Uses business strategies to promote sustainability.
Sustainable Conservation believes that protecting the environment can also be good for business. In all of its initiatives – climate, air, water, and wildlife – Sustainable Conservation partners with businesses, agriculture and government leaders to find practical ways that the private sector can work to make positive change.
The organization was founded in 1993 by individuals from the corporate world who considered the private sector as an untapped ally in solving California’s pressing environmental challenges.
- Mission | Theory Of Change
Sustainable Conservation is working to protect the environment in a way that is also aligned with business goals. With specific regard to conservation tillage (explained further in “use of proceeds”), Sustainable Conservation is working toward the goal of having farmers use the conservation tillage management practice on 50% of acres in the Central Valley. The organization began this initiative as a demonstration project, moved into the early adoption phase, and will finish by bringing the management practice to a scale of 50% of agriculture acres in the Central Valley. Unlike other Sustainable Conservation initiatives, conservation tillage does not have a policy component.
- History | Track Record
Sustainable Conservation has existed for 19 years. The organization, for six consecutive years, received top honors from Charity Navigator. However, the organization received a lower rating in 2009 because it had no growth in its revenues and expenses on an annualized basis from 2006 and 2009. In the economic downturn, Sustainable Conservation has successfully continued to receive annual grants from committed foundations and individuals.
- Grant Usage
A grant from OPF would be used on the “conservation tillage” project. Air regulators identify farming as a major source of air pollution in CA’s Central Valley. Crop cultivation, harvesting, and diesel emissions from equipment release harmful dust and emissions. Fresno County, the leading farming region in the nation, has the highest asthma mortality rate – with one in six children having asthma.
One way to ameliorate farming’s negative impact on air quality is conservation tillage – a management practice that leaves crop stubble (such as corn stalks) on the surface of the soil in order to protect the soil from erosion.
Sustainable Conservation is working to promote conservation tillage from Yolo to Kern County in two ways: education/outreach and working on a low interest loan program with the EPA and CA State Water Board to make the equipment needed for this practice more available. Sustainable Conservation conducts education and outreach by facilitating farmer to farmer communication, where lessons learned are shared. Sustainable Conservation employees also work to partner with trade organizations that disseminate information about conservation tillage. The OPF grant would primarily pay staff to do this education and outreach.
In 2004, when Sustainable Conservation began this initiative, only 4% of the acreage from Yolo to Kern counties used conservation tillage. In 2012, 32% of this acreage employs this management practice. Sustainable Conservation’s goal is to reach 50% of this acreage using conservation tillage.
The 2012 budget for the conservation tillage initiative is $641,887 and six staff members are assigned to this project.
- Financial, Staffing, & Project Summary
In 2010, Sustainable Conservation’s revenues were about $2.7 million, with expenditures being slightly over that due to timing of grant revenues. Its 2011 operating budget breaks down with 77% to program, 12% to fundraising, and 11% to general and administrative. The greatest program expenditure goes to staff, benefits and payroll taxes (64%). Staff take up such a large portion of the budget because of its role as a frequent project manager. 61% of Sustainable Conservation’s funding comes from Foundation Grants.
- Working Group Analysis
Air pollution is a REALLY big issue in the Central Valley and negatively affects the health of many. Conservation tillage is an effective way of bringing environmental goals to the business and agriculture sectors.
- Nominator Endorsement
According to the website, "Sustainable Conservation advances the stewardship of natural resources using innovative, pragmatic strategies that actively engage businesses and private landowners in conservation." Because the organization's "effectiveness lies in building strong partnerships with business, agriculture and government – and establishing models for environmental and economic sustainability that can be replicated across California and beyond," a grant to this organization may magnify the usefulness of OPF partners' valuable resources. Further to this point, the organization has received recognition form Charity Navigator for its "ability to maximize donations." I haven't worked directly with the organization, but my close friend has worked for the organization for almost three years and could provide more information.