Conservation International (CI) is an American nonprofit environmental organization headquartered in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia. Its mission is to spotlight and secure the critical benefits that nature provides to humanity, such as food, fresh water, livelihoods and a stable climate.
CI's work focuses on science, policy and partnership with businesses, governments and communities. The organization employs nearly 1,000 people and works with more than 2,000 partners in 29 countries. CI has helped support 1,200 protected areas and interventions across 77 countries, protecting more than 2,321,000 square miles (6,010,000 km2) of land, marine and coastal areas.
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 36 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.
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 and Sebastian Troeng, formerly senior vice president of the Americas Field Division, was named executive vice president. Peter Seligmann remains Chairman of the Board.
Growth and mission shift
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. In recent decades, CI has expanded its work beyond hotspots, with a stronger focus on science, corporate partnership, conservation funding, indigenous peoples, government, and marine conservation, among other things.
As of FY2018, CI's expenses totaled more than US $147 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. 3
Approach to conservation
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 nearly 30 countries. It also relies heavily on thousands of local partners.
CI focuses on four strategic priorities: protecting nature for climate; ocean conservation at scale; promoting nature-based economic development; and innovation in science and finance.
CI works with governments, universities, NGOs and the private sector with the aim of replicating its 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. For example, 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. On a per-paper basis, Conservation International’s scientific output research is among the most influential of any conservation organization in the U.S., and ahead of top research universities and other NGOs.
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.
- CEO: M. Sanjayan, Ph.D.
- Executive Vice President: Sebastian Troeng, Ph.D.
- Chairman of the Board: Peter Seligmann
- Chairman of the Executive Committee: Wesley G. Bush
- Vice Chair: Harrison Ford
- Chairperson: Katie Vogelheim
- Vice Chairperson: Daniel A. Shaw
- Lisa Anderson
- Sarah E. Johnson
- Nancy Morgan Ritter
- Jeff Rosenthal
- Paint It Wild: Paint & See Activity Book (Discover The Rainforest, Vol. 1) (1991), introduction by Mike Roberts and Russell Mittermeier, written by Gad Meiron and Randall Stone, illustrated by Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer
- Sticker Safari: Sticker And Activity Book (Discover The Rainforest, Vol. 2) (1991), introduction by Mike Roberts and Russell Mittermeier, written by Gad Meiron and Randall Stone, illustrated by Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer
- Wonders In The Wild: Activity Book (Discover The Rainforest, Vol. 3) (1991), introduction by Mike Roberts and Russell Mittermeier, written by Gad Meiron and Randall Stone, illustrated by Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer
- Ronald McDonald and the Jewel of the Amazon Kingdom: Storybook (Discover The Rainforest, Vol. 4) (1991), introduction by Mike Roberts and Russell Mittermeier, written by Gad Meiron and Randall Stone, illustrated by Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer
- Conservation International - Official site
- Global Symposium 2006 Madagascar
- Defying Ocean's End, A Conservation International led Agenda for Action in ocean conservation
- Charity Navigator Evaluation by America's premier independent charity evaluator
- Youtube video Al Gore explaining the need for more action on climate change
- Deep Sea Conservation Coalition - A union of 60+ international organizations working towards biodiversity conservation on the high seas.
- Reserva Ecologica Pachijal - A Conservation effort in the Cloudforest of Mindo-Ecuador