What is the Conservation Hierarchy


What is Conservation Hierarchy?

One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is meeting humanity’s increasing demand for natural resources, whilst remaining within the biophysical limits of the Earth system.

We’d all like to stop damage to wildlife and ecosystems, but some activities which impact natural habitats – such as farming, fishing or infrastructure development – play key roles in improving human lives. We need an approach to conservation which moves away from the dichotomy of preservation vs. development, and allows both nature and humanity to flourish side by side.

What is more, people often think nature conservation is something that happens ‘over there’ – in far flung destinations, where ‘doing conservation’ is the preserve of adventurous NGO workers and the responsibility of governments and local communities in biodiversity-rich areas. How can species and ecosystems so far away have any connection to actions in big cities, or to the lifestyle and energy use patterns into which individuals, societies and corporations are locked?…

Every individual, organisation and nation has a responsibility…

All consumptive human actions drawn down on natural resources. In our increasingly inter-connected world, the coffee we drink and the clothes we wear, the new road developments and global food supply chains, all have consequences for nature. These consequences are often felt most severely by biodiversity-rich nations, yet they are caused by an inter-connected web of global actors. Many of these global actors are located far away from where the negative impacts are manifested, but drive the negative impacts through consumption patterns and business operations, linked through complex global supply chains.

Every actor in the system has the power to create meaningful change…

Through smart development policies, responsible businesses operations and sustainable lifestyle choices: every individual and organisation can thrive whilst also mitigating their negative impacts on nature, and even proactively driving net positive outcomes for nature.

While this might sound like an idealists pipe dream, or an overwhelming challenge which stagnates economic development, the conservation hierarchy can provide a step-by-step framework to guide practical actions towards meaningful change. These are concrete actions we can all take (individuals, businesses, organisations, governments), which can scale towards aspirational global goals for nature, yet also allow people to thrive.

Here’s how it works…

  1. Founded on the Mitigation Hierarchy
  2. Beyond the Mitigation Hierarchy
  3. A united framework for action
  4. Differentiated pathways