The power of philanthropy: Tackling climate change
As climate breakdown continues to hit home hard, it’s no exaggeration to say that our response over the next decade will likely shape the future of humanity. Given the urgency and scale of the crisis, collective global action funded by all forms of capital is essential.
In this podcast, Juliet Agnew, our Head of Philanthropy, is joined by an expert panel of speakers to discuss the critical role that private capital, and in particular philanthropists, can play in addressing climate change.
Click below to hear our esteemed guests Sarah Butler-Sloss, Florence Miller and Tom Rivett-Carnac, share their unique insights, experiences, and passion for the planet and philanthropic purpose.
Coinciding with the COP26 climate change conference, the podcast’s timely topics are likely to remain relevant for a long time to come. It’s a must-listen for anyone looking to positively influence tomorrow.
You can stream this podcast by scanning the QR codes with your smartphone camera or clicking the buttons below.
Juliet Agnew: Hello, and welcome to this Barclays Private Bank Philanthropy podcast, a series which shines a light on personal stories, trends, and approaches that are shaping the landscape of giving. My name is Juliet Agnew, and I joined Barclays in May this year to run the philanthropy service.
Today, during the week of COP26, I'm delighted to be joined by an expert panel to discuss the critical role of philanthropy in tackling the climate crisis. Let me begin by introducing my guests. First up, we have Tom Rivett-Carnac, co-founder of Global Optimism, a platform which campaigns on climate issues and which co-founded the climate pledge.
He's a co-presenter of the climate podcast Outrage and Optimism and co-author of The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist's Guide to the Climate Crisis. Tom was also previously a political strategist for the UN. He worked directly on the Paris agreement and I believe was also a Buddhist monk at one point.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: That's true. Thanks for having me.
Juliet Agnew: Next up we have Florence Miller, who is Director of the Environmental Funders Network, which works with trusts, foundations and individuals who donate to environmental and conservation issues. The organisation aims to increase financial support for environmental causes and to help environmental philanthropies to be as effective as possible, a very important cause. Thank you Florence.
Florence Miller: Thanks for letting me be here, Juliet.
Juliet Agnew: And last but not least, we have Sarah Butler-Sloss, who has been internationally recognised for her work in the field of green energy over the past 20 years and best-known for founding the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy in 2001. She also established the Ashden Trust in 1989, which is one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, and this supports programmes focusing on climate change, sustainable development, and improvement in the quality of life in poorer communities. A very, very warm welcome to you, Sarah.
Sarah Butler-Sloss: Thank you very much. It's a privilege to be here.
Juliet Agnew: Starting with you, Tom, if I may, this issue of the climate crisis has never felt so visible to us all it seems. I'd love to know your take really on why this is such an important issue I mean, for you personally, but also for us as a society. And could you perhaps enlighten us as to some of the latest science and share your thinking on how we're progressing?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Sure. No, very happy to. Thanks for that question. And it's very important to start these discussions there, right, and to contextualise the moment that we're in, because our world has become so noisy. There's so much information that flows back and forth about the situation we're in, the context we're facing, the scale of the impacts, the time scales.
It can feel very overwhelming. It can feel very anxiety-inducing for a lot of people right across society. And trying to dial it back and look very calmly at the situation we're in, what options we have, and how we can move forward is really important. So it's a tough spot that we're in, is the reality of this moment, right.
We have left climate change really late. I mean, we've known for more than 30 years that we would get to this moment, where we are seeing rapidly rising temperatures all around the world. We have currently experienced around 1.1 degrees of global heating and that of course is disproportionately spread across the world.
And we are seeing that manifest in an almost constant wildfire season that spreads from California to Australia, to Siberia, to Greece, to East Sussex, all around the world. We're seeing that combined on other side with extreme flooding, with loss of life, dramatic loss of life across Europe, as well as in lots of other parts of the world, just this week in the Himalayas I was reading this morning.
We now need, science tells us, the recent IPCC report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that came out this year, which updates the world science on where we are, what's happening and what's possible was extremely clear that climate change is happening now, and that human emissions are the problem from energy, fossil fuel use and land use change.
And as a result of that, we need to reduce our emissions by fully 50% by the end of this decade, and then get them to net zero as quickly as possible after that. If we can do that, we can reduce emissions 50% in this decade and get to net zero before 2050, sometime in the 2040s.
Then actually it is still possible, at this moment, it's still possible to stave off the worst impact of climate change, to protect precious ecosystems that would otherwise tip into different stable states where we lose all of the biodiversity. But that's a big challenge. I mean, that's in excess of anything that humanity has ever come together and achieved before.
That equates to about an 8% drop in emissions every single year from now on. That's roughly commensurate with what we actually did achieve last year, but we did it because economic activity basically shut down all around the world. It's very important to realise that's not the transition we're talking about.
