Innovative Finance for Conservation: Roles for Ecologists and Practitioners

Tracy Stanton
December 16, 2020

The Fall 2020 journal, Issues in Ecology, included an article about conservation finance titled: Innovative Finance for Conservation: Roles for Ecologists and Practitioners.

Here is a blurb from the summary:

“Global efforts to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem services have shifted from a traditional emphasis on the establishment of protected areas to one that includes the design of conservation projects that deliver positive social, ecological, and economic outcomes for people and the environment. This shift is a necessary recognition that protected areas alone will be insufficient to conserve a large proportion of species globally, especially given competing pressures for land development and marine resources. However, despite clear demonstrations of the potential benefits of managing terrestrial and marine resources to produce a sustainable mix of environmental and human co-benefits, many of the most promising models remain under-funded or largely aspirational.

Consequently, only 12–17% of the estimated $300–$400 billion of investment needed annually to maintain healthy ecosystems globally currently flows to conservation finance, with most originating from limited public and philanthropic sources.”
In this issue, we summarize specific challenges and opportunities related to the mobilization of private capital in conservation. There is a critically important role for the development of consistent and accountable frameworks to guide project design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation while also ensuring equitable and beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders. Scientists and practitioners in the social and ecological sciences, as well as law and finance fields, can shape these rapidly growing initiatives by helping to:


  1. Design investable projects with meaningful conservation impacts.
  2. Develop rigorous but flexible frameworks to standardize metrics and monitoring protocols, compare project and investment outcomes, and track progress towards global targets.
  3. Establish safeguards, protocols, and ethics for engaging local stakeholders.
  4. Create blueprints to facilitate the design of projects that allow investors to generate economic returns while ensuring positive, sustainable outcomes for the environment.
  5. Reconsider existing financial vehicles and structures of investment projects to improve flexibility, performance, and salience for stakeholders.”