Swift Foundation Joins Divest-Invest

by Swift Foundation on September 20, 2016

Dear Divest-Invest Foundations, Fellow Philanthropists and Colleagues,

We commend the leadership of Divest-Invest in catalyzing our discussions about shareholder activism and the role we play in the movement to divest the endowment from destructive fossil fuels into renewable energy. As proud members (as of September 2016) of Divest-Invest, the Swift Foundation is pleased to report that, as of September 2015, our endowment is 99% fossil fuel free.

With this letter, we want to share our path towards divestment and to foster and invite constructive collective action to address some unintended negative social and environmental consequences of the transition to renewable energy.

The Carbon 200 or a Broader No Buy List?

Our decision to sign on the Divest-Invest Pledge was not quick: Because the Swift’s mission is to support land stewards and their allies who protect biological and cultural diversity through grants, investments and leadership, we debated whether the Carbon 200 companies should be the single focus for screening our endowment.

Swift decided that while addressing climate change through divestment is a critical goal, we also wanted our screening approach to reflect our concern with other troublesome industries, which are both destroying the very biodiversity required for carbon sequestration while contributing to carbon emissions.

Agrochemical corporations, for example, are pushing genetically modified and hybrid seeds, requiring toxic pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers for the global food system resulting in high global greenhouse gas emissions and harmful environmental consequences. Another industry of concern is the mining of minerals and metals, which has grown exponentially over the last decade in scale and impact, penetrating into the last remaining refuges of bio-cultural diversity, similar to oil and gas extraction.

We therefore elected to develop an ESG screening approach to our endowment portfolio that explicitly addressed our mission while setting aside a portion of our investments for mission-aligned investments with potentially lower returns and liquidity. To ensure that the portfolio reflected our mission and our grantee-partners’ work, the Swift Foundation board created a list of No Buy Guidelines and principles for ESG screenings to add to our investment statement.

A Big Surprise

Flash forward two years.

In March 2016, we noticed something unusual about the portfolio. Swift Foundation held only four companies on the Carbon 200 Index representing less than 1% of our holdings. By implementing the ESG screenings via our No Buy list, our financial advisors, Manchester Capital Management, had chosen fund managers who had eliminated the Carbon 200 Index!

These new fund managers who implemented our No Buy Guidelines in constructing portfolios for Swift Foundation include: Trillium Asset Management, Breckenridge Capital Advisors, Walden Asset Management, Boston Common Asset Management, Community Capital Management, and Parametric.

Consequently, the Swift Foundation would like to provoke a deeper discussion in the investment community around human rights violations and environmental impacts associated with the renewable energy sector.

What’s Next? Addressing Renewable Energy’s Unintended Consequences

Swift Foundation is concerned with how to reduce the negative social and environmental footprint of renewable energy technologies over their entire lifecycle, and how investors can empower communities to control these new technologies as part of their local economies.

Our grantee-partners have experienced land grabs due to wind farms, manipulation of Free, Prior and Informed Consent provisions, and conflict and violence provoked by corporations seeking community land for large scale renewable energy generation. This is especially noticeable in Indigenous communities where pristine collective land exists, made accessible for corporate projects with the support of government allies. We have also become more aware of the environmental impacts related to the mining of rare earth materials that make up some of the solar and wind components.

As a consequence, we are working with our grantee-partners to develop a briefing paper on these issues, including options that could foster a Just Transition. We invite you to contact us regarding this research and how to expand education and outreach within the investor community and beyond about the urgent need to address these issues.

Swift Foundation is proud to participate and support the Divest-Invest movement. We look forward to working with the philanthropic and investment communities to analyze and challenge the shortcomings of the energy transition in order to realize its positive potential for the planet and communities.


Jennifer Astone, Ph.D., Executive Director


Gleaning the Wisdom: 7 Diverse Voices for Agroecology

by Swift Foundation on July 20, 2016

Gleaning AFSAIn May, 2016, the AgroEcology Fund in partnership with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, hosted a convening with over 70 delegates from 20 countries in Masaka, Uganda. Farmers, social movements, funders, scientists and policy advocates dialogued on amplifying agroecological solutions in the context of a changing climate, land grabs and corporate control of seeds. Click here to read 7 powerful takeaways of #AgroecologyVoices in Masaka.