We can't achieve this transition by just stopping economic activity. So, we need countries to come together and make meaningful commitments. We need those to be followed up with innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment to enable us to hit them. And like so many things in the world, there's so much reason for hope and possibility.
And there's so much reason for outrage about the fact that we haven't done what we need to do so far. I mean, as of this moment, just a couple of numbers, when we came out of Paris in 2015, the world committed to limit climate change to under two degrees with best efforts to 1.5.
But the first round of national commitments, Paris is structured in a strange way.
At the end point in 2050, we'll be at net zero, and between now and then, we will come up with a series of five-yearly commitments that will in the end get us to that point. That's the way we manage the complicated nature of a long-term policy ask with a series of five-yearly commitments.
Now, the first round of national targets did not keep us on the trajectory to get to the end point. They were taking us to nearly four degrees of warming, even though we said we would keep it to under two.
Since then things have improved, national governments’ stated policies and detailed policies would keep us to two and a half degrees of warming so it's better, but not as far as we need to go. And the announced pledges that are not yet put into legislation, but have been announced as plans, would keep us to 2.1 degrees of warming.
So we're moving in the right direction. But what we now really need to see at COP this week, and in the course of the next year, is a step up from those countries who haven't yet come forward.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you, Tom. That's a really helpful overview of where we are today and of course, the significance of COP at this moment as well. Curious as to whether you think philanthropy has a particular role to play and, and just your brief kind of sense of that because there have been some very positive things that have been happening in this space.
But as you say, we've got huge targets to meet and we're going to really have to work together all forms of capital, all sectors to make this happen.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I mean there, there could not be a, a better task for philanthropists than to deal with this issue, right. This is the moment in which we need to double down and actually make the difference. A dollar spent in 10 years’ time cannot achieve anything like a dollar spent today to try to deal with this issue.
So not only is it the greatest human endeavour that we've ever faced and the greatest opportunity to have an impact on the future of all life on earth, but it's also urgent and you get the best return for your dollar the sooner that you spend it.
So I think we are seeing philanthropists begin to understand the huge role that can be played right now because, notwithstanding the evolving economics to the point where right now the solutions are actually more economic than the problems, right, renewable energy are now cheaper than fossil fuel generating capacity all around the world.
We've got loads of systems that need to be tipped, the political system, what we eat, you know, how we fly, how we engage with our politicians, how we manage our pensions, et cetera, all of those different areas, in the end we'll get to a place where the solutions are more economic than the problem, but right now we need really good thinking.
We need really good lobbying. We need really good intelligence and engagement and communications. And at the moment, the philanthropy is nowhere near the scale that it needs to be in. My, my colleagues can talk in more detail about that, but I'm really excited that philanthropists now seem to be getting it. And I think that the next few years we can really see this go to significant scale.
Juliet Agnew: Thanks, Tom. That is a perfect segue into Florence, who I'd love to, ask specifically about her view. First of all, any comments on anything that Tom has said, Florence, if you'd like to comment, but what is your take on how philanthropy is progressing towards climate and environmental space? Is it increasing? Do we have enough? What are the kind of general trends that you’re seeing?
Florence Miller: Yeah, thank you. And I think Tom ended on exactly the right note and we've, we've sort of got the data to back it up, essentially, that philanthropy for a long time seemed to ignore environmental issues. It was incredibly underfunded, as an issue area, even though the environment underpins literally everything you might care about philanthropically.
You know, without a healthy environment, there is no economy, there is no public health, there is no development, et cetera, et cetera. So, you know, for years we've done, analysis, looking at where all the grants were going from UK based trusts and foundations. And very depressingly, the amount of funding available for environmental causes from those foundations stayed at about a 105 million, 110 million a year, year after year.
And as an organisation that is devoted to increasing environmental philanthropy, it was a real indictment of our ability to actually shift the dial that we were seeing this number not move. But I'm very pleased to say, we are about to publish a report that shows that it is really increasing.
Since 2016 essentially, things have gone up by a hundred percent, doubled, the amounts of funding going from trust and foundations doubled by 2019, that's just the latest year for which you can get a complete set of data. And we know we'll probably have doubled again since then, because of some new, very large funders that have come onto the scene.
So, you know, people are finally starting to recognise this is really important. Having said that, amounts overall are still just such a tiny drop in the bucket, you know. So now we're at 220 million, we're going up to 300 and something million. You know, compared to fossil fuel subsidies this is, you know, a pinprick.
Having said that, again, you know, a pinprick is probably actually quite a good analogy 'cause a lot of people talk about philanthropy as being like acupuncture. So, you know, we are never going to have as much philanthropy as we have fossil fuel subsidies or, you know, government budgets or big business budgets.
But the idea is to place philanthropic capital in such a way that you leverage, you know, great change. Just because some of your listeners may be particularly interested in climate, the total levels of funding for climate are about a third overall of environmental issues.
