Conservation International

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Conservation International
Source: Conservation International, Owner: Conservation InternationalOriginal Designer: Chermayeff & Geismar
Founded 1987
Founder Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann
Focus Climate change, freshwater security, health, food security, biodiversity, cultural services
Product Global Conservation Fund
Key people
Peter A. Seligmann (Chairman & CEO)
Rob Walton (Executive Committee Chairman)
Gary Edson (President)
Jennifer Morris (Chief Operating Officer)
FY 2010: $77.8 million
FY 2009: $116.1 million

Conservation International (CI) is an American nonprofit environmental organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Its goal is to protect nature as a source of food, fresh water, livelihoods and a stable climate.[1]

CI’s work focuses on science, policy, and partnership with businesses and communities. The organization employs more than 1,000 people and works with 2,000+ partners in more than 30 countries.[2] CI has helped establish 1,000 protected areas across 77 countries and protected more than 612 million hectares of land, marine and coastal areas.[3]


Conservation International was founded in 1987 with the aim of analyzing the problems most dangerous or harmful to nature and building a foundation dedicated to solving these issues on a global scale. This model:-

  • detects the problems most threatening to nature,
  • prevents the industry side of the world from being detrimental to nature,
  • ensures the knowledge the institution has acquired over its first twenty five years is shared with governments and, in doing so,
  • establishes policies within these countries that serve as a great benefit to people and nature.

In CI's first year, the organization purchased a portion of Bolivia's foreign debt. The money was then redirected to support conservation in the Beni Biosphere Reserve. Since this first-ever debt-for-nature swap, more than $1 billion of similar deals have been made around the world.[4]

In 1989, CI formally committed to the protection of biodiversity hotspots, ultimately identifying 34 such hotspots around the world and contributing to their protection. The model of protecting hotspots became a key way for organizations to do conservation work.[5]

Growth and mission shift[edit]

In the subsequent two decades, CI expanded its work, with a stronger focus on science, corporate partnership, conservation funding, indigenous peoples, government, and marine conservation, among other things.[6]

The organization’s leadership grew to believe that CI's focus on biodiversity conservation was inadequate to protect nature and those who depended on it. CI updated its mission in 2008 to focus explicitly on the connections between human well-being and natural ecosystems. Currently CI's environmental work focuses on key areas of interest for human well-being: climate change, freshwater security, health, food security, biodiversity, and cultural services.[7]

This new mission places CI at the intersection of traditional conservation work and development work — in other words, in the sustainable development community. According to the organization’s website, CI now seeks "... to make conservation a cornerstone of economic development to benefit everyone, everywhere."[8]

As of FY10, CI's expenses totaled more than US $138.8 million.[9]

CI receives high ratings from philanthropic watchdog organizations, with an A rating from Charity Watch.[10] Charity Navigator awarded CI a score of 100 out of 100 for accountability and transparency.[11]

Approach to conservation[edit]

The foundation of CI's work is "science, partnership, and field demonstration." The organization has scientists, policy workers, and other conservationists on the ground in more than two dozen countries on five continents. It also relies heavily on hundreds of local partners.[9]

The stated aim of CI’s field work is to find local successes that benefit both people and nature. For example, the creation of "no-take zones" for fish might have a short-term deleterious impact on fishermen; but ultimately, they increase fish populations, helping both marine ecosystems and the local economy.[12]

CI works with governments, universities, NGOs and the private sector with the aim of replicating these successes on a larger scale. By showing how conservation can work at all scales, CI aims to make the protection of nature a key consideration in economic development decisions around the world.[13] CI supported 15 national governments in the formation of the Pacific Oceanscape, a management plan for the conservation of 24 million square miles of sea from Hawaii to New Zealand. In addition to the sustainable management of ocean resources, the agreement includes the world's largest marine protected areas and sanctuaries for whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks.[14]

The organization has been active in United Nations discussions on issues such as climate change[15] and biodiversity,[16] and its scientists present at international conferences and workshops. Its United States policy work currently highlights "a direct connection between international conservation and America's economic and national security interests."[17]

A few years after its founding, CI began working with McDonald’s to implement sustainable agriculture and conservation projects in Central America.[18] The organization expanded its commitment to working with the business sector in 2000, when it created the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business with support from the Ford Motor Company.[19]


CI has been criticised for links to companies with a poor environmental record such as BP, Cargill, Chevron, Monsanto and Shell and for allegedly offering greenwashing services.[20][21]

A 2008 article in The Nation claimed that the organization had attracted $6 million for marine conservation in Papua New Guinea, but that the funds were used for "little more than plush offices and first class travel."[22]

