Environmental Incentives Principles in Practice
June 15, 2017
Environmental Incentives’ mission is to enhance the environmental systems that sustain healthy communities. We do this by empowering public and private sector leaders to maximize their effectiveness using Performance-Driven Conservation® tools and practices. Our founders and staff believe we each hold the potential to make a positive impact on the world. At EI, our first Principle is Environmental Improvement – We focus our actions to improve the environmental systems that support healthy communities. We will not invest our time and resources in projects that detract or distract from our mission. Every decision we make challenges us to answer the question of environmental improvement.
How We Do It
We work in complex social and ecological systems. We respect that we cannot fully understand the dynamics within a community or natural system. Like all resource managers and policy makers we make decisions based on limited information. We know that an approach that works in one community may be rejected in another, and that techniques that work now may need to be reevaluated and improved to produce intended outcomes in the future. Thus, our second Principle is Open and Honest Communication – We build on areas of consensus, address challenges and acknowledge uncomfortable truths. We believe honest feedback makes us, our clients and our communities of practice more effective.
Internally, we provide each other feedback, and we evaluate our performance through rigorous performance planning and review processes. Likewise, performance-driven conservation programs and policies are built on an adaptive management backbone. Defining theories of change with explicit assumptions enables us to test and improve our understanding of complex systems. Tracking and synthesizing performance provides decision-makers the information they need to maximize their effectiveness and avoid propagating unintended consequences. Transparently reporting results to stakeholders provides the inspiration to take responsibility for outcomes (positive and negative) and to put in the energy required to change and improve.
Programs and policies are only effective when they influence behavior in a manner that produces long-term positive outcomes. Thus, our third Principle is to Create Enduring Change – We facilitate behavior change by aligning social, economic and environmental objectives, and developing tools and practices that alter the basis for decision-making. We create tailored solutions that work for our partners and their communities.
Creating lasting change does not happen by forcing communities to maximize their environmental outcomes alone. Only when community leaders value the perspectives of all actors and respect the extent to which they can alter existing power dynamics can incentives effectively change people’s practices and norms.
Principles In Practice
EI staff help program managers and policymakers value multiple perspectives. This puts us in the position of voicing alternative opinions in rooms that are frequently echo chambers of like minds. We enable leaders to make better decisions by uncovering and testing assumptions that may underlie millions of dollars of past investment. We work with program managers to display information about how existing practices do and do not produce desired outcomes, so that stakeholders can learn and respond by becoming more effective.
The only way we can survive in this uncomfortable position is a complete commitment to honest and transparent communication. Our partners hire us knowing that our findings may not be what they would like to hear, but are what they need to know if they are committed to maximizing their effectiveness.
We avoid conflicts of interest and tailor performance-driven conservation tools and practices to whatever approach is most effective and acceptable in each unique context. While we understand the perspectives of investors, project proponents and landowners, we do not get directly involved in conservation projects. This allows us to be unbiased advocates for the best interests of our program manager and policymaker partners to enable them to create enduring environmental and community improvement. We are open to any approach that uses information to deliver improved outcomes, whether it be a pay for success RFP, a grant program with transparent outcomes, an entrepreneurial banking approach, a Habitat Credit Exchange or an outcome-based in lieu fee program.
Like us, our partners are truly inspired and seeking effective solutions to enhance the systems that sustain healthy communities.
Written by Jeremy Sokulsky, President