So I mean, it's all interconnected. It's not like really, like you can separate out climate from biodiversity conservation and all the other environmental issues. They're all sort of tangled up together, but explicitly climate-focused philanthropy is about a third and from more international studies looking at funding for climate that have come out recently, that seems to be consistent globally.
So the levels of funding for climate change are still really low, but on the rise.
Juliet Agnew: Thanks Florence. So what I'm hearing from you is positive progress, which is fantastic, but really a long way to go.
Florence Miller: That's right, exactly. And a sense, I think that philanthropy is really, really important. You know, you asked Tom, what is the role of philanthropy in addressing climate and environmental issues, and we often talk about it in, in a sort of cliché, in terms of the Heineken ad. It reaches the parts that other parts can't reach.
And, you know, there's lots of work that is just never going to be commercial, but we need to happen. There's lots of work that governments are never gonna fund and corporations certainly aren't going to fund, advocacy work, campaigning and so on. But then there's also the kinds of work that a lot of environmental organisations do that's really niche and specialised and so important.
If you think about, you know, developing energy efficiency policy, for example, which we desperately need. So in the UK specifically, reaching our next carbon budget is, really hinges on our ability to crack improving the efficiency of buildings. A lot of that work is coming out of really specialised NGOs that know exactly what they're doing.
That's hard work to fundraise for from the general public 'cause it's not that sexy and philanthropists can step in there and say, I recognise this is really important and I will fund it.
And then it’s also really important to add that philanthropic capital is quite different from other sources of capital. So environmental NGOs don't just, depend on philanthropy. Some of them do, but most of have a pretty good spread of funding from different sources, but the philanthropic capital plays a really specific role.
We’ve surveyed chief executives of environmental organisations to ask why they find it so valuable. And the words that come up most often are it's flexible, much more flexible than other forms of funding. It's often longer-term, you know you're never gonna solve any environmental issue in a year. So year-long grants are often not particularly helpful. You need a sort of longer-term commitment.
And then at its most useful, it's unrestricted. So a donor will say, “I think your organisation is doing great work. It has really good leadership. It's got a really sound strategy. I'm gonna give you this money to use over a number of years and you should decide how it should be spent. You’re the one at the coalface, you know best what's needed.”
And that is gold dust to environmental organisations. That's where the real solutions start to emerge because they can use it in a very flexible way and sort of adapt to seize opportunities as they arise to address crises and so on.
Juliet Agnew: Yeah, really helpful messages actually for donors or potential donors who are listening here about the particular unique role of philanthropy, the specific ways that it can help. And I love that analogy of philanthropy being potentially like acupuncture. I've never heard that before, I might use that.
But it really speaks to the idea that, you know, philanthropy can be catalytic. One thing I wanted to ask you, so we may have listeners who are quite new to this, and if you are new to funding in this space, I imagine it can be quite overwhelming.
I mean, it's complex, right? There's so many different systems. It's quite technical at points. And there can be this feeling that, you know, surely I have to be a billionaire to make a difference here. Where should I start?
Florence Miller: I'm actually gonna steal some words from you, Sarah before you speak, 'cause I've heard you say this before, just get your feet wet is the best way to start. Don't overthink it.
One way to approach it is just think, well, what do I bring to the table? What is it that I'm particularly passionate about? What gets me excited? 'Cause you wanna stay excited about it, and what do I believe makes change happen?
So we often talk about how you can sort of think about a cube to start honing in on what it is that you're interested in. And there are three dimensions to this cube. One of them is the issue that you are particularly interested in. Is it climate change in particular? Within climate change, is it energy use, how we get our energy or is it transport, how we get around? Is it our buildings and so on?
Is it biodiversity conservation? So those are sorts of, you know, thematic issues. The second dimension is the approaches. So what are the kinds of approaches you think are really important to effecting change? Is it advocacy work? Is it policy development? Is it on the ground conservation? Is it research, environmental education, litigation?
You know, there is this host of different approaches that different NGOs use. So how do you think change happens? And then the third one is maybe the easiest which is geography. Where is it that you care about? Where do you want to be putting your funds? So it may be because you have a personal connection or it may be that you think I want to just put my money where the gaps are.
And from a UK perspective, we don't have enough philanthropy for the environment, but we have way more than other places in the world, you know. And a lot of those places are extremely important in terms of climate change. So where are the new coal-fired power stations being built? Maybe you could put your money there.
Eastern Europe has the last free-running rivers in Europe, yet there's very little resource for civil society there to help protect them. You know, all these sorts of ways of honing in on effective places to put your money geographically. So I think that cube can help make it feel less overwhelming.
And then the other piece of advice I would have is just get talking to people who are already doing this. There are loads of them, and actually that's what networks like ours are for, to help them stop reinventing wheels and learn from each other and be introduced to great NGOs that they support and so on.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you, Florence. This is a perfect opportunity to I think, to bring Sarah into the questions and conversation. Sarah, thank you for waiting so patiently. You've had hands-on close to 30 years I think of doing this, getting your hands dirty in environmental and climate philanthropy, and you’re leading a charitable foundation.