The Power of Maps – El Poder del los Mapas

by Swift Foundation on July 20, 2016

Gaia AmazonasMartin von Hildebrand with Swift Foundation grantee, Gaia Amazonas, explains the importance of social cartography as a component in the indigenous territorial management. With the support of Esri, Gordon & Betty Moore, Parks and Gaia Amazonas, indigenous organizations in the Amazon prepare their life plans with the state to participate in the composition of the future of the Amazon. Click here to watch the 3-minute video.


Seed-Production-report-ACBio-2016-06New Report from Swift grantee, African Centre for Biodiversity! The scoping report looks at key policies, legislation and programmes in South Africa with an emphasis on seed laws and considers the implications for small- scale farmer involvement in this sector and outlines a few projects on community seed production, indigenous crops and black- owned private sector seed production efforts. Click here to read the report. 


#AgroecologyVoices: Pat Mooney, ETC Group

by Swift Foundation on June 8, 2016

AgroEcology Fund

Pat Mooney believes that agroecology is at the core of food sovereignty. Food systems need to be ecologically sound and affirm the rights of small producers. This is the first short video in a series ‪#‎AgroecologyVoices published by the AgroEcology Fund. Click here to watch the 1-minute video.‬


Myrna Cunningham Kain: The diversity of rural women

by Swift Foundation on June 8, 2016

Myrna CunninghamToo often development activities meant to assist poor rural women treat them as if they were all the same, says Myrna Cunningham Kain, President of the Centre for Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples. In reality rural women are a diverse population with different cultural backgrounds, knowledge systems and development challenges. Click here to watch this special AgTalks 12-minute video.


AIDA in Columbia

Major environmental victory after loophole permitting operations in rare ecosystems is declared “unconstitutional”!

Swift grantee, AIDAsubmitted an amicus brief that was quoted quite extensively by the court in its decision to uphold protections for these important high altitude wetlands and freshwater sources. Read article by The Guardian here.


June 2, 2016

Galina photoOn behalf of the board of directors, I am delighted to announce that Galina Angarova will be joining Swift Foundation in July as our first full-time program officer based out of San Francisco. Her experience and knowledge will enable us to engage in stronger partnerships with our grantees, and to support the implementation of our mission and programs.

Galina’s work with Indigenous Peoples, climate change and the impact of development on local communities strongly aligns with our mission. As a member of the Buryat people, a Russian Indigenous group, Ms. Angarova grew up in a community where Indigenous knowledge guided her life ways and worldview.

Galina Angarova comes to us from her role as Policy and Communications Advisor for Tebtebba, the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education. Based in New York, she represented the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group at the United Nations on issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Development Agenda. She led the team of Indigenous experts to review and provide input to ensure safeguards for Indigenous Peoples for the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund.

Previously she worked as Russia Program Director at Pacific Environment.  Galina led international and local grassroots efforts to block pipeline construction in the Altai region of Siberia which threatened sacred natural sites and untouched wilderness. She also led efforts to close a toxic paper mill on Lake Baikal, and to stop plans to construct a hydro-dam that would flood the ancestral lands of indigenous Evenk peoples in Siberia.

Galina received an Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State to complete a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of New Mexico in 2002. She currently serves on the board of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples.

Jen Astone, Executive Director
Swift Foundation


Water is Life. Don’t UnderMine It

by Swift Foundation on March 29, 2016

Water is LifeThis vibrant animation from The Gaia Foundation and animator Ben Pearce takes us on two very different journeys through the water cycle. One shows the life-giving nature of water for everything from forests to frogs. The other reveals the ways in which mining is damaging the water cycle, putting life itself in jeopardy. Click here to watch the 5 minute video.


Seeds of Justice – In the Hands of Farmers

by Swift Foundation on March 29, 2016

Seeds of JusticeSeeds of Justice follows Ethiopian plant geneticist Dr Melaku Worede’s inspirational work to re-valorise farmers’ knowledge and protect their position as guardians of seed diversity. Treading in Melaku’s footsteps from his youth to the present day through his pivotal experience of Ethiopia’s infamous famine, the film questions one of society’s most flawed assumptions: that scientists hold the answers to ending hunger, not farmers.

Click here to view this 36 minute film by The Gaia Foundation in collaboration with the African Biodiversity Network, GRAIN, MELCA Ethiopia, USC Canada and Ethic-Organic Seed Action.


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