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Environmental philanthropy: a gift from you to the future

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Environmental causes still represent a small proportion of philanthropic giving – but the natural world’s interconnectedness means that won’t always be the case.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014. 

People have mixed feelings about philanthropy. Some might see it as a way for wealthy people to serve their own interests, while others praise the efforts and commitment of affluent individuals and organisations in helping tackle global problems. Regardless of your view, the impact and legacy of philanthropic giving is clear for us all to see – in our museums, hospitals, galleries, monuments and national parks.

One area that generally provides donors with less tangible or visible outcomes – but which has benefits for everyone and everything on the planet – is the environment. The latest report by the Environmental Funders Network (EFN) revealed that UK foundation grants and lottery funding for environmental projects totalled £383m between 2010 and 2012 – with 66% coming from just 10 foundations. While this is an increase over previous years, the total still represents less than 4% of all grants by UK charitable trusts.

The green investor and philanthropist Ben Goldsmith, who co-founded the EFN in 2003, told Blue & Green Tomorrow last year, “People assume that the environment will just always be there and will always keep on giving, and therefore they look to focus on the more immediate problems. It’s like they’re putting sticking plasters onto the symptoms of environmental collapse and trying to deal with things at the end of the pipe, rather than going to the beginning of the pipe and trying to solve the cause of some of those problems. That’s the transition that philanthropists need to make.”

Photo: Thad Zajdowicz via freeimages.com

A year on from Goldsmith’s rallying cry, and not enough progress has been made. Mark Kenber, CEO of the climate change organisation the Climate Group, notes that philanthropic giving still struggles to break away from its focus on health, education and poverty.

In a cruel twist of fate, these three important issues are being worsened by climate change: pollution from the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transport is killing people globally; heatwaves, droughts and other extreme weather cause disruptions to education provisions; and developing world families are being pushed further into economic anguish as farmland becomes useless and food harder to come by.

Kenber says, “[Environmental and conservation work] are areas where the devastating effects of climate change are having the greatest impact on millions of people across the globe, with heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires and pollution disrupting education, forcing families from their homes and causing people to fall ill. This will accelerate unless we act now and undermine much of the progress made in areas that receive the bulk of philanthropic support.

“Philanthropic funding and charitable giving to environmental organisations has the potential to revolutionise the fight against climate change, creating an impact that will truly be felt by the global community.

There are many notable examples of trusts, foundations and also individuals that have made a difference by deciding to direct their giving towards environmental initiatives. For example, the Canada-based Oak Foundation offers grants to projects that address the causes of and solutions to climate change and the oceans crisis. The foundation is the primary funder of the TckTckTck network – also known as the Global Call for Climate Action, which puts together more than 450 organisations campaigning for climate action.

Another notable British organisation, the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), offers grants to the leading environmental protection projects. Its annual awards help fund the world’s top conservationists. Among last year’s winners are biologist Zahirul Islam, who worked to protect sea turtles in Bangladesh, and Daniel Letoiye, whose efforts to preserve species and grasslands in Kenya were praised.

There are also philanthropic foundations in the US leading the way, with the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation deserving of a special mention. George Mitchell, who died last year, was the father of fracking, developing the process to extract shale gas by hydraulically fracturing shale rocks.

At the time, Mitchell knew little about the seriousness of climate change, the economic case for leaving fossil fuels in the ground or the effects of fracking on the environment and the water table. His legacy has therefore been, through his foundation, to find “innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems”.

The foundation supports water programmes, clean energy projects in Texas and initiatives to make natural gas more sustainable. It says it “supports the emerging regulatory, industry, environmental and academic efforts to reduce the negative environmental and community impacts of shale formation development and hydraulic fracturing while capturing the energy, environmental, and economic benefits of natural gas”.

Photo: Vera and Jean Christophe via Flickr

In the area of climate change, the Climate Group and the European Climate Foundation are major players. The first brings together governments, business leaders and policymakers to build a low-carbon future, while the latter funds – with its €25m annual budget – climate and energy projects that aim at reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the EU.

Some of the individual donors making a difference to the environment include Jeremy Grantham, chair of GMO investment group and founder of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and HP founder William Hewlett, who created with his wife the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, committed to tackling social and environmental problems.

Another high-profile personality, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia, created with her husband two organisations to help preserve land in Chile and Argentina. Tompkins bought a piece of land in Monte Leon national park in Patagonia and donated to the Argentinean National Park Administration. The couple have, in total, conserved over 2m acres of land in the two countries – reportedly more than any other private individuals.

Tompkins eloquently sums up the benefits of environmental philanthropy: “More than a gift from me, Monte Leon national park’s designation was a gift to me. Every act of wildlands philanthropy, large or small, demonstrates care for the land, love for wildlife and concern for generations to come. And finally it is something you do for your heart.”

Featured image: Aureliy Movila via freeimages.com

Further reading:

Funding environmental issues, armed with research

Sainsbury family’s £165m charity donations top Sunday Times Giving List

Figures suggest UK environmental group membership at 4.5m

Sainsbury family’s £165m charity donations top Sunday Times Giving List

The Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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