Original Post by Andrew Mengel:
The Biden Administration recently announced their 30×30 plan, a pledge to put 30% of the United States land and water area under conservation by the year 2030. Conservation projects are most typically managed by NGO’s as well as Federal, State, and Local governments. Given the limited resources of many of these organizations, how could conservation projects be supported by private investment? What would it take for private corporations, businesses, and individuals to begin taking action to conserve important ecosystems with the 30×30 goal in mind?
Excellent question! To start, it is necessary to create a unified set of resource needs and projects on which the private sector should be engaged (Joppa 2015). The needs may not only be financial (Joppa 2015). For example, corporations can endorse secondments of scientists, engineers, and program managers that could be personally fulfilling for the employee while furthering the knowledge base of the company (Joppa 2015). Alternatively, corporations and philanthropic organizations could choose to fund a pool of engineering resources to which individuals and institutions from the conservation realm could submit project applications (Joppa 2015). These are just two potential opportunities to gain access to skill sets that are in short supply in the conservation community, and empower the technology industry to develop tomorrow’s consumer technologies by solving today’s nature conservation problems (Joppa 2015).
The companies building the infrastructure of the Information Age particularly have the potential to be powerful allies of the conservation community (Joppa 2015). There are examples demonstrating the industry’s desire to be helpful: Microsoft’s partnership with the IUCN Red List (software to map threats to species around the world), Hewlett-Packard’s ‘Earth Insights’ partnership with Conservation International (analytical software for monitoring threatened species), and Google’s financial donations to NGOs via their Global Impact Awards for anti-poaching technology are just a few (Joppa 2015). However, the business of these corporations is not conservation (Joppa 2015). Not surprisingly, to date most corporate engagements with nature conservation have been philanthropy or societal impact (Joppa 2015). I found a paper in which Max Bourke (2011) discussed private investment in Australia. The author emphasized private support depends on favorable tax treatment for charitable giving (Bourke 2011). Further, public support of tax exemptions for charitable giving depend on perceptions that good work is actually being done with the funds donated by the private sector (Bourke 2011). Still, while useful for raising awareness and funding conservation efforts, there forms of partnership do not typically hinge on what is unique about the technology sector- a drive to innovate through developing new uses of technology for the masses (Joppa 2015). Then, it is important to consider what does nature conservation offer as motivation for the technology industry to get seriously involved in building tools to conserve nature (Joppa 2015). By integrating more fully with the motivations aspects of what drives the technology sector, those working to conserve nature could perhaps benefit from pivoting their messaging away from financial donation for good and toward environmental systems as technology test-beds (Joppa 2015). Argued successfully, that strategy has the potential to lead to long-term partnerships where the voice of the conservation community is taken seriously in not only the application, but also the design, of future technologies (Joppa 2015).
Bourke, Max. 2011. “Private Investment in Biodiversity Conservation. A Growing Trend in the Western World?” Global Environment. 4(7/8): 38-49.
Joppa, Lucas. 2015. “Technology for nature conservation: An Industry Perspective”. Ambio. 44(4): 522-526.