Blog

Oct 26, 2012

At the EGA Retreat this year, we had a concurrent session about university endowments invested in the coal industry. Andy Behar, CEO of As You Sow Foundation, and Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of Wallace Global Fund, led a fantastic skit with two students working to change their universities’ investment portfolios to be greener and more socially responsible.

The students were specifically working to change their universities’ investments from the coal industry, which of late has often been a poor choice of investment even from a profits standpoint, to investments in the green energy market, a greener, more socially responsible choice of investment for the student’s futures. The students, running into many challenges with their schools’ endowment fund managers, university chancellors, principles, and boards, were glad to have Foundation support in this new mission.

The students and foundations in this session provided an excellent example for this field, in which foundations could potentially have major impact in line with their overarching missions and goals: ethical investing. There have been ethical investment options available to investors for quite some time, and as shown in The Environmental Grantmakers Association’s 2008 publication, “Investing for Impact: A Snapshot of EGA Members’ Leveraged Investment Strategies,” EGA members have been aware of and involved in ethical investing for years. Only recently, however, has ethical investing gained momentum as a movement, with many different actors getting involved, opening a new door for foundation involvement as well.

According to research conducted in light of Ethical Investment Week in the UK, which just ended on Friday (10/20/12), there is a growing interest in ethical investments that is part of a broader movement to build partnerships toward positive social change. In fact, half of investors across a spread of industries now say that they want ethical investments to be part of their portfolio.

However, one reason ethical investing has been so slow in its emergence is the question of profitability. So, even if the desire is there to invest in more socially responsible markets, will investors actually be able to garner profit with these new ethical investment decisions, making this upward trend of socially responsible investing a sustainable and even growing market?

Well research for Ethical Investment Week actually shows that not only are these ethical investments keeping up with much of the mainstream market, some are actually well surpassing the standard expectations and proving to be better choices for their investors. The UK ethical investments market is steadily growing, with 11 billion pounds currently invested in the green and ethical investments market – 4 billion more pounds than 10 years ago.

The shift in ethical investing includes a multitude of types of investors, including charities, philanthropic organizations and socially responsible corporations that want to invest in ethical and profitable markets. This shift gained some substantial momentum after some of the recent banking scandals and continues to gain momentum, as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes a more prevalent force. Philanthropy – Foundations’ own investment portfolios - is also joining the movement in the UK, as major donors put more focus on giving today.

So what does this upward trend in ethical investing show? It shows that a more aware, socially alert public attitude in the UK is leading to positive social changes. Businesses are either in the same mindset or are responding to this attitude change. Regardless, it’s good news for the future of ethical investing, for making profits with positive social impacts rather than harmful ones, and for society at large. Foundations can play a role by changing their own portfolios as well as by encouraging more ethical investing of other organizations, such as universities’ and corporations that are interested in taking on more socially responsible roles.

 Consulted works: http://www.xperedon.com/news_1812

Oct 22, 2012

Health and Environmental Funders' Network interviewed EGA's Knowledge and Program Manager, Franny Canfield, and Executive Director, Rachel Leon, about EGA's Tracking the Field Database.  Learn new insights from their answers about the database, including changes in funding trends and new ways EGA members have been using the data to stengthen their grantmaking. 

Below is a sample of a few questions from the article (you can see the full length article here).  Please contact Franny Canfield (fchiles@ega.org) with any questions or comments about Tracking the Field.  You can also contact Franny about Tracking the Field Reports for specific issue areas. 

Questions and Answers selected from the article 'Tracking the Field' by Health and Environmental Funders' Network:

What is Tracking the Field?

Tracking the Field is an annual report that analyzes environmental giving trends of EGA members and overall environmental philanthropy. The project is based on data collected by our research team. The researchers analyze all of our members’ 990 tax forms, grantees and foundation websites to categorize over 10,000 grants. It also includes in-depth reports on more specific regions and issue areas. In 2012 EGA launched an interactive searchable database available to EGA members as a tool for them to utilize, and to help to enhance our community capacity to interact all year-long.

