In 2018, the Sierra Club Foundation created a new High Impact Investment Fund and updated its Investment Policy Statement. As a result of our mission-aligned investment practices, the Sierra Club Foundation won the 2018 Chief Investment Officer Industry Innovation Award for ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing.
Our ESG investment choices are anchored in the Foundation’s core goals of solving the climate crisis; securing protections for public lands and waters; promoting healthy ecosystems and communities; advancing programs and policies that get people outdoors; and building a diverse, inclusive environmental movement.
We prioritize mission-aligned ESG investing without compromising the Foundation’s strategy to achieve superior long-term performance while moderating risk to maximize the resources available to meet the mission objectives of the Foundation. Notably, our ESG investments have outperformed a blended benchmark comprised of standard indexes.
In 2018, we invested in the Standing Rock Renewable Energy Project to develop a majority Tribal-owned utility-scale wind farm on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. We also invested in the PRIME Impact Fund, which makes early stage capital investments in transformative, climate solutions-focused technology companies.
Looking ahead, we are expanding the scope of our High Impact Investment Fund by investing early capital in projects and entities that provide climate solutions at scale and advance greater social justice. Specifically, we are exploring investments that directly benefit underserved communities, including community-centered renewable energy development projects, initiatives to enhance access to affordable clean energy, and solutions that help communities dependent on fossil fuel extraction to transition to a clean, renewable energy economy with family-sustaining jobs.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe galvanized world-wide attention with its organized opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in 2016. Sierra Club stood in solidarity with the Tribe in opposing DAPL. Though the pipeline was eventually built, legal challenges continue. With a view to a more just and climate-resilient future, the Tribe seeks to develop a utility-scale wind farm on its reservation. Rather than follow the typical energy project development model, where outside investors and developers determine the deal terms and reap the financial benefits, the Tribe seeks to maintain majority ownership through a public power model and ensure that the financial, social, environmental, and community development benefits accrue to the Tribe directly. As of May 2018, Sierra Club Foundation is co-investing in the pre-development phase along with the Wallace Global Fund and The JBP Foundation. Our high impact investment of early stage capital is intended to strengthen the project for other potential investors and developers and to materially improve the Tribe’s long-term ownership position.
“We pride ourselves on being stewards of the land and recognize that the resource we use to power our world is energy. Standing Rock is propane and fossil fuel dependent, and we need to get away from that in a sustainable way. The partnership with Sierra Club Foundation has been amazing, not only with funding, but they’ve been open to providing additional opportunities to meet other people who share similar views and values, and help us ask the right questions about our future that the Tribe needs to think about.”
Fawn Wasin Zi
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member and Tribal Land