In a bid to better protect the environment by increasing private investment in that effort, a new initiative known as NatureVest was launched Tuesday by the Arlington, Va.-based Nature Conservancy, with support from New York City-based JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The new program aims to close to the funding gap between what is needed to support global conservation efforts, and what is currently available. The Nature Conservancy reports that, according to the Global Canopy Programme, the current financial need to support global conservation efforts is approximately US$290 billion per year. But, it says that only about US$51 billion is currently devoted to these activities, primarily from public and philanthropic sources. The organizations hope to reduce the shortfall by creating new opportunities for the private sector to invest capital in conservation projects.

“NatureVest will capitalize on the growing impact investment sector to create a platform to advance investment in conservation,” the organizations said. “As part of that effort, NatureVest will convene investors; develop and execute innovative financial transactions; and continue to build an investment pipeline across multiple sectors, including agriculture, fisheries and environmental markets.”

EKO Asset Management Partners helped to design NatureVest and will serve as an ongoing adviser to the Nature Conservancy. JPMorgan Chase is the founding sponsor of NatureVest and has committed to provide multi-year support for its launch and development.

“NatureVest is a natural extension of The Nature Conservancy’s work – it will open up entirely new avenues for investments that protect nature,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “By bringing together leaders in natural resource management and investment, we will unlock new sources of capital to deliver important conservation results.”

This year, NatureVest will publish the first piece of research to comprehensively size and characterize segments within the natural capital marketplace in order to help investors and others better understand current opportunities and identify potential future prospects.

“There is an urgent need to step up the scale and creativity of financial resources dedicated to the protection of natural ecosystems,” said Doug Petno, CEO of Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase. “We are delighted to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy to build NatureVest and demonstrate that profitability and sustainability can work hand in hand.”