So what does the latest Tracking the Field tell us are the current trends for overall environmental giving?

The report will show a large increase in grantmaking by EGA members in 2010, after a dramatic drop in funding in 2009 in the aftermath of the Great Recession. This increase in 2010 reflects almost 2,000 more grants and over 155 million dollars in environmental giving.

What lessons has EGA learned about tracking grants in cross-cutting issue areas?

We have found that many grants that we would consider to be “environmental” were not necessarily categorized by our member foundations as being environmental because they were outside of the foundation’s environmental program area. We believe that a sustainable communities grant or environmental health grant that is funded out of a community-based program area is equally important to include in our analysis. Therefore, our research team looks at all of our members’ grants rather than focusing on environmental programs.

How are EGA members using the data?

EGA members have been using Tracking the Field to find new partners, learn about trends, and make program related decisions based on gaps in funding. The Tracking the Field searchable database has allowed members to search issue areas, geographic regions, and possible grantees to connect to other EGA members with similar grantmaking interests. We have also heard from many program officers that they have used Tracking the Field as a valuable lens on the wider field of environmental philanthropy and to identify future trends and priority areas in discussions on their dockets with their boards.

Is EGA planning any upcoming releases on specific interest areas?

In 2011, EGA released a report focused on international grantmaking leading up to Rio +20 in partnership with the Ford Foundation. We are currently talking to a number of foundations about other focused research. We hope to hear from the EGA and HEFN community about what would be the most useful next steps for the health and environment focused community. We are excited by the amount of data we have collected over the years and look forward to digging in where we can add value!

We welcome ideas for collaboration, drawing on our baseline of data to help inform and strengthen environmental philanthropy.

 

See the full article here: http://blog.hefn.org/2012/10/22/tracking-the-field/

Author of the full-length article: Lauren Linville, Health and Environmental Funders Network

Oct 9, 2012

Authored by: Pat Macdonald, Assistant Vice President, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

http://www.givingbetter.org/giving-blog/movement-give-and-grow-greens

Here at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Greater Horizons we make it our business to help donors connect to the community and social issues that are important to them. So, as climate change remains a robust international debate and helping urban households and schools increase access to healthy foods takes its place in the national spotlight, it hasn’t surprised us to see a steady uptick in the numbers of our donors who are interested in environmental sustainability.

Green Giving

To help us connect to current information and trends on this subject, we participated in the Environmental Grantmakers Association’s (EGA) 25th Annual Fall Retreat in New Palz, N. Y. this week. EGA convened some 350 grantmakers from around the country to exchange innovative practices, lessons learned, and progresses made in resource conservation and use through philanthropy.

A Royal highlight (literally speaking!), facilitated by GRACE Communications Foundation, was a congratulatory address to EGA given by HRH, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales for EGA’s 25 years of promoting effective environmental philanthropy. An outspoken advocate of sustainable farming practices for 30 years, and author of On the Future of Food, Prince Charles underscored the complex and interrelated environmental impact of industrialized food production on local ecosystems. He contrasted the outcomes against the benefits to public health and employment safeguards provided by sustainable food production systems such as locally, organically grown foods.

Giving GreeA retreat field trip visited Brooklyn Grange (pictured here). It is one of more than 700 registered urban commercial gardens in NYC. It is located on the rooftop of the Brooklyn Naval Ship Yard and covers the full 65,000 square foot building, with over 45,000 square feet of cultivated space. Brooklyn Grange has supplied more than 40,000 lbs. of organic vegetables to NYC restaurants since 2010.

Attendees of the 25th Environmental Grantmakers Retreat left fully affirmed and evermore committed to philanthropy that facilitates education and implementation of effective forms of resource conservation and healthy, sustainable systems for food production. We look forward to sharing what we learned with our donors who have a passion for green living (and green giving)!

Jun 21, 2012

If one can accept that mega confabs such as Rio+20 are inevitably about more talks, then the text (outcome) of the negotiating document that was finalized at about 3 AM on Tuesday, June 19th, will not be surprising (or shocking). At yesterday’s breakfast briefing for funders on inside strategies and groups, organized by the Consultative Group on Biodiversity (CGBD), Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) and the Funders Network for Transforming Globalization (FNTG), we heard an excellent overview from the South Center.

