Unusual Suspects: what contributions can biodiversity conservation organisations make to the Sustainable Development Goals?

Environmental issues underpin several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is important to recognise the cross-cutting contribution that environmental strategies can make. This project, which involves the University of Cambridge Department of Geography, BirdLife International, RSPB, FFI and IIED, will undertake an analysis of a portfolio of recent/current CCI member-led programmes through a review of project documents and project manager interviews. Initial scoping suggests that these projects contribute to a diverse set of SDGs – but how significant are these contributions, are they measurable, and could conservation projects be designed in ways that increase their SDG-relevant impact? The project draws upon the experience of CCI organisations to identify the key questions that need to be answered regarding biodiversity conservation and the SDGs, and in so doing will help to set a future agenda for research.

This project is funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation.

Project Aims

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stress the importance of the interconnectedness of global goals – especially across the economic, social and environmental sub-sectors. The aim of this project is find ways to approach the SDGs in a more integrated way. Key issues the project will examine include:

  • What are the key questions around biodiversity conservation’s potential to deliver the SDGs?
  • What does experience from existing initiatives within CCI organisations contribute to answering these questions, and where are the critical gaps?
  • How can this information be used to help make the case for mainstreaming biodiversity considerations into all relevant sectors associated with the delivery of the SDGs?

Key Activities

  1. Priority Ranking Exercise: to identify key knowledge gaps and research priorities to highlight areas where research/information is needed to ensure that biodiversity conservation makes an effective contribution to delivering targets across all the SDGs.
  2. Review of CCI organisation experience: to provide an improved understanding of how conservation does and can contribute to SDG delivery.
  3. Compilation of evidence: to build knowledge about the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity considerations into all relevant sectors to achieve the SDGs.
  4. Development of guidance for donors and applicants for future funding calls focussing on conservation-SDG links.
  5. Contribution to international policy dialogues on biodiversity conservation and the SDGs.

Conservation Impact

The SDGs have been recently adopted by the international community. Their influence will be significant – they are expected to drive national development and international aid agendas for the next 15 years, with major implications for the environment and biodiversity (and associated budgets). It is critical therefore that conservation organisations engage with and influence this process, and demonstrate the relevance of their work across all SDGs (not just those with an environmental focus). CCI offers unparalleled linkages between practitioner experience and academic research in environment and development. This will ensure that this project is grounded in experience and relevant to field-level implementation, and that findings are considered rigorous by researchers and decision-makers.


  • ‘Research priorities’ workshop report
  • ‘Research priorities’ paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal
  • A report from the analysis of the portfolio of CCI organisation projects
  • A paper based on a review of experience from the portfolio analysis - addressing some of the research priority questions - for submission to a peer-reviewed journal
  • A briefing paper to inform Darwin applicants on biodiversity conservation and the SDGs
  • Greater understanding and agreement among researchers, policy-makers and practitioners of the key research questions that need to be addressed to enhance biodiversity conservation’s potential to deliver the SDGs
  • A policy and advocacy strategy for ensuring biodiversity considerations are incorporated into the implementation of all of the SDGs
  • A policy briefing note (for CBD, UNEP and other key target audiences)

CCI partners Involved

BirdLife International is a strategic global partnership of conservation organisations in over 100 countries, working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, and to promote...
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs....
The Department of Geography's research clusters focus on society and environment, development and political ecology, culture and demography, environmental processes, landscape modelling and climate...
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...

Other Organisations Involved

Related Resources

Resource Title Description Type
The Sustainable Development Goals Tool The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) tool is aimed at people working in the field of biodiversity and conservation to make it easier to engage with the 169 targets which underlie the UN's 17... Toolkits

Project cited by

Yaomei, Q., Jian, L. Xun, G. (2019) Conserving Bupleurum dracaenoides, the only woody Bupleurum species endemic to China, Oryx, 53(1), pp. 15–16. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605318001308 [not open access]