Who We Are and How We Operate

Defenders of Wildlife believes in the inherent value of wildlife and the natural world. 

We value all species and habitats whether or not they are recognized as having utilitarian or aesthetic value to humankind. We believe that we will better achieve our mission to conserve all native plants and animals in North America in their natural communities if we live by convictions that guide all aspects of our work. Our values statement sets expectations for how we interact with each other, guides relationships with partners and supporters, and shapes our interactions with those who hold differing opinions and beliefs.

We are “One Defenders,” committed to working together under the highest standards of honesty and integrity to achieve transformative goals for our members, supporters and the plants and animals we seek to conserve. We strive to:

  • Recognize and act on our belief that the conservation of biological diversity is best advanced by the contributions of people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and cultures.

  • Collaborate with all who share our commitment to wildlife conservation and challenge those who act against the interests of wildlife and biodiversity conservation.

  • Honor the contributions of our members and supporters.

  • Balance idealism with pragmatism.

  • Be fair, honest, open-minded, collaborative, respectful and accurate in all our interactions and communications.

  • Always use the best available science and technology to inform and guide our decisions, but recognize that these critical tools may not always be the sole driver of our actions.

  • Measure our performance by the achievement of lasting solutions consistent with our mission, vision, goals and priorities.

  • Use our resources wisely, thinking big and maximizing the impact and effectiveness of our advocacy work.

  • Embrace innovation and be willing to take responsible risks to advance wildlife conservation.

  • Routinely assess our successes and our disappointments, learning from them and adapting our strategies and tactics as necessary.

  • Minimize our impact on wildlife and the environment by conserving resources in our daily work.

Defenders of Wildlife embraces the values of fairness and equity in society—including our workplace and our movement. We are committed to providing a professional, fair and safe workplace free of harassment and discrimination. Our greatest strength is our skilled, talented and dedicated employees; we care about their welfare and professional growth—and will always listen to their suggestions for improving our decision-making processes and operations. We foster empowerment at all levels of our organization through clarity of authority and accountability. We value the unique perspectives and backgrounds of our colleagues and work to expand the diversity of our workforce, board of directors and coalitions. More than co-workers, we are teammates and partners in our mutual goal of respecting our planet and all who live on it. 

Business Case for Diversity

Defenders of Wildlife’s mission is to protect all native animals and plants in their natural communities. Defenders seeks to transform policies and institutions and promote innovative solutions to protecting and restoring the diversity of wildlife and its natural habitat. Only by working together with people and communities will we be able to ensure a future for the wildlife and wild places we love. Defenders recognizes the value of a diverse, equitable, inclusive and just (DEIJ) workforce and base of supporters and is making a commitment to better incorporate DEIJ into our identity. Our commitment to this effort includes authentic collaboration with communities of color and other historically marginalized groups on issues of common ground.

The diversity of our staff, board, membership, activists, and funders is critical to Defenders’ success. Stewardship of our nation’s wildlife and wild places has been handed from generation to generation, and we are at a critical crossroads for protecting them for generations to come. To best support Defenders’ ability to achieve its mission, we must build both a broader base of support among the public and a diversity of staff that transcends the historical barriers of exclusion in conservation. 

By committing to DEIJ in how we implement our mission and strengthen our workforce, Defenders will realize the following benefits: 

  • Staffing. A broader diversity of staff brings a greater variety of perspectives to decision making and allows us to be more innovative, collaborative and productive. Defenders will strive to reflect America’s changing demographics and value the uniqueness of all staff. Individuals will be more comfortable bearing their full identities, knowing that their perspectives and backgrounds are valued, included, and critical to Defenders’ success. Defenders will attract new talent and expand its reach into diverse communities. 
  • Board. A diverse Board of Directors will broaden our perspectives, decision making, funding portfolio, partnerships, and attract support from expanded networks. The board will strive to promote DEIJ among Defenders’ volunteer leadership and will ensure that DEIJ is given appropriate priority at the leadership level. 
  • Members and Supporters. Defenders will grow its membership and activist base and collaborate with partners on issues of common ground. Protecting wildlife and wild places for future generations benefits all people. A more diverse network of supporters will allow new connections and expanded partnerships on a broader set of issues that align with our mission of wildlife and habitat conservation. Defenders will be a leader in strengthening the environmental movement, ensuring it’s a community that welcomes and is relevant to people from all backgrounds. 
  • Policy and Programs. As a diverse, equitable, inclusive and just organization, Defenders will craft policies and programs to conserve wildlife and wild places that have broad support and combat divisive rhetoric. Embracing innovative problem-solving will ensure solutions that are impactful, culturally sensitive, and enduring.