Wildlife protection, NGOs, and all things sustainability with Carrie Hutchison

Participants

Carrie Hutchison: Director of Marketing and Brand at Re:wild
Isabella Madrid Malo: Content Manager at Dots.eco

What is this episode about?

During this episode, Isabella and our special guest Carrie Hutchison, the Director of Marketing and branding at Re:wild, dive into the fascinating world of rewilding and the pivotal role of businesses in these efforts. Re:wild, Co-founded by Leonardo DiCaprio and world-renowned environmental scientists, focuses on impactful conservation efforts involving various stakeholders.

Questions covered

  • Tell us about yourself!
  • Can you share with us your journey into the world of sustainability through non-profits? What sparked your passion for promoting conservation?
  • What is Re:wild? What is the meaning of “Rewilding”? 
  • What stakeholders take part in the process of rewilding? I know you are working closely with indigenous communities as well as rangers, tell us more!
  • Which is your favorite project Re:wild is currently working on? 
  • What is the role of businesses in the fight against the climate crisis?
  • Protecting habitats and promoting environmental sustainability is quite a job! What would you recommend people do to add their part? 
  • What steps do you take in your personal lifestyle to add your little grain? 
  • How can people find you/follow Re:wild

Podcast Audio

Podcast Transcript

Isabella: Hello and welcome back to the Land, Ocean, and Business Podcast. I’m your host, Isabella, and I’m thrilled to bring you today’s session. It’s our second session of the podcast, and I’m super excited because it’s all about rewilding conservation and the crucial role of businesses in these efforts.

I’m incredibly excited to introduce our special guest today, Carrie Hutchison. Carrie is the Director of Marketing and Brand at Re:wild, an environmental organization that we are working with and that is making significant strides in conservation. Re:Wild was co-founded by a group of scientists alongside the renowned actor and environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio. With more than 35 years of combined conservation effort, Re:wild is committed to impacting as many stakeholders as possible in the fight towards rewilding our planet.

Our conversation today will cover fascinating topics from rewilding and tree planting to the broader implications of conservation efforts. We’ll also explore the intersection of businesses and environmental stewardship and their role in this sustainability wave taking over the business world and consumers alike. I’m also excited to dive deeper at the personal level with Carrie, learn more about her sustainability habits, and her passion for all things sustainability.

With that said, Carrie, welcome to the Land, Ocean, and Business Podcast. We’re super happy to have you here.

Carrie: Glad to be here.

Isabella: Of course. I’m really excited. You’re the first environmental organization that we are talking to, and I’m super happy that you are the first guest for the podcast. Carrie, before we start, I’d love to know a bit more about you. Tell us about yourself and how you became so passionate about sustainability and nonprofits.

Carrie: I am based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve lived here for about 20 years. After I got my master’s degree in marketing, I found that I have a mission-based heart. I was much more drawn to working for nonprofits than businesses, although I love taking lessons from businesses about succeeding and applying them to the nonprofit space. I started working for a nonprofit in the impact investing space and stayed involved in that arena for a long time. It’s a really important field, and I still have close friends working in it.

From there, I worked for National Geographic for several years, where I learned a lot about the power of visual storytelling, design, film, exploration, and inspiration. It was an incredible experience, and I’m very grateful for those years there. I then consulted for a while with different nonprofits, but the environment was always closest to my heart. I grew up outdoors, camping, spending summers at the beach, and loving the ocean. Bringing all of these together into my personal and professional world now makes me feel very lucky.

Isabella: That’s amazing. I’m happy that sustainability and the environment have been such a big part of your life for many years. Carrie, tell us a bit about Re:wild and what rewilding means. This is something that really caught my attention.

Carrie: We were formerly Global Wildlife Conservation, which was very focused on biodiversity. We still are, but we wanted to get out of the acronym soup of nonprofits with technical names and settled on the word Re:wild because it has great energy. It’s an action, and people are drawn to it, as are we.

We have been expanding a lot and working with many people and businesses. Our biggest partnership base is the conservation groups we work with around the world, ranging from small local groups to larger organizations familiar with their regions, species, and cultures. Community, culture, and people power are everything in conservation. We work with 500 partners in nearly 90 countries. We couldn’t do what we do without them.

Rewilding, in its basic definition, is returning something to its natural state. Often, it’s more effective to protect a place from being degraded than to restore it later. It’s not just about trees; it’s habitats, water sources, and more. Everything is interconnected. Biodiversity is the state of balance in an interconnected system. Sustainability is reducing harm, and rewilding is about bringing places back to their natural biodiversity.

Rewilding is just a part of what we do. We help people do conservation work, support rangers, indigenous groups, protect places before they’re destroyed, and reintroduce key species to ecosystems. There are many elements to what we do, and rewilding is one of the most fun terms, but just a part of our work.

Isabella: I love the term, and you mentioned something important: there are so many words tossed around all the time. Sustainability is very conflicting. What does it entail? There are many branches to it. When you say “we are sustainable,” what does that mean? For our communication as a company, this is something we think about a lot.

You mentioned a lot about working with people. I saw a strong sentence on your website: “Protect the wild and restore the rest.” This resonated with me because some things don’t need to be restored, just protected. Wild is wild. Our role is to take care of it and not mess it up as we have over the last 50, 80, 100 years. Carrie, you work closely with stakeholders like indigenous communities, governments, and rangers. What role do they play in rewilding?

Carrie: I see Re:Wild as the great connector. We’re not a giant organization, only around 75 people, but we have connection points to many different people from different sectors and parts of the world. We do work with governments, which is crucial for permanently protecting areas. Governments have bureaucracy and don’t always move quickly, which is why bringing businesses in is exciting.

