Philanthropy and the Environment

Philanthropy and the Environment

Posted on May 22, 2018

Climate change, rising temperatures and sea levels, increasing levels of plastic in our ocean- all issues that are affecting our lives and on our current course are only set to increase in severity. Many governments, while nominally addressing the issue of climate change are, by their nature, focussed on the short term solutions and often don’t look at the wider picture. Philanthropy is ideally placed to help address these environmental issues in a long-term impactful way.

Philanthropists tend to be passionate about the causes they care about and we are seeing an increasing number of donors take a root cause view of social issues. They seek to introduce systemic change where advisable and want to ensure their funding is as strategic as possible. They have greater flexibility around their funding and are more likely to fund innovation and new ideas. The problem however, is the small number of philanthropists and foundations that are focussing their giving on environmental issues.

According to the US Foundation Centre, climate change-related grants by US foundations in 2013 accounted for only 0.8% of all foundation spending and climate change accounted for just 12.4% of all environmental spending. According to the Environmental Funders Network (EFN), UK trusts and foundations direct between 0.93 per cent and 2.2 per cent of their giving to address climate change. In comparison to the funding other social issues receive, environmental funding is lacking and does not begin to meet the demand of the issues. 

In response to the dearth of independent funding in Ireland and the seriousness of the issues, The Community Foundation for Ireland has established a small Environment Fund. It expects to make its first grants in mid-2018. “We are in this for the long term” says Tina Roche, Chief Executive “and we hope we can inform and inspire people to come on board as donors in the months and years ahead so that we can tackle these issues in Ireland.  A number of people have committed to including the Environment Fund at The Community Foundation for Ireland in their will. This is another option for people – of major or minor means to ensure that their generous donation creates change in a meaningful way”.

Nick Nuttall, a spokesperson and director of communications and outreach for the UNFCCC, says “there is a growing need for the UN to work with foundations and the private sector to fight climate change. Philanthropy can, by its very nature, sometimes do things and take risks that business itself doesn’t want to take in the absence of certainty, or maybe because of a policy vacuum, Philanthropists can also operate in ways which aren’t just brutally financial. They may have other reasons for wanting to support climate change; it may be for social values, or gender, or women’s issues.”

In Ireland, the recent 2017 annual report from Benefacts showed that €103m in total was given by Irish and international philanthropic institutions, which is very low by international standards. The principal targets of philanthropic giving in Ireland were reviewed within the report and the issues of the environment and climate change did not feature. The environmental issues within Ireland need targeted support from those who want to give back to their communities and country in a targeted and strategic way. By investing in our environment now we can ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits of our natural resources.

The Community Foundation for Ireland will provide grants in the area of the environment at the start of environment week on May 21st, to find out more click here.

To find out more about our environment fund and how we work with donors please click here.