So I'd love to hear from you about your personal experiences, why you chose to do what you did, you know, what you might have learned on the way. And of course, any reflections you might have on previous comments from Florence and Tom.
Sarah Butler-Sloss: Thank you very much. It's a great honour to be here and thank you for asking me. My personal journey really started when I was a teenager, a rebellious teenager.
And at school, I had rather an amazing and visionary head teacher. She had the choice of either throwing me out or helping me along. And she decided to help me along, give me one-to-one lessons in science, 'cause that was the area that I was interested in. And there was one lesson she gave me which sort of changed my life.
I still remember she drew on a piece of paper a circle representing the world, the globe, and on it she put a greenhouse. And with that, she explained to me the greenhouse effect.
It had an amazing impact on me 'cause I never forgot the way that she was so animated about this. And this is in the late seventies and she was animated and concerned. And I couldn't understand why with the, you know, the grown-up world and my naivety of a 14-year-old, I thought the grown-up world, if it's such a simple formula, they can sort it out.
But little did I know about the worlds of business and industry and finance and politics and economics. So I just put it to one side and didn't think about it until in my early twenties, a friend of mine encouraged me to join Friends of the Earth, which I did.
And at the time, Jonathan Porritt was, was running it. And I started reading what he was writing, and I had that penny-drop moment. I'd done a degree in zoology. I knew the fragility and the incredible interconnectedness of ecosystems and everything else. And suddenly everything seemed to drop into place. And it was really from that, that inspired my philanthropy.
I was very lucky enough to be a member of the Sainsbury Family. And at the age of 26 in 1990, my husband and I set up a very small, charitable trust. I had been very much helped and encouraged by my father in that area so it really did, that made, made a huge difference. But it meant because we were also starting very small, we could just get our feet wet, as Florence mentioned, we could try and explore what interested us.
And we were both interested in the environment, and we could see the problems that were emerging. I understood the science and he saw it from a communications point of view. And so that's why we started on the journey. And we learned as we went along, and some of those key lessons are really listening to the people on the ground that are making the changes.
And one of the biggest gaps that I was finding and I was really struggling with was, we were hearing from the environmental movement back in the early '90s about the problem. In a way they were wagging a big finger at everyone saying, this is the problem. We've gotta stop doing this. We've gotta... but we, they never talked about the solutions.
And I wanted to find a way of bridging those two things, international development and the solutions to climate change. And it got me involved in supporting small pilot projects in the global south and Sub-Saharan Africa and other places, which were doing brilliant work at bringing to those people that had no energy, clean energy for the first time.
Though at the time, over three billion people had no access to any form of electricity nor any form of clean cooking. And so by having organisations that were being able to make it affordable to those that had none, transformed their lives.
It transformed their health, their education opportunities, their livelihoods, their jobs, and the economics, as well as helping the local environment such as preventing deforestation, as well as the global environment of less carbon being thrown to the atmosphere, as well as black soot.
And it was amazing. I got very involved in it and I used to go and visit projects, and go and visit the beneficiaries of the projects that we were supporting. And it was overpowering to see that sort of impact. One of the projects that I went to see was an amazing project bringing clean cook stoves into schools in Kenya.
And the first school I went to had no clean cook stove. But instead what it had were five women crouched over smoky three-stone fires, cooking the food for the lunch for this school. The room was completely smoke-filled. The walls were blackened. They suffered from terrible coughs and the school was spending a fortune on the wood that was powering those, and heating those, and cooking those meals.
And I then went and visited a school which had a clean cook stove. It took the women cooking half the amount of time. There was no smoke. There was less than half the amount of wood being consumed. So in every way, it was saving the cooks’ health. It was saving the school's finances because it was saving a lot of money.
And it was saving the environment, saving trees, which was incredibly important. So it was a kind of win-win-win. And it was something that I just thought the world's gotta know about this, these sort of solutions where it's not a pain to help climate change.
It was a phenomenal gain and it transformed lives and communities. But at the time, this is in the mid-to-late '90s, no one was doing this, no one was talking about it. No one was making a difference. And we were trying these pilot projects and needed bigger funding to take them on to scale them.
But the more we talked to people, it wasn't on people's radar or in their priority list. So at that point I thought, well, we've got to find a way of highlighting these. And as a result in 2001, I, I started an award along with another organisation that was running awards, the Whitley Awards, but I started the first Ashden Award in 2001 to find sustainable solutions that improved lives.
And the publicity that that had, allowed the winner to be on the front page news of every newspaper in his country, and to be met off the plane by the president of his country when he arrived back home. So suddenly I saw the power of an award scheme and raising awareness, and showing the inspiration of what some of these people and champions were doing on the ground.
