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Impact Investing in Conservation - Report

3 December 2014 at 8:56 am
Lina Caneva
An inaugural global survey of conservation impact investing has revealed a fast-growing market totaling approximately $US23 billion over a five-year period.

Lina Caneva | 3 December 2014 at 8:56 am


Impact Investing in Conservation - Report
3 December 2014 at 8:56 am

An inaugural global survey of conservation impact investing has revealed a fast-growing market totaling approximately $US23 billion over a five-year period.

From 2009-2013 private investments accounted for almost $2 billion of this market—an amount that is growing at an average of 26 percent annually, and is expected to reach more than $5.6 billion by 2018, according to the Nature Conservancy survey.

Investing in Conservation: A landscape assessment of an emerging market is described as the first data-driven study of the market for conservation-related investments based on direct feedback from investors.

Conservation investments, also referred to as conservation impact investments, are intended to return principal or generate profit while driving a positive impact on natural resources and ecosystems.

The report was co-authored by EKO Asset Management Partners and The Nature Conservancy’s NatureVest division. It was overseen by a steering committee that also included the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The report presents findings from a survey of 56 investors, including five for-profit and Not for Profit development finance institutions (DFIs) and 51 private investment organisations.

The report shows that private investments in this space are expected to more than triple over the next five years (2014-2018). However, the report also finds that a substantial amount of potential private capital has not been deployed, demonstrating the need for a significant increase in the number of risk adjusted investment opportunities.

According to the survey findings, the approximately $23 billion committed to conservation impact investments from 2009-2013 was invested in three main categories:

  • Water quantity and quality conservation, including investments in watershed protection, water conservation and storm water management, and trading in credits related to watershed management

  • Sustainable food and fiber production, including investments in sustainable agriculture, timber production, aquaculture, and wild-caught fisheries
  • Habitat conservation, including investments in the protection of shorelines to reduce coastal erosion, projects to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), land easements, and mitigation banking

Other key findings include:

  • Private investors expect to deploy $1.5 billion of already-raised capital over the next five years, and to raise and invest an additional $4.1 billion

  • Of the nearly $2 billion already invested by private investors, 80 percent came from only 10 sources

  • The total market for conservation investment is expected to increase to $37.1 billion over the next five years

  • Of the three categories of conservation investment studied, DFIs invested largely in water quality and quantity projects ($15 billion), while private investors invested largely in sustainable food and fiber production (about $1.2 billion)

  • Survey respondents noted a shortage of investable projects and opportunities, indicating that they need more deals with adequate risk-return ratios and more seasoned management teams

The report said impact investment is one way to address the critical global deficit in conservation funding.

An estimated $300 billion annually is needed to meet the world’s conservation challenges, according to a Global Canopy Programme report. Yet current levels of investment, mainly from Governments, multilateral agencies, and philanthropic sources, total only about $50 billion.

To address the shortage of conservation impact investment opportunities, the study co-authors say they are working to structure conservation opportunities that can be supported by private capital.

In 2014, with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Conservancy launched NatureVest, a dedicated division focused on deploying $1 billion in impact capital for conservation over the next three years by convening investors, developing and executing innovative financial transactions, and building an investment pipeline across multiple sectors.

Survey respondents provided information about their impact investments from a five-year period, 2009-2013, including intended conservation impact, size and type of investment, target internal rate of return, and performance to date.

Respondents were also asked about the structures of their investment portfolios in the period from 2004 to 2008, and their perceptions of and long-term visions for the future market for conservation-related impact investing.

The report shows the growth of the market for conservation impact investing and its authors anticipate the findings will lead investors who were not able to be counted in this survey to share their portfolio activity in future work.

“Impact investing is gaining huge attention recently—yet the environmental side of impact investing remains under-represented and understudied, especially as compared to the more established social investing sector,” Manager of Program-Related Investments, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation,  Susan Phinney Silver said.

“This report came together with the goal of helping impact investors understand future conservation investment opportunities and partnership opportunities across investor classes.”

“Our report puts real numbers to what we’ve long suspected: Private investors are deploying more capital than before toward investments that lead to both greater conservation and a definable financial return. But more needs to be done,” EKO Asset Management Partner and co-author of the report, Ricardo Bayon said.

“What the report tells us is that this is not a money problem. The money is out there. It is about courage, ingenuity, and creativity. It is about coming up with appropriate financeable deals. If we’re successful, it will mean that billions of new dollars will flow into efforts to improve sustainable food supplies, protect habitats, and achieve water conservation around the world.”

The Nature Conservancy is a major conservation organisation with more than 1 million members.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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