Big Bucks Flowing into Climate Action


Temperatures are reaching new highs, and so is billionaire-backed climate advocacy. Fasten your seat belts.

Students in Melbourne participate in the School Strike for Climate Action   movement. The movements founder, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, inspired philanthropists to launch the Climate Emergency Fund, one of several recent funds to support climate action.  Photo by Julian Meehan on Flickr.

Students in Melbourne participate in the School Strike for Climate Action movement. The movements founder, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, inspired philanthropists to launch the Climate Emergency Fund, one of several recent funds to support climate action. Photo by Julian Meehan on Flickr.

Last fall, a clutch of billionaires committed $4 billion to fund a new wave of climate advocacy and activism. Now, they're shoveling even more money into the cause, and companies—especially those in carbon-intensive sectors—should take note.

Future 500 initially flagged this trend in our Force for Good Forecast 2019.  The annual handbook outlines the 10 most important rising trends in social and environmental advocacy and offers more than 60 tips to ensure companies minimize risk from these developments and maximize reward. In trend #10 “The 2020 Opportunity” we explained how this initial injection of funds would hit the ground this year and spur escalating advocacy and action.

Last year’s $4 billion in funding commitments was unprecedented. But in recent months, philanthropists have dipped back into their savings accounts to add another half-billion and change to the total––with more on the way:

  • In June, Michael Bloomberg pledged $500 million to his new Beyond Carbon campaign. This is big, especially if he follows through on his hints, and directs this into grassroots activism.

  • A few weeks later, Leonardo DiCaprio joined forces with billionaire investors Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth to form Earth Alliance. This partnership will fund fund large-scale campaigns, grassroots organizations, and community-scale advocacy.

  • Soon after, Rory Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, and petro-heiress Aileen Getty, launched the Climate Emergency Fund. The fund has already shuffled north of $600,000 into Extinction Rebellion––and the founders are aiming to raise tens of millions more.

Not only are we seeing more money flowing in to climate, those backers are activating on climate in new ways. As with all grantmaking, there’s a lag between when funders announce commitments, when funds land in grantees’ bank accounts, and when campaigners put them to work. But make no mistake, a tidal wave is coming in 2020—the same year as Earth Day 50, the sustainability themed Tokyo Olympics, COP 26, and to top it all off, the U.S. presidential election.

If you’re a private-sector leader, prepare to engage with your critics, and position yourself for leadership—before this opportunity flips to risk.

In summary, philanthropists are throwing open their war chests, and advocates are going to put the money to work. If you’re a private-sector leader, prepare to engage with your critics, and position yourself for leadership—before this opportunity flips to risk.

Here’s a few tips to get you started, taken straight from our Force for Good Forecast 2019:

  • Kick off a materiality assessment to identify priorities, or gather stakeholders for a round table to hear what they have to say.

  • Align your corporate philanthropy program, and your entire CSR strategy for that matter, with your purpose. Assess your company’s capacity—both your leadership’s comfort level and resources—to drive change.

  • Team up pre-competitively: Wrangle your corporate peers and even competitors for collective action. By acting together you will get more accomplished, speak with a more powerful voice, and more effectively mitigate risk.

Glean more tips, and a quick summary of “The 2020 Opportunity,” in our Force for Good Forecast 2019.  


 

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