Taken in Mar de Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico. —Cecilia Simon, 2014 Fellow


Resources about the practice of market-based conservation.

The Conservation Finance Alliance released a major report last year called Conservation Trust Funds 2020: Global Vision – Local Action. Viviana Luján Gallegos, 2015 Kinship Fellow, acted as co-author of the impressive document while 2013 Fellow Camila Monteiro served on the Task Force. We caught up with Viviana and Camilla to get the skinny on this supersized report on CTFs.

The Conservation Finance Alliance released a major report last year called Conservation Trust Funds 2020: Global Vision – Local Action. Viviana Luján Gallegos, 2015 Kinship Fellow, acted as co-author of the impressive document while 2013 Fellow Camila Monteiro served on the Task Force. We caught up with Viviana and Camilla to get the skinny on this supersized report on CTFs.

* The authors have used CTFs instead of EFTs, as CTF is the more widely used term globally, while ETF is more common in North America.


Who should read Conservation Trust Funds 2020. Global Vision – Local Action?


Camila: Anyone interested in understanding the role of CTFs, how they have evolved in the last decade, and trends for the next few years. CTFs are a convening actor that will be more and more needed, as they are able to aggregate significant amounts of resources from different sources and involve the required stakeholders through governance arrangements. It is consensus that increased collaboration and additional funding will be needed in the next decade to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and CTFs can serve as a tool for the financial sustainability of conservation initiatives. The report brings a good overview of the history of these institutions since the nineties, with a focus on the lessons learned and the new frontiers for CTFs to effectively contribute to international commitments.


Viviana: It is a very good resource for a wide range of conservation, climate action, and sustainable development practitioners interested in learning more about a proven mechanism to channel finance for these three interlinked objectives. The report shows the evolution of CTFs from mainly focusing on conservation to engaging in a wider range of financing activities that increasingly cover mitigation and adaptation to climate change and sustainable development. It would also be interesting for sustainability officers in private companies and philanthropic and private investors looking for partners to achieve their SDG ambitions. This report could help them understand the role that CTFs could play as partners to supporting their environmental, climate, and sustainable development programs.  


What are your main highlights from the report?


Camila: For me, it was interesting to read about the importance of endowments to the institutional sustainability and organizational development of CTFs in addition to their role in the permanence of conservation actions. The other interesting finding is the need to strengthen CTFs’ capacities in impact reporting. Another conclusion, more than a finding, that I was glad to see in the report was the essential role the networks of trust funds, such as RedLAC, played in the peer-to-peer learning.


Viviana: One of the interesting aspects of this report is the volume of data analyzed. The report includes:

  • more than 65 interviews with CTF representatives, donors, and stakeholders,
  • a 2020 Global CTF Survey completed by 50 CTFs (approximately half of the total),
  • a review of approximately 300 annual and evaluation reports published by 49 CTFs,
  • and a multi-year analysis of 67 CTF endowments that participated in the Conservation Trust Investment Survey over a 13-year period.

This enabled a quantitative approach to demonstrate the performance and impact of CTFs. For example, we found that the total investable assets of CTFs (endowments and sinking funds combined) are above $1.9 billion, of which at least $1.1 billion has been mobilized since 2009. Furthermore, over the last 10 years, CTFs have disbursed over $2 billion for the programs they support. The analysis of the investment performance of the CTFs over the last 13 years show that, overall, CTFs have significant opportunity to improve their investment management strategies, to increase the return they yield from their endowments. Related to this, and now also part of the Practice Standards for CTFs (2020 update, which was also conducted by the same team in parallel with this report), CTFs have the opportunity to improve the performance of their endowments and increase their impact by aligning their investment strategy with their mission.


We also found that while a majority of CTFs recognize the importance of engaging with the private sector and mobilizing private capital, these are still underdeveloped in the majority of CTFS, and increasing capacities within the CTFs will be key to tackling these opportunities.    

The report also includes five Case Studies on different topics that are relevant for CTFs and people working with conservation in general, which on their own are very worthwhile reading.


What are the new forms used by CTFs to deploy funds for conservation and biodiversity?


Camila & Viviana: The report found that CTFs continue to use grants as the main tool for deploying funds for conservation, where small project-specific grants (<US$100,000) were the most common type of grant instrument. However, there is evidence that trust funds are diversifying their forms of support. Increasingly, funds are starting to manage market-based instruments that direct resources to specific beneficiaries on a regular basis. For example, over the last decade, 17% of the CTFs participated in payment for ecosystems services (PES) schemes focused on carbon storage, biodiversity protection, and freshwater provision. There are also examples of CTFs involved in REDD+ projects and biodiversity mitigation or offset programs.

More incipient is the participation in other return-based instruments, such as equity investments and investments in small and medium productive enterprises (SMEs). Impact investment is high on the priorities for CTFs, either presently or for the future. Some funds are already supporting projects to access impact investors or even investing part of their endowment capital, or the revenues thereof, in for-profit sustainable businesses.


How has COVID-19 affected CFTs?


Camila & Viviana: Trust funds are organizations created with a long-term vision, normally with an endowment fund that is invested to be permanent. In this sense, CTFs have been impacted like every other organization, with the closure of offices, projects being put on hold or having to be adapted from their original design, and the cancelling of meetings and international conferences. However, their design and broad sources of financing, together with very committed and understanding donors, have allowed them to maintain the funding flow to conservation actions. Funds that have adopted investment policies for their endowments with environmental, social, and governance criteria (ESG) aligned with their missions have shown greater resilience to the impact of the crisis.

