April 24, 2019

Helping People Help the Planet

Often, the best way to preserve landscape is to give people a stake in protecting it. And few groups understand the power of this concept as well as Conservation International.

CI ( is one of the largest non-profit conservation groups in the world. To achieve its mission “to protect nature for the benefit of us all", the group works with more than 2,000 partner organizations, including indigenous communities, governments and businesses, in 30 countries. It counts NASA, Starbucks, Walmart, SC Johnson and Virgin Airlines among its allies in the fight to safeguard natural resources as sources of food, water, livelihood and a stable climate.

Since it was founded in 1987, CI has helped protect an estimated 1.5 billion acres of land in 77 countries through a focus on three elements: Protecting natural areas, fostering effective governance and promoting sustainable production.

The Arlington, Virginia-based organization has scored major wins in each of these areas over the past three decades. Among its ever-growing list of campaigns, the group has launched initiatives to end slavery in global fisheries, combat wildlife trafficking, protect mangroves and slow tree loss in the Amazon rainforest. Finding Creative Solutions

In addition to its $158 million annual operating budget, CI works to find project funding to protect critical landscapes across the globe. Some of the group’s initiatives involve working with governments and the private sector to develop (and invest in) sustainable development models that promote job creation while preserving the environment. The Forests Bond is one example.

The bond—developed in partnership with the international finance corporation BHP Billiton, including technical support from CI—offers interest payments (via carbon credits) that reward landholders for protecting forests, which help reduce carbon emissions. Introduced in 2016, the first-of-its-kind offering raised $152 million from institutional investors—double the expected investment. The success led to the 2017 creation of the Finance for Forests initiative, which brought partners together to devote even more private investment to forest conservation.

In CI’s 2017 annual report, board chairman Peter Seligman commented, “In my 30 years of leading Conservation International, the need for our work has never been more critical than right now. Despite all of this, I remain incredibly optimistic about the future, and I can see wonderful signs that we may be winning.”