So we expanded that the following year and the same story was the case, you know, the publicity that it generated. So we eventually spun that out to a separate fundraising charity that needed its own funds and it became the Ashden Awards. It's now, Ashden climate solutions in action. And it's been an interesting journey. So that was one of those successes that really has made a big difference and finding the gap in the market.
Juliet Agnew: Everything you're saying is absolutely fascinating. And sometimes we really forget that there are, you know, real, tangible, challenging impacts for local communities on the ground, but at the same time, some extraordinary, quite simple local solutions.
So it's really interesting hearing that your approach is focused on those. And one of the questions that I wanted to ask you, and also just open up to the others as well is, one thing I've observed is that the voices of local communities, and indeed of indigenous communities, has historically been overlooked in this whole conversation, as sources of inspiration, as sources of practical sustainable solutions.
And I wonder whether you think this is changing. 'Cause I suspect it is a bit, perhaps not enough, but I would love to hear your views Sarah and the others.
Sarah Butler-Sloss: I think luckily it is changing, and I think it's an incredibly important area that we do make it change. It started dramatically changing at Paris when we heard from indigenous communities in the small island states. But it's happening in, whether you're in forestry, avoiding deforestation, it's an incredibly important area.
So I think hearing the voices of the people that are most vulnerable, that are least responsible for this problem, is so important. And I'll open it up to the others.
Florence Miller: Yeah I'll come in. Because I think philanthropy is starting to wake up to the power of supporting people, A, at the grassroots and, B, indigenous communities, which often overlap.
There's a really interesting initiative that has emerged from a few of the members of the Environmental Funders Network plus some others.
They've come together to support indigenous and grassroots communities in Brazil, and they've decided to align their funding. So they will all kind of bring ideas for grants to the table, discuss them. Some of them will agree to fund it, you know, separately, but together. Some of them may not for, depending on what the initiative is.
And then they also have a pooled fund, and that pooled fund is fascinating and I think quite a revolutionary way of funding. It essentially devolves decision-making in terms of where the funding is going to go specifically to grassroots organisations and leaders from around 60 different indigenous groups in Brazil.
The funders see themselves as responsible for getting the funds together, pooling them, handing them over. And then they don't have a say in where the money goes, and it's because they recognise that they don't know where it ought to go. And they also recognise that the funds themselves can be divisive and can affect dynamics in ways that may be unhelpful.
And so if they give them to the people who are on the ground and in the know, they know how to sort of pass them out in packages that will be most beneficial, most catalytic, and with the least disruptive effect and I mean, negatively disruptive in terms of the way money can distort things. So I think that's been a brilliant initiative and really exciting to see.
Juliet Agnew: Tom, do you have any comments on that question?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Yeah. There's a couple of things I'd be interested to comment on actually. I mean, first of all, to your question, I do think it's changing and I think it's, you know, a high time that we realised, I mean, what is it? 30% of the world's intact ecosystems are actually under the direct control of indigenous groups and indigenous leaders.
And that's an astonishing number if you think about it and how precious those ecosystems are. So Florence and Sarah will know more about the actual flows of philanthropic money, but I'm seeing far more attention paid to those different actors, and that's fantastic.
It's absolutely essential and a lot of interest from funders, but I actually wanna pick up on something Florence just said, and I would be really interested in all of your views.
So I have been in the climate change space for 20 years. And one of the things that I have observed is that strategy development has shifted from the leadership of non-profits to foundations. And when I started, it was more non-profits saying, "I want to do this”, whatever it may be, and then going to funders and saying, "Please, can you fund me to do it."
Now, if you know what's going on behind the scenes, what's actually happening is foundations are saying, “I want to do this” and NGOs are almost servicing them kind of like consultants to people who are contracting according to the theory of change that is being developed increasingly by foundations.
And that speaks a little bit to what you've just said, Florence. I'd like to know, I think that there's really good things about that, if this isn't too much of a nuanced question, because I think this is, this is part of the issue around how do we get more money flowing, but also allow the space to continue to be innovative and entrepreneurial.
And so we need to kind of get that balance right, whereby the funders can actually connect everybody together as a whole movement so it's not so siloed. At the same time, often the people in the NGOs are actually the real experts about what needs to happen. So I would just love to know anybody else's much more experienced in the funding community than me, perception on do you think that's true and if so, what are the good and what are the bad and what do we do about it.
Sarah Butler-Sloss: I'd love to pick that up if I can. 'Cause I think that's a really good point. And there are real pros and cons to it, I would say. And, and I speak because I've sat on both sides of the fence. You know, I was Founder-Director for the Ashden Awards for 18 years and needed to fundraise. And then I'm also, um, run a charitable foundation.
So one of the lessons I think that is terribly important for philanthropists, especially at the early stages, is listening to what's happening on the ground and listening to those brilliant people that are doing tremendous things on the ground. And I think there's a real danger of philanthropists taking too much control and saying, “We know best. This is how we want to spend our money.”
