Impacting investing: trends, issues and capabilities
22 September 2016
In 2011, when the Arcus Foundation’s Dr Annette Lanjouw and Dr Helga Rainer were asked to join Dr Rebecca Kormos to develop an approach that would ensure the inclusion of apes in the World Bank’s Africa Biodiversity Strategy, we were understandably thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity. After all, the World Bank Group, including the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), are responsible for issuing grants and loan financing to governments and private sector actors seeking to address poverty alleviation and expand development in many of the locations where apes live in the wild. By integrating habitat and primate conservation into the resource allocation strategies of the World Bank and IFC, the Foundation could greatly advance our goal of ensuring that development is compatible with conservation.
Unfortunately, the World Bank’s approach changed somewhat over the course of the year, and the revision of the Africa Biodiversity Strategy was delayed, making the work focusing on ape conservation a chapter without an immediate home. Lanjouw, Kormos and Rainer therefore proposed to take advantage of the delay and focus on expanding the strategy to include Asian apes, and especially the lesser known small apes, including gibbons and siamang. Cyril Kormos and Dr Liz Williamson also joined the writing team to deepen the focus of the strategy. When the expanded strategy was presented to the World Bank in 2012, the team was requested to strengthen the ape strategy by consulting and engaging the broader ape scientific and conservation community, in order to ensure their endorsement and support for the strong recommendations were included in the strategy.
Over the next two years, we did just that. By 2015, the revised strategy had been endorsed by more than 30 scientists and conservationists who are members of the Section on Great Apes (SGA) and Section on Small Apes (SSA) of the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, it was endorsed by the Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) of the United Nations Environment Program and more than 15 leading conservation organisations. When we presented the revised strategy, ‘Taking Ape Conservation to Heart’, to the World Bank and the IFC in 2015, it was met with encouragement and support. Although no longer part of a larger Biodiversity Strategy, the recommendations were felt to be strongand effective, and considered valid for a larger group of national and multinational lending banks around the world. We were strongly urged to present a similar, or slightly adapted strategy to the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank and other lending banks that are also investing significantly in projects in ape habitat in Africa and Asia. One of the most significant of our recommendations was to urge the Bank and the IFC to ask that their industry partners consult with experts such as the SGA early on in the planning process, when these companies are exploring the possibilities, and developing plans to work in areas where apes are present in the wild.
And while this is a voluntary ask, as opposed to a requirement, in the short time since our strategy was adopted, we have already seen a very heartening example of how it is making a difference. Over the past six months, a global mining company financed by the IFC has been actively consulting with the SGA to identify strategies on how it can mitigate the impact of its extractive activities on ape populations and their habitat. Since apes aren’t the only wildlife that depend on these habitats, we are hopeful that these mitigation efforts will also protect other endangered species. The consultative role of a community of experts like the SGA and SSA (Arcus grantees and partners) cannot be stressed enough. Before it assumed this new role, companies seeking to examine the impact of their activities on the environment had no obvious place where they could seek guidance and expertise on the ecology, behaviour and particular sensitivities of apes. Now they do.
Not only has this partnership with the World Bank shown the Foundation that we have a critical role to play beyond the awarding of grants, it also demonstrates that our ability to be flexible in our work with partners is an important factor in our ability to achieve mission impact.
This article first appeared in the Philanthropy Impact Magazine Issue 13.