Key Issues & Outcomes

1. Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)
CBDR is one of the fundamental principles of sustainable development and International Environmental Law for addressing equity that was formulated specifically in the context of the 1992 Rio/Earth Summit. CBDR affirms that all countries have a common responsibility to protect our environment, but these responsibilities are also differentiated. Industrialized countries have a greater responsibility because of their greater contribution to the environmental crisis and because of their higher economic status. The basic premise of CBDR is that if you treat “unequals” equally, you exacerbate inequality.

Twenty years later, almost all the rich countries, including the EU and the U.S are asserting that no single Rio principle should be singled out and a general reference to the full set of Rio principles is sufficient. In the end, it was mentioned twice, once less than in the original 1992 text.

2. Green Economy
Both the term and interpretation of the “green economy” remain highly contested. The green economy, as the roadmap to the future with clear targets was favored by the EU, while the U.S vacillated on their position. The G77 and China have moved from opposing it to questioning it to taking a “need to discuss it more” approach. The outcome for now is that the concept needs to evolve further through more engagement.

3. Sustainable Development Goals
SDGs are supposed to carry forward the Millennium Development Goals, which end in 2015, as well as integrate sustainability into the MDGs. The EU, UAE and some of the poorer countries favor it. The U.S views it as aspirational. The G77 and China agree on the concept as long as it explicitly advances the three pillars of sustainable development, i.e., economic, social and environmental benefits for all. They want SDGs to be determined through the intergovernmental process in the context of a post MDG era and a report in 2014 at the UN General Assembly. They oppose creating SDGs outside of the intergovernmental process. SDGs are a potentially important mechanism for addressing the implementation gaps of the last 20 years (i.e., the unmet goals of 1992).

4. The Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development
IFSD is basically about how to enable a strong compliance regime and meet the governance gap with respect to the current structure of the UN. African countries favor strengthening the UNEP in its home base in Nairobi. The U.S Canada, Australia and Japan oppose specific commitments for UNEP, largely because they don’t want to commit additional dollars during uncertain economic times. The EU supports it. Since the U.S is the biggest financial contributor to the UN, the politics of who pays is viewed as the explanation for the difference in position between the U.S and the EU. In the end, the agreement was to open the intergovernmental process to all stakeholders and form a high level forum of 30 representatives nominated by member states, which will make recommendations in 2013 on how to strengthen compliance with respect to existing institutions and bring coherence to the overall system.

5. Means of Implementation
MOI refers to implementing sustainable development by breaking the link with the fossil fuel based model of development by providing the necessary financing and technology transfer from rich to poor countries. The rich countries not only opposed making any commitments about the means of implementation but wanted it deleted it or have any reference to MOI taken out of the text altogether. The rich countries also wanted to delete language that call for a balanced treatment of intellectual property rights. It should be noted that in 1992 the UN Secretariat estimated that the rich countries needed to provide $100 billion per year to the poor(er) countries. The poor countries feel that they are being asked to take on more financial and other obligations through the concept of the green economy and sustainable development goals, and that there is backsliding on the commitment for technology transfer. In the end, there has been no commitment on specific dollar amounts or on technology transfer.

Thoughts Going Forward
Rio+20 has not saved humanity and our planet but the dialogue must continue. The world is very different compared to 1992 – carbon emissions have increased dramatically as has inequality. But technology, particularly connecting technologies and advances in renewable energy can be game changers for sustainability and democracy. Stakeholder engagement, capacity building, public education and new ways of organizing, mobilizing and communicating are all essential for negotiating power, resources and rights in an unequal world and for finding common language for a shared vision of the future we want.

