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Conservation International
Founded1987; 36 years ago (1987)
FounderLewis Bee and Peter Seligmann
Focusclimate change, marine conservation, sustainable development, conservation science, conservation finance
Key people
  • M. Sanjayan, Ph.D. (CEO)
  • Sebastian Troeng, Ph.D. (Executive Vice President of Conservation Partnerships)
  • Daniela Raik, Ph.D. (Executive Vice President Field Programs)
  • Peter Seligmann (Chairman of the Board)
  • Wes Bush (Executive Committee Chairman)
  • Harrison Ford (Vice Chair)
FY 2020: $163 million[1]
1,000 in 28 countries

Conservation International (CI) is an American nonprofit environmental organization headquartered in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia.[2]

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.[3][4] CI has helped support 1,200 protected areas and interventions across 77 countries, protecting more than 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) of land and sea.[5]


Conservation International was founded in 1987 with the goal of protecting nature for the benefit of people.[6]

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.[7]

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. Sebastian Troeng is executive vice president of conservation partnerships, and Daniela Raik is executive vice president of field programs. Peter Seligmann remains chairman of the board. [8]

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. Since then, the organization has expanded its work with a stronger focus on marine conservation; scientific research; conservation finance; and partnerships with governments, corporations and Indigenous and local communities. [9]

In FY2020, CI's expenses totaled more than US$154 million.[10]

CI receives high ratings from philanthropic watchdog organizations, with an A rating from Charity Watch.[11] Charity Navigator awarded CI a 100% score for accountability and transparency.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] For example, through its partnerships with governments and coastal communities, CI has helped to protect more than 5 million square kilometers (13 million square miles) of ocean area while also improving the management of sustainable fisheries and restoring mangroves, which mitigate the impacts of climate change.[16] The Blue Nature Alliance, a global initiative launched by CI and partners in 2020, aims to protect an additional 18 million square kilometers (7 million square miles) of ocean area.[17]

The organization has been active in United Nations discussions on issues such as climate change[18] and biodiversity,[19] 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.[20] To date, Conservation International has published more than 1,100 peer-reviewed articles, many in leading journals like Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[21]

Conservation International works in partnership with some of the world's most prominent companies to reduce their impact on the environment and support the protection of nature. CI is working with Starbucks, Walmart, P&G and Apple, among others.[22] In 2020, CI began a new partnership with Mastercard and World Resources Institute (WRI) to support the Priceless Planet Coalition in its goal to restore 100 million trees in critical forests around the world.[23]


CI has been criticized for links to companies such as BP, Cargill, Chevron, Monsanto and Shell.[24][25] CI has defended its work with the private sector, arguing that change requires working with corporations that have large environmental impacts.[26]

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."[27] 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.[28] As of 2016, CI no longer works directly in Papua New Guinea.[29]

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.[30][31] 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.[32]

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[33] known as the Western Kgalagadi Conservation Corridor.[34] A Botswana government representative denied this.[35] 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.[36]



Leadership Council




  1. ^ "2020 Annual Report". Conservation International. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  2. ^ "About Us". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  3. ^ "CI's Global Mission". Gotham Magazine. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
  4. ^ "2020 Annual Report". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  5. ^ "About Us". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  6. ^ "Huffington Post post by Peter Seligmann". HuffPost. 19 April 2012.
  7. ^ Roach, John. "Conservationists Name Nine New "Biodiversity Hotspots"". National Geographic. Archived from the original on April 6, 2005. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  8. ^ "Senior Staff". Conservation International. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  9. ^ "About Us". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  10. ^ "2020 Annual Report". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  11. ^ "Conservation International". Charity Watch. Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  12. ^ "Conservation International". Charity Navigator. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  13. ^ "Conservation International Annual Report 2014" (PDF). Conservation International. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
  14. ^ "About Conservation International". Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  15. ^ "Conservation International: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation". Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  16. ^ "Doubling Ocean Protection". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  17. ^ "Blue Nature Alliance". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  18. ^ Biello, David. "Cancun Talks Yield Climate Compromise". Scientific American. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  19. ^ Walsh, Bryan (2010-10-29). "Wildlife: Nations Agree on a Historic Deal for Biodiversity in Nagoya". Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  20. ^ "2019 Impact Report". Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  21. ^ "Peer-reviewed Journal Articles". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  22. ^ "Our Corporate Engagements". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  23. ^ "Priceless Planet Coalition | Environmental Sustainability Platform". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  24. ^ Conservation International 'agreed to greenwash arms company'. The Ecologist. Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  25. ^ The Wrong Kind of Green. The Nation (2010-03-04). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  26. ^ "Partnerships for the Planet: Why We Must Engage Corporations". HuffPost. 19 May 2011.
  27. ^ Dowie, Mark. "Wrong Path to Conservation in Papua New Guinea | The Nation". The Nation. Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  28. ^ "Community-Driven Conservation in Papua New Guinea".
  29. ^ "In Papua New Guinea, protection of nature hinges on local support". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  30. ^ "Conservation International 'agreed to greenwash arms company'". The Ecologist. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  31. ^ Zeller, Tom Jr. (2011-05-17). "Green Group Duped By Video Sting". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  32. ^ Seligmann, Peter (2011-05-19). "Partnerships for the Planet: Why We Must Engage Corporations". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  33. ^ Bushmen face imminent eviction for 'wildlife corridor'. Survival International. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  34. ^ "Conservation Corridors in South-western Botswana" (PDF). Conservation International. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  35. ^ "Botswana denies plans to 'evict' Bushmen". 2013-05-27. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  36. ^ "Statement of Conservation International on Alleged Relocations of San People in Botswana". Conservation International. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  37. ^ "Senior Staff". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  38. ^ "Senior Staff". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  39. ^ "Senior Staff". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  40. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  41. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  42. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  43. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  44. ^ "Leadership Council". Retrieved 2021-08-24.