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Guide for conservation organisations: how to engage the financial sector?

27 January 2021

Financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies and pension funds hold leverage over the companies and governments they provide money to for projects and activities affecting people and nature. This makes them an important ally for conservation organisations. But how to engage the financial sector? This guide offers practical tools.

The construction of dams, mines and large-scale agricultural operations requires large amounts of money.  Institutional investors such as banks, insurance companies and pension funds are usually the ones who provide that money. They therefore hold leverage over the beneficiaries: if a government or company does not adhere to certain sustainability requirements, the financial institution can raise the issue, or in the worst case, redirect their money.

Preventing harm to people and nature

What many conservation organisations do not realise, is that financial institutions also benefit from preventing damage to people and nature. In addition to being dependent on well-functioning ecosystems in various ways, they face risk when they invest in companies that have a negative impact on people and nature.

Mapping risks

It is not always easy for banks, insurance companies and pension funds to fully identify the risks associated with their investments. Certainly not when it comes to projects in remote areas in faraway countries. Local conservation organisations, on the other hand, often do have reliable information that provides insight into the impact of a particular economic activity.

Engaging the financial sector

Although cooperation between conservationists and financial institutions offers clear advantages, they often do not yet know how to find each other.

To change this, IUCN NL, WWF-NL and the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) have supported civil society organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America in seeking collaboration with parties from the financial sector for the past five years.

Practical guide for conservation organisations

We have summarized the most important lessons from that process in a manual for conservation organisations. The guide covers everything you need to know before approaching a financial institution: how do they operate, which trade-offs do they make around their loans and investments? The guide then presents six concrete steps on how to engage financial institutions.

Download the guide

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More articles by: Sander van Andel