On the other hand, the COVID-19 crisis may present opportunities for CTFs. As independent organizations, which most of them are, they have proved to be convening actors that could interact with different stakeholders from government to NGOs and the private sector. This characteristic may enable them to participate in the greening of recovery packages, to transform economic models for greater human-ecosystem health, and advance the green and blue economies.


What is your recommendation for Kinship Fellows currently working or partnering with CTFs globally?


Camila: My recommendation for CTFs in general is to think of them as new financial mechanisms that can increase the level of private finance they manage as a way to provide additional monies to the conservation actions in their countries. Today, the major production sectors understand the necessity of investing in sustainable practices to reduce risks related to climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss, and social needs. CTFs can bring these stakeholders to the programs they manage and serve as a tool to channel private resources to new programs.


Viviana: The report provides a good overview, both current and forward-looking, of the main programs and focus areas of CTFs, which could give a starting point to understand where there could be synergies or where fellows can provide added value in their work with CTFs. Similarly, the report highlights a series of areas where CTFs can improve or need to build capacities - areas where fellows could provide additional support from their respective experiences or organizations.


For those Fellows interested in working with a CTF, do they have any recommendations?


Camila: I think that fellows that are interested in working in trust funds should follow RedLAC (www.redlac.org), CAFÉ (https://www.cafeconsortium.org/), and the CFA itself.  These networks keep updated opportunities with the CTFs.


Viviana: In addition to what I mentioned above, if a Fellow’s organization is looking for financing from a CTF, it is important to understand which programs they finance, their strategic approach, and which financing mechanisms each CTF uses to deploy finance. I would say that projects with an innovative finance approach that build capacities in small and medium enterprises towards supporting sustainable business, or that link conservation, climate action, and sustainable development, are probably high on the CTFs agenda.


How many Kinship Fellows do you think have worked with a CTF?


Camila: That I know of, only wonderful women : )

Maria Elena Santana (worked in Fondo Accion in Colombia), Camila Monteiro (I worked in Funbio in Brazil), Ravaka Ranaivoson (worked in Tany Meva in Madagascar), and Cecilia Blasco (worked in the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature).

Viviana: I only know Camila personally.


Any final thoughts?


Viviana: There is one anecdote I would like to add. When my team was considering whether to apply for this consultancy, I contacted Camila (who I didn’t know before) to see whether she wanted to partner with us. Unfortunately, she replied that she was already in the Task Force for the projects. Nevertheless, we ended up working together from our different roles in the project, which was great! It was really a privilege to have her guidance in the projects, as she has great experience in working within and with CTFs. Getting to know each other this way, has also opened the possibility to work together on other initiatives in the future.


Camila Monteiro is a conservation finance consultant with extensive international experience working with conservation trust funds (CTFs). She has been supporting CTFs for the last five years in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, with a focus on governance, strategic planning, grantmaking practices, risk management and resources mobilization. Before that, she worked ten years in Funbio, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, where she participated and led initiatives for two conservation finance networks: the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Environmental Funds (RedLAC) and the Conservation Finance Alliance (CFA). She was the Executive Secretary of RedLAC (from 2008 to 2011), when she coordinated a capacity building program for CTFs of LAC and Africa, organizing workshops and coordinating the production of handbooks and case studies on CTFs’ experiences. She coordinated the CFA secretariat (from 2010 to 2014) and participated in the elaboration of the Practice Standards for CTFs in the first edition (2014) and recently in their review (2020). Camila is a Kinship Conservation Fellow (2013) and an active member of the CFA, being part of the task force on environmental and social risks management. She regularly participates in international conferences and workshops to follow the conservation agenda and has a particular interest for gender mainstreaming in conservation initiatives. Camila is Brazilian and lives in the UK since 2017.


Viviana is an environmental finance lawyer and consultant, with extensive international experience in public-private approaches to biodiversity management and environmental finance. Among others, she has worked on several socio-economic valuations of ecosystem services to support the incorporation of natural capital into decision-making of the private, public and NGO sectors, and has advised a wide range of actors on climate finance and private financial transactions. From 2015 to 2018 she was legal advisor to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

During her most recent work as a partner at the research consulting firm Wolfs Company in Amsterdam, she advised governmental and non-governmental conservation organizations applying the conceptual framework (of her authorship) for sustainable financing 'Eco2Fin'. With it, sustainable financing mechanisms have been identified, evaluated and developed for the management of more than 25 Protected Areas (PAs) in the Greater Caribbean and Central America. Viviana is also a co-author, and was the project leader, of two products recently published by the Conservation Finance Alliance: "Conservation Trust Funds 2020: Global Vision, Local Action" and "2020 Practice Standards for Conservation Trust Funds".

Viviana obtained a Law Degree from the University of Costa Rica and an MSc. in Environment and Resource Management (with an emphasis on environmental economics) from the VU University of Amsterdam. Viviana also completed the Financing for Biodiversity course, sponsored by the BIOFIN initiative (UNDP), and the Investment Management course for small and growing businesses (SGBs), with an emphasis on impact investing, of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). In addition, she is a Kinship Conservation Fellow (2015) and a member of the Conservation Finance Alliance and Capitals Coalition networks. She regularly participates as speaker or facilitator at international conferences or workshops.