The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation (RMWF) partners with Conservation International (CI) on a growing number of projects in our search for interconnectedness between humanity and our environment that elevates and sustains life. Together, we strive to grow better solutions that live, evolve, and regenerate on their own. We believe living and working in balance with the earth helps us improve ourselves, our communities, and society. Achieving this balance means sensing when and where the balance is disturbed and seeking the alignment of natural order with human need. Finding this harmony allows individuals to leave a living legacy for future generations.
Problems can rarely be effectively addressed through a single approach. The foundation works with Conservation International because they believe environmental vitality is inherently tied to human vitality, and long-term solutions must address both. Over time, Rob and Melani’s partnership with CI has contributed to a philosophical shift from a focus on environmental protection to a focus on how people and planet can exist in harmony with one another. A case in point is CI’s work with the Hawaii Fish Trust that raises awareness of ocean health, not only ensuring the abundance of fish habitats, but also extending the longevity of the islands’ fishing industry to sustain existence for local communities, people, and natural resources.
RMWF’s partnership with Conservation International stems from CI’s work with the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) over the years. Already an outdoor enthusiast, Rob’s collaboration with CI led to a deep understanding of the challenges facing our environment and, consequently, the needs of the people living in these wild places. WFF continues to be actively engaged with environmental and humanitarian issues, a passion Rob shares and one that has led him to leadership roles with CI and other organizations, such as the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business. RMWF has worked with CI researchers and others to study areas experiencing environmental stress all over the globe. Rob and Melani’s work has taken them from the Baja Peninsula, where they supported whale and dolphin protection efforts, to Rwanda and Tanzania, where they helped develop gorilla, crocodile, and hippopotamus habitats. These collaborations have resulted in underwater investigations of fishing bans near Midway Island and the discovery of new species such as the walking shark in Indonesia.
Over time, CI has supported over 1,200 protected areas and interventions across 77 countries, protecting more than 601 million hectares of land, marine, and coastal areas. RMWF supports CI through grants and flexible funding, allowing the organization to deploy resources supporting sustainability of the environment and the communities impacted by environmental issues:
- Seligmann Innovation Fund supports innovative investments in science and policy that inform how CI addresses future challenges. For example, the Fund supports Pacific Island leaders as they pilot fishery innovations first advanced in Iceland and form regional alliances to modernize their fisheries policy. The Fund was established in honor of CI cofounder Peter Seligmann upon his retirement after 30 years as CEO of the organization.
- The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) empowers nongovernmental and private-sector organizations to get involved in conservation in the most at-risk areas on Earth by partnering with international governments, foundations, the World Bank, and the European Union to conserve biodiversity and help communities around the globe thrive.
- The Sustainable Landscapes Partnership leverages a public-private partnership between CI and USAID to establish a model for addressing environmental challenges while also strengthening global economies. The Partnership works with approximately 5,800 farmers to improve the quantity and quality of products such as rubber, cocoa, and coffee, providing benefits to more than 44,000 people.
- The Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship gathers researchers, thinkers, analysts, and leaders to brainstorm innovative solutions for problems facing conservationists and transform popular thinking toward the environment. As of 2020, the program recognized 37 Fellows from 17 countries with diverse backgrounds—from world leaders to first-in-class scientists and conservationists—all dedicated to conserving and building a healthier, more productive planet.
The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation’s partnership with CI is ongoing, including consultation with African Parks and a forward-thinking collaboration between CI and Arizona State University. Together, CI and ASU are working to protect the environment, encourage food producers to adopt sustainable practices, and catalyze future conservation innovation.
We invite you to visit the inspiring work of Conservation International HERE.