February 17, 2019

The Solutions Project announces groundbreaking pledge to fund frontline climate groups led by women and people of color; invites US philanthropies to join

100% Commitment to Justice aims to correct historic lack of funding and media coverage and promote feminine leadership that builds power from the ground up

Oakland, Calif. — The Solutions Project, which led the charge for 100% clean energy for all, is doubling down on its commitment to feminine leadership and the diversity it nurtures with a pioneering 100% Commitment to Justice. By next year, the grantmaking nonprofit will invest 95 percent of its resources in innovative frontline leadership of color, with at least 80 percent going to organizations led by women. Research consistently links greater diversity of leadership to more successful results, and when it comes to curbing climate change, success is the only option.


“For a challenge as great as climate change, we need everyone on deck — including women and people of color who are leading clean energy efforts on the front lines of climate change, too often without resources or recognition,” said Don Cheadle, award-winning actor, Solutions Project board member, and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme.  “When people who live every day with the effects of dirty energy and a changing climate draw on that experience to create solutions and drive change, the results can be game-changing.”


The Solutions Project’s groundbreaking new strategy aims to address gender and racial inequities in media coverage and in philanthropy, especially as they relate to climate change. Approximately 95 percent of each year’s $60 billion in U.S. foundation funding goes to organizations led by white people, while 70 to 80 percent goes to organizations led by men. About half of climate funding is  concentrated in just 20 organizations, with demographics that match this extreme homogeneity in leadership.  


Studies consistently show racial, ethnic and gender diversity leads to greater team performance in decision-making and financial results. Startup company teams with at least one woman performed 63% better than all male teams.  And in times of crisis, McKinsey research shows, women employ more of the leadership qualities organizations need, and their organizations perform better during and after crises.


“We challenge our fellow grantmakers — especially climate and clean energy funders — to join us in making philanthropic funding reflect the diversity of American leadership. They can start by pledging at least 10 percent of their funding to groups led by women of color,” said The Solutions Project’s executive director, Sarah Shanley Hope.  


“It will be exciting to see how members of the philanthropic community respond to The Solutions Project’s challenge,” said Justin Winters, a Solutions Project board member and executive director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is a Solutions Project funder. “Imagine if communities most harmed by dirty energy and implementing the most innovative climate solutions actually had the resources they need.”


“The Solutions Project was in the front of the pack as the first national organization to call for 100% clean energy for all, and now it’s in the lead again with its 100% Commitment to Justice,” Winters said.


The race and gender disparity in climate and clean energy funding also extends to news coverage. While studies show climate change disproportionately affects communities of color and women, a new analysis by The Solutions Project finds these voices are underrepresented in media coverage of climate and clean energy. The media report finds:


  • 7 percent of media stories on climate and clean energy reference communities of color
  • 21 percent reference women
  • 10 percent reference equity or justice


To help remedy the situation, The Solutions Project funds frontline leaders of color and provides media supports for diverse leaders who empower communities from the ground up. In New York, for example, PUSH Buffalo’s Rahwa Ghirmatzion engaged neighbors in a low-income community of color to turn an abandoned school into solar-powered affordable housing for seniors and a community center. This was the first solar project in New York to offer discounted energy entirely to low-income subscribers.


“This is energy democracy in action: regular people — working class and low-income — coming together and figuring out how to generate cleaner, healthier energy in their own neighborhood,” Ghirmatzion said. “The Solutions Project understands the importance of getting the word out that no matter what might be going on in Washington, real-world communities are advancing equitable and sustainable economic development powered by clean energy.”


Other grantees of The Solutions Project include the Rev. Leo Woodberry of Florence, S.C., who is engaging community groups across the South in the Justice First movement’s push for 100% clean energy, forest protection and environmental justice. The California Environmental Justice Alliance and its leader, Gladys Limon, are ensuring Sacramento’s commitment to 100% clean electricity by 2045 benefits every California community. Nathaniel Smith and his Partnership for Southern Equity are making sure that equity is at the center of Atlanta’s efforts to meet its commitment to 100% clean energy.


“These leaders embody feminine leadership that emphasizes cooperation, collaboration, empathy, and decisions made from the bottom up rather than top-down directives imposed from on high,” said The Solutions Project’s Hope. “Feminine leadership — practiced by people across the gender spectrum — creates space for all kinds of people to lead. And when it comes to solving climate change, we need everyone at the table.”


“The Solutions Project has a great track record of investing in and amplifying the work of unsung groups led by women and people of color on the front lines of climate change,” said  Shamar Bibbins, senior program officer for the environment at The Kresge Foundation and a Philanthropic Trustee of The Solutions Project. “If the 100% Commitment to Justice inspires more foundations to look at diversity in the leaders they fund and see how their funding actually shapes the public narrative in terms of the solutions stories covered by the media, this could make a major difference in our response to the climate crisis.”



About The Solutions Project:

The Solutions Project is a grantmaking, storytelling, and capacity building organization that is accelerating the transition to 100% clean energy for all by championing a movement that is more inclusive, more collaborative, and more celebratory. Learn more at thesolutionsproject.org.