Photo of Azzedine Downes and photo of two elephants collaged in front of a photograph of plants.

Earth Month Charity: IFAW

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Q+A w/ CEO, Azzedine Downes

As a plant-based company, by CHLOE. is passionate about making a positive impact on the environment. Wanna know a fun fact? By using plants instead of beef in 2018 alone, sales of our Guac Burger and Classic Burgers had the same environmental impact of taking over 600 cars off the road, for an entire year!

We are so happy to partner with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a like-minded organization that shares our vision of protecting the planet. To celebrate Earth Month and support IFAW, we’ve created a delicious Chocolate Donut. We’re donating 50% of the purchase price from each Earth Day Donut sold to IFAW, all April long!

IFAW is dedicated to rescuing animals, campaigning to prevent animal cruelty, and advocating for the protection of wildlife and habitats. The organization spans across multiple continents and works on everything from stopping tiger poaching in Asia to rescuing stranded marine life off the coast of Massachusetts, to educating local communities in Africa on how to live harmoniously with animals. It’s safe to say IFAW is everywhere! We are are SO impressed with their work and were fortunate enough to be able to learn more about IFAW and the organization’s CEO and President, Azzedine Downes. Check out our Q+A below, and learn more about IFAW here!

With your help, by CHLOE. and IFAW can continue to help the planet (one donut at a time!)

Elephant Photo © Donal Boyd.

 

by CHLOE.: Hi Azzedine, Thank you for chatting with us! Tell us a little bit about yourself! 

Azzedine Downes: I’m Azzedine Downes and serve as the President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, also known as IFAW. I’ve been with the organization for over two decades, first as IFAW’s Executive VP, before assuming my current role in 2012. We are a global non-profit that, simply put, protects animals and the places we call home. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. Our dual focus on welfare and conservation promotes healthy populations by sustaining habitats and protecting individual animals at risk.

In our 15 offices across the globe and at project sites in over 40, we provide leadership, innovation, and hands-on assistance, partnering with local communities to develop collaborative and innovative ways to help all species flourish.

 

bC: Tell us about your path to becoming President and CEO of IFAW. How did you get started, and what were you doing before?

AD: Before joining IFAW, I served in a number of roles. I was Chief of Party for USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development) in Jerusalem and Morocco, as well as Acting Regional Director for the US Peace Corps in Eurasia and the Middle East. I’ve had the pleasure of helping to lead numerous projects under these roles prior to IFAW. For example, as part of the 1994 peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians, I was involved in the effort to improve administration of the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Justice in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.I have been with IFAW since 1997 and was tapped for my current role as CEO in 2012.

I’ve been fortunate enough to lead IFAW through a period of groundbreaking geographic expansion and strategic consolidation, opening offices on four continents, including our first office in the Middle East, and establishing new programs including Wildlife Crime. I’ve had the pleasure of serving as Head of the Delegation to the CITES Conference of the Parties and directing IFAW’s successful campaign for membership to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). My international background and perspective have certainly given me a unique perspective on how to more effectively leverage IFAW’s role in the global conservation and animal welfare space.

 

bC: In your time at IFAW, you have implemented the Prevention of Wildlife Trafficking program. Can you please tell us a little bit more about this program; the impact it makes and why you started it?

AD: Our global network is on the frontline to ensure that animals have the protection they need from the illegal market forces that threaten their survival. It takes a network to defeat a network. So, we’re fighting wildlife crime by working with local communities and park rangers to stop poaching at its source, engaging governments, communities and businesses to disrupt trafficking networks, and educating the public about what not to buy.

While much of our work in wildlife crime is focused on cracking down on poachers and traffickers, as an organization we recognize the tremendous need to reduce the demand. We’re doing that in two ways: first, by working with companies to ensure that trafficked animals and illegal wildlife products don’t appear in their stores or online platforms and second, by leading public awareness campaigns that teach people about wildlife crime and how to avoid the products created by it.

Lastly, we know wildlife crime is an international problem, and we’re after international solutions. We work with governments and partner organizations to produce effective global, regional, national and local legislation and policies that protect individual wild animals, wild populations, and their habitats.

 

bC: What inspired your founders to start the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 1969? 

IFAW: 50 years ago, IFAW’s original founder and a small group of concerned citizens banded together to stop Canada’s cruel commercial seal hunt. This effort culminated fourteen years later, in 1983 with the ban on whitecoat Harp seal products, ultimately saving more than 1 million seal pups. Throughout these years, IFAW began coupling advocacy with on-the-ground interventions. From one problem affecting one species in one part of the world, we have now taken on more problems threatening more species, including our own. And the impact that IFAW has is bigger as well, with us rescuing more animals and securing more habitats than at any other point in time.

 

 

bC: by CHLOE. is so happy to partner with IFAW! Please tell our customers more about your programs and where their donations are going.

IFAW: IFAW’s international programs remain singularly focused on helping animals and people thrive together. Our programs are based in science, rooted in local communities, are globally-scalable, economically-viable, and always have a vision for the long-term. From our brand pillars of Animal Rescue and Disaster Response, Wildlife Crime, Landscape Conservation, and Marine Conservation and Advocacy, our programmatic initiatives across the globe underscore the fact that we need to share the planet. Our rescue teams save animals, one by one, anytime, anywhere. On the beach and at sea, we use every rescue as an opportunity to study the ocean’s most elusive species. And back on land, we rescue wildlife who’ve been orphaned, displaced, or caught in a disaster. We’re fighting to secure the land, water, and airspace animals need to thrive, and we’re helping people take care of the precious ecosystems in their own backyard. And wherever people and animals are neighbors, we’re there to help them live in harmony.

 

bC: What are some ways people can get involved in supporting IFAW’s mission of respecting and protecting all animals?

IFAW: To rescue animals and safeguard these landscapes we share, we must make the environment part of our lifestyle and make daily commitments to live differently. This vision for a better world is one that we can all get behind. So, I invite you to be an active citizen. Pay attention to policy – What happens legislatively matters. Remember that your consumption matters – choose a few ways you can reduce plastic usage, or add a few green actions to your regular routine. And most importantly, open dialogues – in your communities and in your homes, open up conversations about where our world is headed, talk about the planet and what is happening to animals, as to inform others and to spread smart thinking around what might serve as creative solutions.

 

bC: How big of an issue is wildlife endangerment in America? Across the world? 

IFAW: Unsurprisingly, there are widespread threats facing wildlife on a global scale and no area is particularly immune. Wildlife faces the greatest threats when there is competition with humans for land, food and water. The pressures of land use and illegal trade drive much of these problems we grapple with in our work. We choose to focus on Source Countries, Africa, Transit Countries, Middle East, and wildlife consuming countries, China. While the future for wildlife can feel uncertain, with daily news about animals and habitats disappearing, we at IFAW have 50 years’ worth of reasons to believe it is never too late to take action. We know that every species and every habitat has the ability to bounce back, to survive and thrive. It all depends on what we do now.