In 2011, Conservation International was targeted by a group of reporters from Don't Panic TV who posed as an American arms company and asked if the charity could "raise [their] green profile." Options outlined by the representative of Conservation International (CI) included assisting with the arms company's green PR efforts, membership of a business forum in return for a fee, and sponsorship packages where the arms company could potentially invest money in return for being associated with conservation activities. Conservation International agreed to help the arms company find an "endangered species mascot." Film footage shows the Conservation International employee suggesting a vulture North African birds of prey as a possible endangered species mascot for the arms company.[23][24] CI contends that these recordings were heavily edited to remove elements that would have cast CI in a more favorable light, while using other parts of the video out of context to paint an inaccurate and incomplete picture of CI’s work with the private sector.[25]

In March 2012 The Phnom Penh Post reported that forest rangers appointed by Conservation International had accepted bribes, and that a CI employee who brought this to the attention of CI was fired.[26]

In May and June 2013, Survival International reported that an indigenous Bushman tribe in Botswana was threatened with eviction from their ancestral land in order to create a wildlife corridor[27] known as the Western Kgalagadi Conservation Corridor.[28] A Botswana government representative denied this.[29] A May press release from CI said, "Contrary to recent reports, Conservation International (CI) has not been involved in the implementation of conservation corridors in Botswana since 2011", and asserted that CI had always supported the San Bushmen and their rights.[30]


  • Chairman and CEO: Peter Seligmann[31][32]
  • President: Gary Edson,[33] a former American government official and entrepreneur. He most recently served as Chief Executive Officer of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that concluded operations in late 2012.[32][34]
  • Chief Operating Officer: Jennifer Morris[32]
  • Chairman of the Executive Committee: Rob Walton, chairman of the board, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.[32]
  • Vice Chairs: Harrison Ford, actor[35] and André Esteves, CEO, Banco BTG Pactual S/A, São Paulo, Brazil.[32][36]
  • Executive Vice Chair, Dr. Russell Mittermeier[32][37]


  1. ^ "About Us". Conservation International. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  2. ^ "CI's Global Mission". Gotham Magazine. Retrieved 2015-10-19. 
  3. ^ "About". CI. Retrieved 2015-10-19. 
  4. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from the Congressional Research Service document "Debt-for-Nature Initiatives and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act: Status and Implementation" by Pervaze A. Sheikh (retrieved on 2012-02-02).
  5. ^ Roach, John. "Conservationists Name Nine New "Biodiversity Hotspots"". National Geographic. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ "Conservation International Celebrates 25 Years of Groundbreaking Accomplishments". Ecowatch. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ "Initiatives". Conservation International. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  8. ^ "New Logo for a New Mission". Conservation International. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  9. ^ a b "Hand in Hand: Conservation International Annual Report 2010" (PDF). Conservation International. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  10. ^ "Conservation International". Charity Watch. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  11. ^ "Conservation International". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  12. ^ Brown, Emily. "A Sight to Behold: Abrolhos Marine National Park". Sounds and Colors. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  13. ^ "Conservation International: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation". Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  14. ^ "IUCN Member News: Pacific Island Leaders Unite". IUCN. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  15. ^ Biello, David. "Cancun Talks Yield Climate Compromise". Scientific American. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  16. ^ Walsh, Bryan (2010-10-29). "Wildlife: Nations Agree on a Historic Deal for Biodiversity in Nagoya". TIME. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  17. ^ "United States Government Policy". Conservation International. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  18. ^ "Corporate Partnership -- McDonald's". Conservation International. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  19. ^ Snell, Marilyn Berlin (November–December 2001). "Lay of the Land". Sierra. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  20. ^ Conservation International 'agreed to greenwash arms company'. The Ecologist. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  21. ^ The Wrong Kind of Green. The Nation (2010-03-04). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  22. ^ The Wrong Path to Conservation | International. The Investigative Fund. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  23. ^ Conservation International 'agreed to greenwash arms company'
  24. ^ Conservation International Duped By Militant Greenwash Pitch
  25. ^ Seligmann, Peter (2011-05-19). "Partnerships for the Planet: Why We Must Engage Corporations". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-02-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  26. ^ "Blind eye to forest’s plight", Phnom Penh Post 26 March 2012
  27. ^ Bushmen face imminent eviction for ‘wildlife corridor’. Survival International. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  28. ^ "Conservation Corridors in South-western Botswana" (PDF). Conservation International. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  29. ^ "Botswana denies plans to 'evict' Bushmen". 2013-05-27. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  30. ^ "Statement of Conservation International on Alleged Relocations of San People in Botswana". Conservation International. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ a b c d e f
  33. ^ Gary Edson
  34. ^ Gary Edson#cite note-2
  35. ^
  36. ^ André Esteves
  37. ^ Russell Mittermeier

External links[edit]