Stanford Social Innovation Review : Informing and inspiring leaders of social change



Response to "Making Conservation Finance Investable"

It is important to help impact investors understand the scope and opportunity of conservation financing.

Government and donor funding alone will not be able to take on the environmental and climate change challenges we face today, so it is a promising development that “impact investing” is embracing environmental investments.

Environmental investing is not new. For more than 30 years, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (where I work) has used loans and investments to help preserve important landscapes and ecosystems. In recent years, we have worked with a range of conservation partners and other like-minded mission-driven investors to create new financial vehicles for a wide variety of conservation impacts. These investment vehicles are scaling sustainable forestry and rangeland operations, supporting the development of carbon and water credits to fund environmental restoration, building environmental certification systems to influence markets, and growing environmentally sustainable fishing enterprises to help restore our oceans. And these are just some of the examples.

Yet environmental and conservation investing was omitted from the seminal 2010 Rockefeller Foundation and JP Morgan report that first publicized the term “impact investing” and helped build the field. The newly released Credit Suisse/WWF/ McKinsey report—which Fabian Huwyler, Juerg Kaeppeli, Katharina Serafimova, Eric Swanson, and John Tobin write about in their article—is an important step in helping impact investors to understand the full scope and opportunity of conservation investing. As a next step, the Packard and Gordon and Betty Moore foundations are working with The Nature Conservancy, JP Morgan Chase, and EKO in 2014 to further document the specific scope and types of future conservation investment opportunities. Stay tuned.

A note of caution: As environmental investing grows, we as investors will need to become more careful in how we identify and measure conservation impacts and be vigilant against “greenwashing” and the so-called “impact imposters.” As one step, our foundation worked in 2013 with a group of investment and nonprofit partners to build out IRIS conservation metrics. We hope that impact investors will use and refine them.

As we seek new sources to supplement traditional government funding for conservation, philanthropic investors like ourselves are increasingly “reaching across the aisle.” We are finding win-win-win partnerships, for example by co-investing with private equity and other financially-driven investors to restore the environment and combat climate change.

These multi-tiered projects and funds can be complicated and challenging, especially during this learning phase in the industry. But we must persevere. We must ensure that the environmental investments we make are structured to create deep and lasting conservation impacts that we can be proud of.

Read the rest of the responses.

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  • James Cook's avatar

    BY James Cook

    ON April 23, 2014 09:51 PM

    How is Melissa Bos connected to theft of conservation funds under conservation international?

  • Joann Trennis's avatar

    BY Joann Trennis

    ON April 23, 2014 10:06 PM

    It is understood that Melissa Bos illegally misallocated funds for conservation projects in Hawaii for her own personal use, including fraud, including employing and coercing staff to perform babysitting for her children as well as housekeeping, while paying them a salary from project funds. Employees spoke up and revealed this behavior. Melissa Bos and conservation international then made an agreement that she would quietly step away from her lucrative program in exchange for them not pressing criminal charges. Immediately after Melissa Bos received her bonus, or keep quite money, she escaped to Australia leaving behind a tarnished reputation, and valudated mistrust. She violated the trust of the a Hawaiian people, for money. Where did all the conservation money go? There was something like $10 million us dollars involved. Why do we spend money on conservation finance projects when corruption within the conservation finance community like that of Melissa Bos is so rank!

  • Joshua K.'s avatar

    BY Joshua K.

    ON April 23, 2014 10:18 PM

    Please, don’t let Melissa Bos involvement in finance fraud tarnish the respected work and characters of the likes of Joe Whitworth and Susan Silver. Sometimes people like Melissa Bos do awful terrible and selfish things that have impacts on those whose motives are honest and heartfelt. I can assure you that Melissa Bos and her involvement with conservation international and her global fish trust strategy in Hawaii it’ll finance of conservation systems is an isolated incedent. Please, know the facts as it pertains to her and conservation international internal workings, and don’t punish the community. I call for more transparency of organizations that harbor these individuals, as these organizations have tremendous resources and financial clout. Thank you,
    Joshua K.

  • Joshua K.'s avatar

    BY Joshua K.

    ON April 23, 2014 10:27 PM

    Ricardo, what exactly did Melissa Bos do, and what can it tell us about the complexities of financial system influence on resource management? Specifically, are there sufficient safeguards in place to protect the interests of stakeholders from corporate conservation and financial interests if those who so cheaply buy there way through the proverbial back door?

  • Jeff Hamaoui's avatar

    BY Jeff Hamaoui

    ON July 24, 2014 11:49 AM

    Making Conservation Finance Investable

    If corruption of an individual in a specific financial institution was just cause not to do finance we would have to shut down every single financial institution in the US - probably in the world. 

    Focusing on the role of conservation finance in an age of ever decreasing environmental assets is the critical issue here.  The authors have done a terrific job in beginning to compile a conservation finance playbook for exploration in this area…

    What matters from here is how we create the tools and market processes to meaningfully connect the environment into the marketplace.  Building on that idea - I have been recently been inspired by some work done by Alex Dehgan at Duke who has posited that ‘conservation’ will need to shift towards the nexus between new technology innovation, entrepreneurship and finance innovation…

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