Businesses can be nimble, take risks more easily, and lead by example. They play a role in advancing global sustainability efforts. One of our wonderful partners is YSL Beauty, based in Paris. They have done a lot to understand their biodiversity footprint and source ingredients sustainably. They take care to ensure workers and surrounding communities are not harmed. They wanted to go further and invest directly in biodiversity projects. They started in Madagascar and Haiti, expanding to Canada, with plans to protect and restore 100,000 hectares by 2030.

Isabella: That’s beautiful. I have one question that immediately popped into my head. You mentioned biodiversity footprint. I’ve never heard this term before. Carbon footprint is the big word now, but what does biodiversity footprint mean? Some listeners might also want to know more about it.

Carrie: It’s understanding land use, the effect on water sources, and species in the area. It’s taking it a step further, beyond sustainability efforts, to look at the impact on the place next door and downstream species. YSL Beauty worked with a third party to analyze their biodiversity footprint, lending credibility. Often, companies don’t have that expertise on staff, so working with a third party and sharing data is important.

Isabella: Absolutely. For businesses, it’s crucial to catch the sustainability wave. There’s pressure from governments and consumers. It can be complicated and expensive, depending on the angle. Sustainability is a huge word.

Carrie: Customer pressure is accurate, but companies also have a great opportunity to share data and environmental messages. They are often great marketers, trendsetters, and influencers in popular culture. They can use their platforms to inspire and educate. Consumer pressure on companies can create an educational and inspirational moment through outreach and platform efforts.

Isabella: You’re right. Businesses have a big role in influencing society norms and people’s behavior. They can create a change of mindset for consumers. Going back to Re:wild, what’s your favorite project that Re:wild is currently working on?

Carrie: That’s a hard one. There are many. One of my favorite projects from last year is called “Rewild Your Fridge.” Working with Re:wild, I’ve learned a lot about the impact of animal agriculture on biodiversity. The Amazon is being cleared to raise cattle, and the Colorado River is being drained to grow feed for cattle. People don’t realize the environmental harm of animal agriculture on wildlife, biodiversity, and health.

We created a documentary called “Patrol” that followed indigenous people in Nicaragua whose land was being destroyed for cattle ranching. The beef ends up in U.S. supermarkets, and people don’t know where their food comes from or the harm it’s causing. The documentary won awards and raised awareness. It’s a new view on food. People need to know the problem to look for solutions.

Isabella: Modern society has given us a lot, but it has taken away our connection to nature. In grocery stores, we only see barcodes on raw meat, chicken, or fish. There’s a lack of awareness about where food comes from. Your documentary is a beautiful initiative because people don’t know. We’re stuck in a fast-paced world, buying food without thinking about its origin.

In the Brazilian Amazon, I researched what was happening under Bolsonaro, the displacement of indigenous communities, and the loss of culture and knowledge. It’s a pity. There’s so much biodiversity being lost.

Carrie: It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong, but people need to know the problem to seek solutions. There’s also hope. Making small changes in habits can make a big difference. If everyone became plant-based, it would help biodiversity. Cultural norms need to shift, but there are solutions that are win-win.

We have pilot projects in South America working with farmers to switch from cattle ranching to sustainable crops like açaí. It’s better for livelihoods and the planet. We need to prove these solutions can scale and work across economic, environmental, and cultural levels. We hope to launch the next phase of “Rewild Your Fridge” later this year.

Isabella: That’s exciting. I also saw “Rewild Your Campus” on your website. You have amazing projects. You mentioned nudging people and businesses towards awareness. In the Netherlands, there are many vegan and vegetarian options, but in Rome, it’s different due to culture. Educating society is tricky but possible. Sustainability has many branches. It’s about taking the steps you can.

Carrie, how do you incorporate sustainability into your personal lifestyle?

Carrie: Re:wild has had a huge effect on me. We are a plant-based organization. At any gathering, fundraiser, or team retreat, we are only plant-based. Several staff members are plant-based full-time. Knowing what I know has changed my habits. My family has slowly come along, some more open to it than others. We eat very differently than we did five years ago.

I’ve started growing my own food. My husband built a standing bed in the backyard, and we’ve had a garden for the last couple of years. It’s a delight to gather fresh Swiss chard and cucumbers. This connection to nature was lost but is being rediscovered. I’ve also become more aware of local plants and animals.

There’s a free app called Seek that uses AI to identify plants and tell you if they’re supposed to be there or if they’re invasive. I’ve started changing the vegetation in my yard, reducing mowing to help pollinators and animals. People often ask about what they can do locally. There’s still nature left to enjoy and protect.

Growing your own food and changing habits can support biodiversity. Voting, donating, and volunteering are also impactful. I’ve done invasive weed pullings at a nearby creek, which is fun. We need to take care of each other. The pandemic isolated us, but we need to come back together to tackle global problems. A healthy ecosystem is the best protection against climate change, pollution, and pandemics.

Isabella: Thank you for sharing. I love the garden idea. It’s a moment for yourself and has a positive impact. I have rosemary and basil growing, and it’s a happy moment for cooking and seeing them grow. It sounds hippie, but it’s about small steps and creating awareness. Taking care of each other is crucial. We were already isolated before the pandemic, and now it’s worse. Some areas are collective, others individual. We need to return to a village mindset.

To close, it’s amazing what you’re doing, Carrie, and what Re:wild is doing. How can people find and follow you and Re:wild?

Carrie: Our website is rewild.org, and we are @rewild on most social channels. We’re on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok. You can find us there.

Isabella: Excellent. Carrie, thank you so much. Today’s talk was super fun and insightful about your experience in sustainability and with Re:wild.

Carrie: Thanks so much for inviting me.

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