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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Impact Investing Innovation: Conservation Finance

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Conservation finance is a relatively new concept in impact investing circles that looks to create financial returns from conservation activities. The Freshwater Trust is a key player in this promising financial arena.

Traditionally, most money spent on conservation comes from governments. Some additional philanthropic dollars are also invested in the space. About 75 to 80 percent of the annual $300 to $400 million required to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems globally is unmet.

Folks like Joe Whitworth, President of the Freshwater Trust, believe that tapping in to investment dollars is the only way to cover the huge shortfall.

In a statement, the Trust provided an example:

The Trust has developed a natural system for cooling Pacific Northwest river water (important for salmon) that places great value in the quantifiable properties and benefits of each project. It works like this: Waste water from facilities that treat wastewater is often heated to kill bacteria, but the water is too warm to be discharged directly into the river and must first be cooled to protect fish. Local companies and governments often build expensive cooling systems, but it is easier—and cheaper—to cool the river with shade planted by local landowners. For half the price, The Freshwater Trust can cool twice the amount of water, while protecting riverbanks from erosion and developing new habitats for animals.

On Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Whitworth will join me for a live discussion about their financial innovation. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter.]

More about The Freshwater Trust:

If we don’t change direction, we’ll end up where we’re headed.

Given the trends of freshwater indicators and wild fish populations, it has become clear that the traditional conservation methods engaged over the last quarter century are proving inadequate to demands placed on our ecosystems. The system of laws, procedures and funding — while providing key protections and needed building blocks — has become badly fragmented at a time when we cannot afford to be anything less than efficient. Bulwarks intended to thwart reckless extraction have grown into barriers to restoration.

We have all the ingredients for success: willing landowners, well-intended agencies, capable locals and millions of dollars of annual investment, and yet we are not gaining ground.

We must change course.

The Freshwater Trust builds and implements the tools and methods that can accelerate results for our freshwater ecosystems. As you look through these pages, you will notice our take on conservation is decidedly not more of the same. Whether technology, mergers or non-traditional ways to fund philanthropic work, this ain’t your grandparents’ conservation group — we are interested in doing what it takes to get results on the ground. We’re not a think-tank, we’re a “do-tank”, and our singular focus is to provide the platform for practical conservation. At scale.

Whitworth’s bio:

Informed by his 20+ years of NGO work, Joe is focused on the next generation of conservation tools that can leverage technology and finance to accelerate the pace and scale of restoring freshwater ecosystems. A patented inventor and an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow, he was also founding board chair of the Council for Responsible Sport.

Throughout his career, Joe has served as a formal adviser on issues ranging from agriculture, climate, finance, salmon, and water at both the state and regional levels. He holds a J.D. from Lewis & Clark College, and an A.B. from Dartmouth College. When not exploring new water, Portland, Oregon serves as home base for him and his family.

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