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.
CI's work focuses on science, policy, and partnership with businesses and communities. The organization employs more than 1,000 people and works with more than 2,000 partners in 30 countries. CI has helped support 1,200 protected areas and interventions across 77 countries, safeguarding more than 601 million hectares of land, marine and coastal areas.
|Founder||Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann|
|Focus||Climate change, freshwater security, health, food security, biodiversity, cultural services|
M. Sanjayan, Ph.D. (CEO)|
Jennifer Morris (President)
Sebastian Troeng, Ph.D. (Executive Vice President)
Peter A. Seligmann (Chairman of the Board)
Rob Walton (Executive Committee Chairman)
Harrison Ford (Vice Chair)
|FY 2016: $212 million|
|1,000 in 30 countries|
Conservation International was founded in 1987 with the goal of protecting nature for the benefit of people.
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.
As of FY 2016, CI's revenue totaled $212 million.
On July 1, 2017, Peter Seligmann stepped down as CEO of CI and a new executive team made up of senior CI leadership was announced. Conservation scientist M. Sanjayan was named chief executive officer; Jennifer Morris, formerly chief operating officer, was named president; and Sebastian Troeng, formerly senior vice president of the Americas Field Division, was named executive vice president. Peter Seligmann will remain Chairman of the Board.
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.
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.
As of FY2014, CI's expenses totaled more than US $135.3 million.
CI receives high ratings from philanthropic watchdog organizations, with an A rating from Charity Watch. Charity Navigator awarded CI a score of 92.28 out of 100 for accountability and transparency.
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 30 countries. It also relies heavily on thousands of local partners.
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. CI supported 23 Pacific Island nations and territories in the formation of the Pacific Oceanscape, a framework to conserve and sustainably manage over 15 million square miles of sea in the South Pacific. 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.
The organization has been active in United Nations discussions on issues such as climate change and biodiversity, 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."
A few years after its founding, CI began working with McDonald's to implement sustainable agriculture and conservation projects in Central America. 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.
CI has been criticized for links to companies such as BP, Cargill, Chevron, Monsanto and Shell. CI has defended its work with the private sector, arguing that change requires working with corporations that have large environmental impacts.
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." CI has touted its operations in Papua New Guinea, claiming that they have contributed to new scientific discoveries and the establishment of new protected areas.
In 2011, Conservation International was targeted by a group of reporters from Don't Panic TV who posed as an American company and asked if the charity could "raise [their] green profile." Options outlined by the representative of Conservation International (CI) included assisting with the company's green PR efforts, membership of a business forum in return for a fee, and sponsorship packages where the company could potentially invest money in return for being associated with conservation activities. Conservation International agreed to help the company find an "endangered species mascot". Film footage shows the Conservation International employee suggesting a vulture and North African birds of prey as a possible endangered species mascot for the company. 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.
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 known as the Western Kgalagadi Conservation Corridor. A Botswana government representative denied this. 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.