And not listening to the ground. And certainly my biggest mistake was once when I tried to do that in East Africa before the awards, we wanted to try and bring energy to schools. And we thought in a slightly top-down way we could help do that. We knew the various ingredients, but we didn't and we couldn't do it.
And I think, you know, as Ashden Trust, this small foundation that we have, we look at, yes, we do focus on areas because we think it's incredibly important to have the expertise and to recognise who the key players are and to support those key players.
I think there's a real danger sometimes of funders imposing too much onto the charities. So I think it's brilliant that so many philanthropists are in there and there are some brilliant brains in philanthropy – as long as they combine it with those experts on the ground that are doing the work and listen to them, I think that's the great thing.
Juliet Agnew: Thanks, Sarah. I think that's a really, really good strong message that listening is vital if we are to be effective and, and to really kind of understand the local context quite frankly. Florence, did you have any comments?
Florence Miller: Yeah, lots of thoughts on that. Because I run a network that has funders that run the gamut from The Children's Investment Fund Foundation, which is the largest giver on climate possibly in the world, but certainly in Europe, right down to family trusts where it's a couple who make decisions at the kitchen table about where to give their money.
And so I see the whole spread. And an organisation like The Children's Investment Fund Foundation, they have their own strategy and they are essentially hiring NGOs to deliver on it exactly as Tom said. That said, their staff members are comprised of people who've worked in every NGO across the sector. You know, they're bringing the wisdom of the sector to the organisation, I would say.
So, it concentrates power and it also slightly puts all the eggs in one basket is the only downside to that. We need a range of solutions being funded. And so when you've got so much money going into one strategy, that's potentially the problem.
It's interesting though, because it does show. And when we talk to NGOs, we hear this from them, the power of smaller donors. So the donors who are giving 10, 25, 50,000 pounds a grant compared to the ones who are giving millions and millions, it plays a really important and valued role in the sector. It's much faster, that money gets out of the door way faster.
You know, the couple sitting at their table can make a decision over dinner. The Children's Investment Fund Foundation will take a lot longer and they can really only get large amounts of money out the door. It's too time-consuming for a big institution like that to focus on smaller grants. So they play very different and quite complementary roles and there's room for all of those in the sector, I would say.
There have been some announcements recently of really large grants. You know, there was an announcement of $5 billion in new funding for biodiversity from I think, five or six different funders a couple of weeks ago, which I think is brilliant news, we need all the money we can get, but that money is not necessarily gonna raise the tide for all boats.
You know, there are only so many organisations that can take on board those levels of money. So inevitably it will end up getting concentrated in larger institutions. So I think you need this kind of complementary approach of different sized funders giving out money in different ways.
Juliet Agnew: I'm so pleased you raised that point Florence because a message that I really want our listeners to understand is that you don't actually have to be a billionaire. I think I've said this before. You do not have to be spending billions to have an impact, that shouldn't stop you from getting started.
And we've heard very clearly from Sarah and from you Florence, that the power of starting small and the power of these smaller, flexible grants in the sector, they really have a very critical role to play. So that should not stop someone from contributing.
Florence Miller: Absolutely.
Florence Miller: 'Cause the other thing is that philanthropy isn't just the money. So the people who are giving the grants often bring with them expertise, networks, influence, which are really, really valuable to the organisations if it's provided alongside a grant. So that's the other thing, just to say, small grants, if they come along with those things are even more valuable.
Juliet Agnew: Absolutely. Tom, you look like you want to say something.
Tom Rivett-Carnac: I was just gonna really concur with what Florence said, because if you do speak to any global NGO that has multi-million dollar budgets, they'll generally have started off with much smaller grants from smaller funders that got them to that stage at the beginning, so it's almost like risk capital that can really provide an enormous return if well-directed. So I think that's a great point from Florence.
Juliet Agnew: Absolutely. It's that pinprick of the acupuncture pin, isn't it? I do want to ask one other question that picks up on something that Sarah talked about. Actually, Sarah, when you were telling your story about you as a teenager, and what compelled you to give back, I was thinking about this recent Lancet report that came out just this year about the state of the climate emergency as it is on the mental health of young people.
And some really concerning statistics that came out there. Six in 10 young people aged 16 to 25 are very, or extremely worried, and four in 10 are hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis, and three out of four agreed that the future is frightening. I mean, these are really alarming things to be hearing.
And I mentioned this not to kind of be all doom and gloom, but because so many of us listening, I myself, you know, I'm a parent, many of us are parents. And even if you're not a parent, you know, we all have a responsibility to the younger generations. And this is very real for young people, both in terms of the future that we're leaving them with and the mental health challenges that they are now facing.
Does philanthropy have a role to play here? And what can philanthropy do?