Written by Mafruza Khan, EGA

Jun 19, 2012

As expected, the official Rio+20 conference (http://www.uncsd2012.org/) and the People’s Summit (http://cupuladospovos.org.br/en/#) are vast and challenging to navigate. In addition to these, there are over 500 side events to the official conference. That’s why the orientation webinar (June 11) and the breakfast briefings organized for funders in Rio de Janeiro organized by the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity (CGBD), the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) and the Funders Network for Transforming Globalization (FNTG) are helping us to get the 30,000 foot view of what’s at stake, progress made on negotiations and what’s important outside of the official process. Equally importantly, we are hearing points of views on what philanthropy needs to do going forward.

At yesterday’s briefing, Tim Wirth, President of the UN Foundation and the Better World Fund, drove home the point that it’s all about politics and that equity has to be front and center! In his words, “You can’t square the circle of inequities by thinking of the U.S and Bangladesh in the same way.” But there are game changers – and access to sustainable energy for all is one. As an American and a Bangladeshi, I couldn’t agree more. Yesterday’s New York Times’ op-ed contributors (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/19/opinion/rio-isnt-all-lost.html?_r=1&re...) make the same critical point about renewable energy being a game changer though more from a sustainability perspective than an equity perspective.

So, if the future is (almost) here, how do we get to the tipping point to make the shift to a renewable energy-based economy through incremental processes such as Rio+20 and the systemic changes that are needed, given the polarized political environment in the U.S? Tim reiterated what most of us know. It’s back to basics of building and strengthening social movements. To win, philanthropy must invest in building coalitions across movements and sectors and the environmental community needs to connect to other movements. And, a game changer in this arena is support for campaign finance reform. For Tim, philanthropy needs to become bold again, as it was in the 1960s when supporting the civil rights movement. Foundations and NGOs with 501(c)3 status have the ability and the responsibility to act now so that by Rio+30 we are closer to the future we want and can have.

All this and more will be the focus of our conversation at EGA’s Annual Retreat (http://ega.org/events/retreat, September 30-Oct 3) at Mohonk this year. If you are a funder, don’t miss the opportunity to join us in the Fall and contribute to this critical movement building event.

Written by Mafruza Khan, EGA

Apr 10, 2012

The webinar "Strengthening Green Economy Communications," co-hosted by Surdna, Living Cities, and EGA, was a useful and engaging account of research conducted by Surdna and Spitfire Strategies.  Danielle Lewis (Spitfire Strategies), the main presenter, provided some excellent examples of both the challenges and the opportunities for communicating a stronger and more effective message around the green economy. 

If you missed the webinar, you can listen to the full recording here.  Or click here to read a summary and highlights.

Mar 29, 2012

San Diego recently played host to the 2012 EGA State of the States. I was very excited to see that it was one of the larger State of the States gatherings organized by the EGA in recent years, with more than 100 funders and over 40 speakers from all over the country. In light of the inside-the-beltway discourse centered on job-killing environmental regulations, funders like me came together to learn more about how states and regions are innovating around sustainability and shared prosperity.
 

At a time when basic protections to our air, land and water are under fire from many directions, the State of the States gathering featured many promising efforts to re-energize the environmental movement at the grassroots and broaden the base for civic engagement by connecting environmental concerns with those of democratic participation, our energy future, community health and well-being, and sustainable food systems.
 

Many funders were looking for new approaches and opportunities (and, frankly, some inspiration) to rebuild the environmental movement from the ground up by helping to give voice to politically, economically and racially disenfranchised communities that often bear the disproportionate burden of dirty air and water, lack of access to green space, and the like. What I found most inspiring were the many organizations (People for the American Way Foundation, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, 350.org, and CREDO Action, to name a few) – and funders (many civic participation funders joined us) – finding common cause across constituencies to foster civic engagement, protect our natural resources and public health, and grow our clean energy economy.

While there has been some recent news about declining interest among millennials in becoming civically involved to safeguard our planet, I must say that I took great comfort in listening to the passionate, creative, energetic efforts of the youth organizations such as Student Public Interest Research Groups, Sierra Student Coalition, and New Era Colorado working across the country to protect our natural assets and the public trust. They are definitely a beacon of hope for a brighter future.

Written by Emily Young, San Diego Foundation