions, misunderstanding and disconnection from the natural world. It was crucial that people were kept connected. Lion cubs had not hurt anyone in New York City last year, while 64,000 persons in the area had been maimed by lawnmowers, he added.

After introducing representatives of Mutual of Omaha and Bozell, Mr. Fowler said that the legacy of The Wild Kingdom programme had been kept alive, affecting a tremendous number of people's attitudes. Whatever one's opinion of television was, it must be acknowledged that television reached people.

Nedbank representative Ivan May said Nedbank had developed a marketing strategy based on the premise that humankind's interests extended into four areas: body; soul; mind; and heart. Body was represented by sport, mind by art and culture, soul by the environment and heart through philanthropy. While that might sound romantic, Nedbank had activities addressing all four and the approach had yielded great results.

Ten years ago, in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Nedbank had put together the Green Trust, he continued. The banks' stakeholders –- staff, clients, shareholders and the community it served -- had been drawn into the process. Nedbank had developed a range of products. When clients and corporate clients used

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them, the resulting profits went to fund the Green Trust. The initiative had been hugely successful. Another five-year contract was to be signed with the WWF, so the business and non-governmental collaboration for the environment would have run for fifteen years.

When the first ten-year period ended in October 2000, the Green Trust would have raised over 30 million South African rand for the environment, he said. What was good for the environment was good for business. As a very poor country, South Africa could not afford certain indulgences, but if there was sustainability and benefit, programmes could work. Nedbank was proud that WWF had expanded the programme in nine other countries.

He also drew attention to a declaration developed by Nedbank and other advertisers and groups. It affirmed that corporations and marketers must ensure that their marketing activities promoted the sustainability of the earth and did not contribute to environmental degradation. Just as human models and celebrities were paid for appearing in advertisements, similar status should be accorded to flora, fauna and the environment. Therefore, whenever marketing featured the natural world, a monetary contribution should be made toward promoting the well-being of the environment.

The Green Trust had also developed a credo to which all stakeholders subscribed, he said. Based on a vision of a clean, healthy, green future, the intent was to help future generations be aware that everything on the planet had as much right to be here as people did.

Asked by a correspondent about ways to utilize spirituality for environmental protection, Mr. Amin said spirituality and practicality were brought together in a number of creative and effective ways, as had been described today.

Mr. Fowler said religion and science must together advance a better quality of life for all. That required the preservation of open space, wildlife and wilderness, with the needs of humans placed high on the list of priorities. The laws of nature were not fully understood. Communication must be powerful and focused on the incontrovertible laws of nature and on how humans could benefit.

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