Florence Miller: Absolutely. I mean, it is a deeply concerning issue and the levels of anxiety amongst young people, and then compounded obviously by COVID and everything else, are really, really worrying. There are loads of initiatives that philanthropy can resource to support young people to address the climate crisis, because there's nothing more meaningful, I think, than actually being involved in solutions.
And that's where young people will get their sense of “I can do something about this”. A sense of agency is gonna be really important to countering the anxiety. On the other hand, they have a right to be really angry. So I don't wish to sort of immediately get them into like being part of the solution when actually the burden shouldn't necessarily be on them.
But you know, members of the network have funded everything from Students Organising for Sustainability SOS-UK, which helped create the Mock COP, which was an amazing initiative that took place last year when COP26 was supposed to happen with young people from all over the world, figuring out what they thought needed to be the outcomes of the COP.
Raleigh International is starting to do a programme to support young people, which I think is fantastic. There are loads of different initiatives. So there's sort of the role that philanthropy can play is providing resources to these young people who've often come together of their own accord anyway, to try and get things done and just need an injection of support.
And they can, gosh, they can do things on a shoestring, the Mock COP. I mean, the budget was absolutely tiny and it was phenomenal. It really was an incredible process with an incredible manifesto that they put together at the end.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you. Sarah, do you have any reflections on that point? It's one that might be quite personal to you given your story?
Sarah Butler-Sloss: Yeah. Young people have a right to be angry. They also, rationally, have a reason to be anxious. From what we've heard from Tom, you know, the climate science is, is really tough to swallow. But certainly through my philanthropy, I've been totally driven by, by the impact that climate change is gonna have on our kids and our kids' generation.
It is huge. It is such a big problem. And as a parent, we all, and, or as an uncle or aunt or grandparent, whatever, we have such a role to play and to support the young kids to do so as well. I'm always trying to look at the positives.
One of the things that Ashden Trust supports is connecting people to nature and the huge health benefits of connecting kids to the natural world. And we're more and more removed from that natural world and the impact that that can have on their mental health. So, I think it's terribly important to support the activists.
We need the young activists to tell us to, to, to hold our governments and our corporations to account. We really need them. So we want to support them, but we also want to support those who are from deprived community to connect with nature, because it is causing real mental problems, not having that connection to the natural world.
So I think let's see it from two angles or two ways that we can be supporting, through philanthropy, young people.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you, Sarah. It is a very emotional topic, but as you say, there are some constructive, positive things that we can do. Tom, do you have any thoughts on this topic?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Yeah. No, thanks so much, Sarah, for that kind of engagement with the issue, I think you really hit it right on the head there. I mean, that report was just heart-breaking, wasn't it?
The statistic that really got me was it said that 54% of young people, and this is the biggest survey ever of young leaders or young people on this issue from very diverse geographically, 54% say that it has a day-to-day detrimental impact on their mental health.
They think about it for several hours a day in terms of what their future is gonna look like. And that's a really, really big burden right, for anybody to carry. And in all honesty, what generation could be properly equipped emotionally to go through this change.
It's hard for all of us to work out the confusing nature of what this change is, and the relationship between anger and action and dialogue, as the impacts get worse and the injustices mount, and yet there's still clearly an imperative for us to maintain dialogue so that we can find solutions.
But there were two things that made a difference. One was honesty from leaders in terms of what we're facing. Anyone who seemed to be hiding from the issue really made people more anxious because they weren't identifying what science is really saying.
So there is now a real moral responsibility from leaders to be clear about this, about where we are, both because that's the basis of real action, but also because otherwise you could enter this doublespeak world, which really drives people into additional levels of anxiety and mental health. So I think that there's a real important role there for philanthropy and helping leaders understand that they need to be honest about this and they need to communicate it very clearly.
And the second piece, which was already mentioned by Florence is taking action, taking action in a meaningful way, both in your own life, as well as using the power that you do have as an activist, and to engage with power structures around the world, is the best way to feel like this is a generational endeavour within which you have a role, rather than this big, amorphous thing which is out there, which is affecting you, which is frightening.
And it helps people feel an additional degree of agency, and they can be a useful part of that transformation and incorporate their grief into that change. So I mean, I could not think of a more important target for philanthropy than working with young people and helping them to be more effective agents of change. I mean, look at what they've achieved in such a short period of time with basically no money, right.
Now that needs to be done sensitively because money can be complicated, but my God, there's an opportunity to really have an impact because the momentum and the dynamism and the energy is there, and this is really the moment for it.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you. That was very, very helpful and optimistic as well, and a nice point for us to start to wrap up on, I think. We've had some really fascinating insights shared today. I'd like to just go around the group and ask for any key takeaways from our speakers today.
Florence Miller: I think if I wanted a listener to come away with any one thing it would be that philanthropy can make a huge difference, that it is an incredibly important way to get involved. It's a privilege to be able to do it. And based on the conversation we were just having about mental health, I mean, honestly, there's nothing more satisfying and meaningful to get engaged with and being part of the solutions. So from an individual perspective, it's a very attractive thing to be part of.
