Groundswell, a nonprofit that builds community power, and The Solutions Project, which supports climate changemakers at the grassroots, are joining forces to develop a new program to connect corporate climate offset investments with renewable and regenerative projects serving frontline communities. The program builds on The Solutions Project’s award-winning success deploying funds to frontline communities at the forefront of climate solutions and Groundswell’s expertise in developing and financing equitable solar programs. It will give participating corporations line-of-sight visibility to local projects that support climate change commitments. Most importantly, the program will elevate community-driven solutions that tie equity and environmental justice metrics to climate outcomes.
"Frankly, we hear from both community and corporate leaders that there is an urgent need to move beyond status quo carbon offsets. A new approach that not only mitigates climate and health impacts, but regenerates our economies in right-relationship with nature can meet that need. The answer is found not in paper-trading, but in connecting the creativity of those solving the crises facing their communities with corporations committed to racial equity and climate action," commented Sarah Shanley Hope, Executive Director of The Solutions Project.
The resulting program will expand the impact of The Fighter Fund (https://thesolutionsproject.org/what-we-do/grants/), which was launched 5 years ago by The Solutions Project. The Fighter Fund was designed to help community and frontline leaders realize the vision of 100% renewable energy for 100% of the people, and has funded more than 50 renewable and regenerative projects and another 25 campaigns in 22 states, Puerto Rico, Oglala Lakota, and Navajo nations. Today, The Fighter Fund is governed by Philanthropic Trustees (https://thesolutionsproject.org/our-team/) that directly represent the communities it is built to serve alongside some of the most respected equity + climate foundations in the country.
“Corporate leaders can be a force for the greater good when they put their tools and resources to work for communities,” commented Michelle Moore, Groundswell’s CEO. “Systems produce outcomes according to the values on which they’re founded, and when climate solutions are built to value equity and justice, we will see those results.”
The vision and partnership grew out of research supported by The JPB Foundation and led by Lily Donge with the Rocky Mountain Institute to explore corporate renewable energy purchases. The Solutions Project and JPB then convened a conversation to innovate on the often critiqued Carbon offset programs for corporations that couldn’t fully realize their climate goals by reducing direct sources of carbon emissions. This conversation followed a speaker series hosted by sustainable fashion-leader Mara Hoffman Studios in which industry leaders saw the business opportunity to invest directly in the Black and Indigenous-women led projects featured, including PUSH Buffalo, two long-time Fighter Fund grantees. It is further inspired by Groundswell’s partnership with George Bandy, former Chief Sustainability Officer of Mohawk, who pioneered a community-focused investment program that installed solar projects for frontline communities to offset emissions from manufacturing processes (https://groundswell.org/a-groundswell/mohawk-collaboration-brings-smartflower-solar-opportunities-to-10-communities/).
The program’s design and development will be led by Lily Donge, Groundswell’s Director of Corporate Innovation for Communities. Lily has a global background and more than 20 years of experience in sustainability and cleantech investments, including leadership roles with Rocky Mountain Institute, Calvert Investments, and Ernst & Young. Lily is originally from Vietnam, grew up in the Philippines, and is a French and recent U.S. citizen (https://groundswell.org/team/#lily-donge).
“What are the innovative solutions that only those at the frontlines of pollution, energy poverty, and climate change can see? How can corporate interests expand rather than exploit those community solutions? These are the questions that will guide this program,” explained Lily.