Frequently Asked Questions

VCAThe VCA Platform recognises and encourages voluntary area-based conservation where we live and work, i.e. conservation in areas owned and managed outside of legally protected areas.

It’s an innovative and inclusive approach to conservation and so, understandably, there are often questions about it. This page answers some of the more frequent questions we encounter.

Please do contact us directly with any other questions you may have: vca@earthmind.org


Why should I become a VCA Member?

VCA membership is a recognition, a certification and indeed a celebration of your voluntary efforts to conserve our planet.

By registering as VCA Member, you will be joining a growing social movement which feels that 'business as usual' will not work to manage the climate and biodiversity loss crisis we are living in. You are joining a movement that feels, as Earthmind does, that we can all do something, big or small, to conserve the areas where we live and work.

Your area-based conservation efforts will become visible and your impact will be shared with others like you where few other commitment platforms are open to all levels of society and geographies.

You will be able to demonstrate to stakeholders – including your neighbours, potential investors and funders, and local authorities – that you are committed to positive conservation outcomes in your area. These outcomes can originate from a wide range of activities like sustainable development and resource use. 

You will be able to share your experiences and lessons learned with other in the VCA community of practice and have access to our experts in land management and conservation.

You will become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, to conserving our planet.


What do VCA managers see as the benefits of membership?

VCA members benefit from the platform by receiving recognition of their efforts, becoming part of a global community and access to support to measure impact. 

Here are some examples:

  • A large beer brewer who also produces cider and manages its orchards sustainably to be bee-friendly can now get its efforts recognized. VCA membership is the beginning of a journey towards ever more sustainable management of its orchards.
     
  • A community that has decided to restore a degraded wetland sees the VCA approach as a practical guide for its restoration efforts through the support of the VCA platform. The community’s administration is responsible to the public for the costs this incurs and VCA membership provides it with transparency (through the Registry), with guidance (the Standard and Toolkit), with access to qualified experts (VCA Partners and Auditors), and with the possibility to demonstrate that investments in the wetland pay off.
     
  • An individual who already manages a property of 60 hectares sustainably can now get the recognition that she deserves as well as an opportunity to approach donors and engage partners in conservation.
     
  • A gas factory can be recognised for conserving a coral reef and fish habitat in its industrial harbour. The VCA Platform provides an approach for managing the company’s impacts on marine biodiversity. Externally, VCA membership enables the company to communicate to stakeholders – investors, lenders, customers, government regulators, local communities, NGOs and academia – about their efforts to have a net positive impact on biodiversity.

What areas can be listed on the Registry of VCA Members?

Any area that is geographically-defined (aquatic/marine or terrestrial) and where managers/owners commit to activities that enhance conservation performance can be a Voluntary Conservation Area.

For those wishing to start with a commitment only, Bronze VCAs only need a defined area with some information on conservation activities planned or in progress. At its most advanced level, VCAs need the above, plus a conservation management plan and annual performance updates published on the VCA Registry. This makes a Gold standard VCA.

The area can be privately owned, collectively or community managed, or publicly owned.

It can be of any size and in any country or any ecosystem.

The activities being used to manage the site do not have to be direct conservation activities- they can include any activities in any sector (eco-tourism, gardening, community use etc.) as long as they have a demonstrated positive impact on biodiversity. 


What do we mean by conservation?

We use the definition of conservation set out in in the IUCN World Conservation Strategy:

"Conservation is the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.

Thus conservation is positive, embracing preservation, maintenance, sustainable utilization, restoration, and enhancement of the natural environment."

This definition is important for two reasons:

  • First, it makes clear that conservation is about management. The VCA Platform recognises area-based conservation management.
  • Second, it makes clear that conservation is not just about preservation or protection. Areas can also be managed for maintenance, sustainable utilization, restoration, and the enhancement of the natural environment.

How is area-based conservation verified?

The verification of Bronze or Silver VCAs is through the voluntary, public confirmation by a land owner or manger of his/her commitment to conserve nature. (See more details on this in our VCA standard).

For Gold VCAs we offer the opportunity for enhanced verification through an audit process. This includes audits by an approved VCA Auditor of the conservation management plan and the annual performance updates. The audit process provides an independent, peer-review of the land owner or manager’s public commitment to conserve nature.

Importantly, all plans, updates, and audits are publicly available on each VCA's webpage to ensure full transparency.


How much does it cost to become a VCA Member?

There is no fee to become a VCA Member. Just send us the information for your own webpage or submit your own online application for review before publication. 

Alternatively contact the VCA Office directly at contact@earthmind.org. We will, of course, also be happy to assist you with any questions you may have on the registration process.


What's the difference between a VCA and a protected area?

Protected areas are generally “designated” or “regulated” by a government to protect or preserve nature. They are usually publicly-owned areas, but there are also protected areas managed by communities or privately. The emphasis is on designating an area for nature protection.

A VCA may be managed for a range of conservation outcomes. These outcomes can include protection or preservation but they may also include sustainable utilisation, restoration or enhancement. VCAs are generally outside of legally protected areas and are managed by individuals, communities, or companies in the context of where we live and work. The defining feature of a VCA is a voluntary commitment to area-based conservation.

Hence, VCAs complement the important role that legally protected areas play to conserve our planet by recognising and encouraging voluntary conservation commitments.


What's the buzz? What are people saying about VCAs?

"By encouraging transparency and rigorous conservation management, voluntary conservation is a powerful instrument for mitigating our Ecological Footprint, hectare by hectare."

– Mathis Wackernagel, President, Global Footprint Network, a VCA Partner

"The VCA’s approach to transparency will help improve how areas are managed and build their credibility. The case for transparency has been demonstrated by tools such as the Global Reporting Initiative, and VCAs can bring powerful new ideas to conservation practices."

– Sean Gilbert, former Director of Standards Framework, Global Reporting Initiative, and VCA Special Adviser

"The VCA approach facilitates innovative and efficient financing for biodiversity conservation where it matters – on the ground."

– Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Vice President of the Center for Environment and Peace, Conservation International, and VCA Board member

"By registering their conservation areas as VCAs, remote communities can become visible to the international community and secure much needed support for their efforts."

– Rili Djohani, Executive Director, Coral Triangle Center, Bali, and VCA Board member

"Voluntary Conservation Areas can play a key role in conserving and restoring Europe’s green infrastructure and biodiversity."

– Joseph van der Stegen, with the EU’s Environmental DG working on Natura 2000, and former VCA Special Adviser

"The VCA Registry provides an innovative way for corporate biodiversity mitigation – including measures to avoid, minimise, restore and offset – to be visible and accountable to stakeholders."

– Randall Kramer, Professor of Environmental Economics and Global Health, Duke University, and VCA Board member

"With the requirement of independent audits for Gold VCA Members, the VCA approach provides additional assurance to investors, donors, authorities and neighbours that an area is being managed for conservation."

– Zeke Oman, previously a biodiversity finance officer at the International Finance Corporation, and VCA Special Adviser

"Through registering area-based conservation management, the VCA approach is creating a new asset class of natural capital."

– Joshua Bishop, Markets, Sustainability & Business Partnerships Manager, WWF Australia, and VCA Board member


Do you have a video explaining the VCA Approach?

Our video is quite a bit out-of-date and we really do need to make a new one, but it still gets our core message across! Have a look: