Discussion Paper

Measuring the Return on Program-Level Conservation Investments: Three Case Studies of Capabilities and Opportunity

May 15, 2014 | James W. Boyd


Three large-scale conservation projects in Brazil, Canada, and the United States reveal important conservation assessment innovations and demonstrate barriers and opportunities to improve return on investment analysis in conservation.


Conservation investments are increasingly evaluated on the basis of their return on investment (ROI). Conservation ROI analysis quantitatively measures the costs, benefits, and risks of investments so conservancies can rank or prioritize them. This paper includes case studies—of three large-scale conservation projects—designed to assess current ROI capabilities in the field, barriers to ROI analysis, and opportunities to improve conservation ROI. The cases reveal important conservation assessment innovations, but also identify significant gaps in the availability of data and analysis needed to establish many of the basic elements necessary to an ROI analysis.