Return on Conservation™ Index: Overcoming Industry Barriers in Conservation

-Joni Carswell

In 2022, 97% of top executives across the world said climate change is expected to impact company strategy and operations.

Of the same executives who said climate change would impact company strategy and operations, 24% said difficulty measuring environmental impact is a key obstacle to driving sustainability efforts, followed by 19% claiming efforts were “too costly” and finally, 18% indicating that near-term business issues take precedence. 

Speaking the Same Language
Our work at the intersection of business and conservation made it clear that the metrics and reporting gap could be bridged by providing simple, standard solutions to all three of these obstacles. Similar to the global survey data, every executive conversation we had indicated a willingness to address climate issues but also reporting and data barriers to decision-making and adoption. Enter the global framework developed by the United Nations (UN).

Decades of international work by the UN led to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. These goals serve as a framework for the globe to strive for in addressing sustainable development** and climate action.

The development of the Texan by Nature Return on Conservation™ Index (ROC™ Index) came in part from recognizing these goals as an opportunity to bridge language gaps as well as the reporting and metrics barriers between business and conservation. Businesses, governments, and other stakeholders worldwide are looking to align their sustainability strategies to a standard framework such as the UN SDGs. With a viable, standard framework, the focus can be placed on verifiable metrics and consistent reporting. 

Conservation organizations already possess the scientific expertise and evaluation methodologies to provide data and metrics addressing goals like good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land etc.

Consider UN SDG Goal 13, Climate Action. Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler Texas Longleaf Team’s longleaf pine restoration has maintained, enhanced, and restored over 17,527 hectares of longleaf pine over 4 years. This boots-on-the-ground local conservation project’s impact on Climate Action equals approximately 10.9 million metric tons of carbon sequestered since their origin. Local conservation doesn’t simply address one goal. TLT’s project is multi-faceted and its impact extends into Decent Work and Economic Growth, providing local jobs and diversified income streams for landowners and even Zero Hunger impacting 1,816 native vegetation species

Data Drives Decisions
Despite their impactful environmental, economic, and social returns, investments in local conservation projects are often boxed out of corporate sustainability portfolios. The reality is that with limited dollars to invest in ESG* or philanthropic giving, decision-makers allocate capital to the investments with measurable impact, verifiable data, and clearly articulated returns, which are often simply current business needs.

The Texan by Nature ROC™ Index provides measurable and verifiable data to report on a project’s impact with detailed reporting standards. It demonstrates the economic returns realized through conservation investments that may be seen as “too costly” without a return value next to them. It aligns the project to the globe’s most pressing goals for sustainable development and articulates a project’s value to a company’s broader strategy.

Conservation organizations with limited resources most often allocate their budgets to on-the-ground projects, leaving end-of-project metrics capture and full economic analysis in the balance. But the return data is the door.

“In addition to the sustainability side, you also want to be able to tap into the operational side of the organization, driven by revenue, profitability, and risk mitigation. If you can show business value across these aspects, and make a business case for nature-based solutions to the broader scope of the company, now you’re leveraging a greater conduit of support” 

Edwin Pinero President of EcoMetrics, LLC at the 2021 Conservation Summit

Texan by Nature partnered with EcoMetrics in the creation of the ROC Index in order to fully open the door between conservation and industry, to provide the full environmental + business case, evaluated by each UN SDG goal for a conservation initiative. This level of reporting simplifies the dialogue between conservation and industry and removes the reporting and cost barriers highlighted by corporate executives.The global threat of climate change and the worldwide effort to address this threat has evolved industry sustainability strategy from good for PR to good for the business bottom line.

ESG and the Sustainable Development System
Industry ESG strategies today are sophisticated and recognize what conservation organizations have long advocated: pollution, waste, resource depletion, and environmental degradation lead to economic losses and compromise future prosperity. Rather than function as separate entities working on the same targets, we believe that the ROC™ Index connects conservation to investors, to the public, and to the international community by comprehensively demonstrating project impact with verifiable data, showing its economic value and presenting it through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Local Conservation on a Global Scale
Meaningful conservation is collaborative, backed by metrics, and is driven by science-based strategy put into action. With common language, metrics, and data comes less risk. With less risk come larger investments. With larger investments, local conservation and nature-based-solutions to combat global problems like climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, and sustainable development can be modeled, scaled, and replicated across the globe.

*ESG: Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria are a set of standards for investors and company strategy. Environmental criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing environmental issues. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights. These areas are used in the same phrase, however, they are at different phases of implementation maturity

**Sustainable Development: Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.