What Moore's Latest Big Moves Tell Us About Trends in Conservation Funding

In the past week, The Moore Foundation announced environmental commitments totaling more than $190 million toward two increasingly prominent areas—deforestation and food systems. The latter initiative reflects the funder’s growing market-based strategy to increase sustainability.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is one of the largest conservation funders in the world, and one of just a few that can make a truly global impact, with $6.6 billion in assets. Moore's two latest grantmaking initiatives extend existing areas of focus that are receiving heightened global attention lately—halting deforestation in the Amazon, and increasing agriculture and seafood systems sustainability—with both center stage in the climate change fight.

The former effort will bolster the foundation’s longstanding work of protecting vast tracts of rainforest, while the latter will step up a relatively new strategy of using financial incentives to make food markets more sustainable—a red-hot area of philanthropy right now.

The first effort you might think of as classic Moore Foundation, an extension of its Andes Amazon Initiative, which has been in the works since the funder launched back in 2001. A 2014 report commissioned by Moore found that it’s the largest private conservation funder in the region. According to the foundation, in 15 years, its grantees have conserved more than 140 million hectares in the Amazon. 

The funder has given more than $350 million to the region so far, and the new $100 million will recommit the foundation to the work through 2020, consolidating protected lands and ensuring long-term, successful management of protected and indigenous lands. 

Protection of rainforests and halting deforestation has been a priority for environmentalists for decades, but has gained new momentum and priority of late, considered one of the cheapest and easiest ways to fight climate change. Forests took a front seat in the Paris COP21 talks, with the REDD+ carbon market for protecting forests (which Moore previously dabbled in) endorsed in the agreement.

Related: After the Paris Climate Summit, Time for Philanthropy to Step Things Up

The second major announcement is similarly connected to land use as it relates to agriculture and forests, but also involves expanding production of sustainable seafood. The $90 million commitment is meant to “decouple food production from negative environmental impacts.” 

This series of grants extends another of Moore's efforts by coordinating a few existing market-based initiatives—Forests and Agriculture Markets Initiative, Conservation and Financial Markets Initiative, and Oceans and Seafood Markets Initiative. The idea here is changing supply chains to improve industry-wide practices, with a premium placed on partnering up with and creating incentives for the private sector. 

Moore has been involved in such initiatives since 2013, and this is an area of environmentalism and green philanthropy that is getting a lot of attention right now. Especially in the context of fisheries, philanthropies like Bloomberg, Packard, and Walton are heavily pursuing market-based schemes to align sustainability with financial incentives. 


Giving toward sustainable fisheries, food, and agriculture in general has trended in recent years. The connection between food and climate is also drawing deforestation-level attention, with meat consumption in particular a huge target for slashing greenhouse gases.

These latest grantmaking initiatives further cement the Moore Foundation as one of the largest and most prominent conservation funders around. It also keeps them at the forefront of both traditional methods of conservation such as land protection, but also emerging, economics-based approaches. 

And it shows just how pervasive climate change has become, even in portfolios of grantmakers that might not explicitly label themselves as climate funders. These grants are highly connected to the causes and consequences of climate change, and will be integral in hitting global targets for emissions reductions. 

Related: Where Is Environmental Giving Headed? Here's a (Mostly) Hopeful Look