Juliet Agnew: Tom, do you want to jump in?
Tom Rivett-Carnac: Sure. So I will leave with, with three takeaways from this. The first is very clearly that now is the moment. You will, there will never be a better moment to invest resources in philanthropy than right now, right.
I mean, if you, if anyone listening to this has resources where they can try and help solve this problem, look back at some laughably short time period, like 20 years at this moment, right, and what would you have liked to have done.
I sometimes say whether or not the world has coral reefs in the year 4,000 will depend on what happens in the next 15 years, right. And if you're somebody that has resources in order to try and change which way round that comes, now is your moment. You're never gonna get a better moment.
The second point is that it's true that it can be confusing. We need to change enormous things about our society and our system and our infrastructure. And do you invest in lobbying? Do you work on the energy system?
But it's not okay to look at that and say, it's too difficult, I'm not gonna do it. It actually is possible to work that stuff out and figure out how to have a meaningful impact in a manner that is really satisfying. And there's lots of people around, as has been evidenced by this conversation, who can help.
And the third thing is, you know, just get started. This is a really exciting journey that, that hopefully people listening to this podcast are about to get on. You can be an amazing part of the solution. Just get started, engage in the issue, watch how you can make a difference.
None of us can solve it on our own, but people listening to this podcast have a disproportionate impact on having created the problem, I would argue, and I would include myself in that category, but also we have a disproportionate opportunity to find the solution, so let's do it.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you. Sarah.
Sarah Butler-Sloss: Well, I completely agree with everything that's been said. Just to add one or two other things which I take away is climate change is very pressing as we've heard, but it covers every aspect of life. And I think one of the really important things is that rather than being confused, follow the things that you're interested in, as we've heard from Florence, and follow the things that you have maybe expertise or knowledge in.
Because you can tackle it from the arts, from the law, from science, from health or education perspective, with finance, or wildlife conservation, whatever you're interested in, find a way of getting in there, and enjoy it.
It's the most amazing privilege to be in a position where you can give back something. It's exciting. It's rewarding. You meet amazing people in the process. The brightest people I've ever met have been in this sector, and you can make a difference.
And again, I would say, listen and learn from the ground, and always collaborate and convene with others. But one thing we haven't touched on is don't just think about the grants, think about the finance from which they come and if you've got an endowment or if you've got investments, think about how you're using those too.
Juliet Agnew: Thanks, Sarah. We haven't touched on that topic today, but obviously also it is very important.
Florence Miller: I think just the one thing I would say to build on what both Tom and Sarah just said was, gosh, this is a real invitation. It's not a hardship to get involved in environmental philanthropy, it’s probably the most meaningful thing I've ever been involved in.
I sit on the board of a trust that gives out grants on climate, but I also have the privilege of running this network. It's full of joy. It's really a joyous process. It's the process of supporting solutions to the problems that occupy most of our attention at the moment.
Juliet Agnew: Thank you to all of my guests today. We have covered a lot of ground. It's been very, very rich. I feel like I could speak to you all day about these topics, but we do need to conclude. And it's very, very clear from this discussion that philanthropy has an absolutely critical role to play and a critical role to play now, particularly.
So thank you to all of our listeners as well. I hope you found the discussion informative and inspiring. In the words of Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO, and founder of The World Economic Forum's Trillion Tree Initiative, “None of us can do everything, but all of us must do something”.
I hope you've taken some useful insights away from today, with actionable, practical steps that you can take, and look out for our next philanthropy podcast where we'll be bringing more fascinating speakers to the table to discuss how your giving can make a meaningful impact in the world. Thank you.
About the speakers
Sarah Butler Sloss has been internationally recognised for her work in the field of green energy over the past 20 years, and is best-known for founding the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy in 2001. In 1989, she established the Ashden Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, which supports programmes focusing on climate change, sustainable development, and improving quality of life in poorer communities.
Florence Miller is CEO of the Environmental Funders Network, which works with trusts, foundations and individuals making grants on environmental and conservation issues. The organisation aims to increase financial support for environmental causes and to help environmental philanthropy to be as effective as possible.
Tom Rivett-Carnac is co-founder of Global Optimism, a platform which campaigns on climate issues and which co-founded the Climate Pledge. He’s a co-presenter of the climate podcast, Outrage + Optimism, and co-author of The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist's Guide to the Climate Crisis. Tom was previously a political strategist for the UN and worked directly on the Paris Agreement.
Juliet Agnew is head of Philanthropy at Barclays Private Bank. With nearly 20 years’ experience in the industry, she brings a broad and fresh perspective, having joined us in May 2021. Juliet began her career on the frontline of social change, working with award-winning international charities. She has spent the last decade working with companies, charitable foundations, and families to design and manage high-impact giving across a range of causes and geographies. Juliet is a seasoned foundation leader, board member and coach.
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