New strategy to contribute to collective, whole-economy decarbonization in the time and on the scale needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement
NEW YORK | November 28, 2023 ― Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, UAE (COP28), The Rockefeller Foundation announced that it will target net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for its endowment by 2050, making it the largest private U.S. foundation to date to pursue a net zero endowment. In addition to reducing net GHG emissions in its approximately USD 6 billion endowment, The Rockefeller Foundation aims to contribute to the global decarbonization effort, accelerating the work needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Along with regular reporting of progress, The Rockefeller Foundation will also convene investors, peers, and experts to advance broader collaboration towards net zero, with the first event to take place in early 2024.
“We are putting The Rockefeller Foundation’s money where our mission is: investing our endowment in ways that will help lift up people around the world and lower emissions,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “This change to our endowment strategy aligns with our recent billion-dollar commitment to advance the global climate transition and achieve net zero emissions across our global operations, and it is the final piece of our work to reimagine the Foundation’s philanthropy for the climate change era.”
The Foundation’s philanthropic history began in 1913 with an original endowment of $100 million from John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, which once controlled more than 90% of petroleum production in the United States. Investing $26 billion of philanthropic capital over the last 110 years, this new policy builds upon the 2020 commitment to divesting its endowment from existing fossil fuel interests while refraining from all future fossil fuel investments.
While maintaining the endowment’s essential role of providing sustainable funding for The Rockefeller Foundation’s work around the world, the new strategy centers on engagement with asset managers and others on data, disclosures, and decarbonization plans; investment in climate solutions and other climate-focused strategies; and influence by leading convenings and advancing collaboration, standards, best practices, and shared learning. The new climate strategy for the endowment is also grounded in five core principles:
- Prioritize Real-World Change. By focusing on approaches that can be deployed at scale today, as well as technologies expected to scale in 15-20 years, to reduce carbon emissions of the businesses and countries in which the Foundation invests.
- Be Pragmatic. By deploying a pragmatic approach – one that recognizes varied roles for each asset class, investment manager, and investment vehicle, prioritizes progress over perfection, and maximizes existing levers of influence in the investment industry, to make impact quickly and efficiently.
- Learn Continuously. By recognizing that there is no single correct approach for an investor, fund manager, or company to address net zero and by embracing humility, to learn new ideas and data and to ensure continuous feedback and collaboration with trusted investment partners.
- Maintain Accountability. By requesting transparency at the portfolio- and manager-levels, alongside a commitment to regularly share progress.
- Lead by Example. By convening key stakeholder groups and by leveraging The Rockefeller Foundation’s voice and influence in the investment industry and among philanthropic institutions, to align on actions that support global net zero goals and to build feedback loops from interdisciplinary partnerships.
“Ultimately, this is about more than our endowment; our ultimate objective is to drive real-world changes,” said Chun Lai, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Chief Investment Officer, who is responsible for managing the approximately $6 billion endowment. “Because net zero is a collective goal that can be realized only by acting alongside other stakeholders, we will encourage our fund managers to engage with companies on emissions reduction plans, invest in climate solutions, and use our convening power to advance net zero adoption among investors.”
This new net zero endowment policy aligns The Rockefeller Foundation’s internal investment strategy with its external commitment to spend more than $1 billion over the next five years to advance the global climate transition and help ensure everyone can participate in it. Announced in September, The Rockefeller Foundation’s comprehensive climate strategy also includes taking steps toward reaching a net zero standard for its facilities, which include a headquarters in New York City and locations in Washington, D.C.; Nairobi, Kenya; Bangkok, Thailand; and Bellagio, Italy, and across all other areas of its operations worldwide. As part of this process, The Rockefeller Foundation completed the accounting of its carbon footprint for the 2022 baseline year, which found the philanthropic organization emits an estimated 12,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually across its operations.
About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation that enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We make big bets to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal and sustainable by advancing the global climate transition and ensuring everyone can participate in it. Our focus is on mobilizing collective action that transforms four systems that are essential to the well-being of people and planet: energy, agriculture, health, and finance systems. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on X @RockefellerFdn.
The Rockefeller Foundation