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Collaboration is Key: Lessons From a Two-time Impact Winner

Inside some of the key collaborative thinking behind the Lion’s Share Fund

Rhino in iMfolozi Game Reserve @ Brent Stirton White

The Lion’s Share Fund was created to help brands and the private sector actively contribute to saving our wildlife. Animals feature in 20% of all advertising, in fact, every year over $100 billion dollars is spent on ads that feature them. And while they’re thriving in communications, the reality is very different. Sadly, humans have wiped out 70% of the animal population in the last 50 years. Since its launch, The Lion's Share has signed 25 companies, resulting in a collective of over 50 brands contributing 0.5% of their media spend when any of their ads feature animals. The fund aims to raise $100 million over the next three years to benefit animal welfare, conservation and environments worldwide. They’ve now also developed a small contributions mechanism where smaller brands can now contribute anything under $10,000 to be a part of the movement.

Scooping a White Pencil for Impact in 2019, and then returning to gain a Wood Pencil for Impact in 2020, The Lion’s Share’s story does not stop there. The initiative, born out of FINCH (a small production company based in Sydney,) and managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched a Covid-19 response in April 2020. Resilience in Wildlife Community Grants support communities dependent on wildlife-based tourism that have been severely impacted by the pandemic. These grants will finance local projects that find innovative solutions to wildlife conservation challenges, while simultaneously enhancing local people’s well-being and livelihood. The nine grants are now funding local projects across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Bengal Tiger in Bardia National Park. Image courtesy of NCRS Nepal.

One such grant in Nepal has funded sustainable permaculture gardens for 1,000 households around Bardia National Park, which reduces pressure on the park and its natural resources, helping the rhino population to surge to its highest in decades as the pandemic pauses tourism.

The success of The Lion’s Share Fund hinges on global collaboration across businesses and organisations that would not normally interact, resulting in effective and systemic changes. Here, Founder Christopher Nelius, as well as Sophie Mayes and Danielle Mastronardo from FINCH share some insight into why the project was so successful and what others can learn from it. 

Partnering with the UNDP

Partnering with the UN gave the project gravitas and trustworthiness and linked into the required global authorities to help make things happen on a practical level. Mayes says, “Working with a governance structure like the UNDP, and merging the advertising and the ‘not for profit’ sectors together, is a lesson to everyone that you can make the impossible possible, especially when there is a need to achieve a common goal.” 

The partnership came about when founder Robert Galluzzo turned to Andrew Clarke, who was the president of MARS Inc. at the time, and Clarke said that if you if you get the United Nations on board, I'll be the first brand to sign up, so Galluzzo got on a plane and went to pitch to the UN. “I think that if someone is an executive producer of a production company, and can try to incite real systemic change; I think that that's a good lesson,” says Mayes.

“I would actually say that we've taken a leaf out of each other's book in a big way,” adds Mastronardo. “It's one of the most trusted organisations in the world, it gives the brands the assurance that the money is going to the right place.” For example, the UN has a steering committee with scientists and conservationists to ensure the money goes to the right places and is spent in the right way. “They help us in that respect a lot,” says Mastronardo.

"The Lion's Share is based on a very simple idea, but bold and not without its complexities. Namely, the intersection of business and conservation - two sectors that aren't naturally good at talking to each other,” says founder Nelius. “So having the UNDP act as that meeting point, providing the transparency to our financial side, and also the incredible network in the conservation world, has been a giant booster shot to our entire effort."

The Tharu community, Nepal. Image courtesy of BCRS.

Working Collaboratively

Key figures from across the project have formed a working bee to brainstorm ideas and plan strategies for their next moves, while the introduction of a guardianship programme for participating brands is expanding this collaboration across networks that did not previously interact. The selected member from the participating company will dedicate a few hours a month to working on the project, acting as a direct line into the brand for The Lion’s Share Fund. These guardians get a title they can add to their LinkedIn as they become part of a now global community of like minded individuals from all of The Lion Share Fund’s partner brands.

“It's pretty massive because some of these companies don't necessarily work together in a traditional sense,” says Mayes. "It's really bringing together a community of brands, from various sectors, in a collaborative way for the greater good and conservation of the planet.” By building this community and creating a direct line into brands the initiative can funnel its message more easily into the community.

Wildlife Rangers, Tosco Nambia. Image courtesy of Tosco Trust.

Motivating a Workforce

While working to change the world has a wide reaching effect, it can have unexpected effects on the team doing the work. “I know a lot of the people that work at FINCH  now, and the reason that they're there is because of The Lion’s Share,” says Mastronardo, who adds that the guardian programme should give people the empowerment to make changes in their own company. The positive ripple effect on numerous companies could be massive. “I think this is another next step where Impact is going,” she says. “We can take the onus as people that work at a company that can start that change, regardless of whether you use animals in your advertising –  or it's now the fight towards climate change.”

“Employers know, to attract the best talent you must be acting sustainably. The marketing of brands can now become more sustainably through The Lion's Share,” says Nelius. “Particularly now, those working in the 'big, bad world of advertising' can know that their industry is giving something back. That each time they create , or produce a campaign with animals in it, there is a little something going back to them".

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