Unmasking the influence of climate trends on Asian philanthropy


Zibran Choudhury


Last week, AVPN hosted their 2022 Global Conference, and Alliance asked its readers what session they would like to hear about most in a poll. The winner was ‘Unmasking the influence of climate trends on Asian philanthropy’ – take a look at our conference report below.

AVPN had recently published two studies, which focused on Asian philanthropists to understand their motivations, and exploring the challenges Asian philanthropy is facing in moving into strategic climate philanthropy. The findings revealed that climate philanthropy is growing in Asia which is majorly led by European and American organisations and is secondary to development areas such as healthcare, education and livelihoods. The study highlights that there is an emerging business case to attract and use philanthropic funding as ‘catalytic capital’. The panel made up of, Benjamin Bellegy (WINGS), Xinying Tok (Carbon trust) Meg Argyriou (Climateworks Centre)  and Srinivasan Ramanujan (Villgro Innovations Foundation). Chair of the panel, Shirish Sinha (CIFF) asked the panel about what these trends are related to, what the ideas for action are, and the possible areas for collaboration.

Meg Argyriou started by stating the she does agree with the main findings of the studies and that any future giving would need to be specifically nuanced to the region. ‘There is a big history of giving in the region. There has been an increase of high-net-worth individuals in the region with a tendency to focus on education. Climate matters more in Asia more than any other region of the world because of its vulnerability’.

A question of reframing

Xinying Tok echoed Meg’s claims of risking going backwards. ‘Whatever issues you are focusing on, can be undone’, and suggested that the first step would be interlink all these issue to climate. ‘We need to help people understand how climate links to livelihoods, healthcare and food in this region. Reframing the issue can attract the attention that this issue deserves. There’s much work to be done. For example, heat stress is major issue in the region, but this perspective isn’t shared when we are talking about cooling our cities. Reframing can help tell the climate story’.

Bejamin Bellegy added the need to focus on action when reframing the issue. ‘The philanthropic sector needs to wake up and increase the investments but also turning it into climate action. We need to shift the thinking around ‘climate being environmental’ or a specific issue. It doesn’t take away from other issues, but it is actually central to everything that you do. Much progress needs to be made here.’

Srinivas Ramanujam of Villgro Innovations Foundation also agreed about reframing the issue but stated that we need to acknowledge the distinctions between climate and the environment for a tailored approach. ‘There are different ways to slice this problem. We sometimes need to step back to understand the big picture and understand what each community needs.’

The region has unique challenges

One of the biggest barriers was made clear by the panel – the are limited examples of large-scale climate initiatives led by Asian Philanthropists. However, Xinying Tok did point out that ‘catch-all’ strategies in place may be detrimental in the long term as identified by Srinivas Ramanujam. ‘There’s a lot of breadth but not depth’.

Xinying continued that there is a difference in the talent gap compared to other regions. Meg Argyriou added, ‘There is a huge issue with the talent pipeline and funding climate action. The results are usually intangible and trying to measure impact is a real challenge. It’s doable but it does require trust and vision from philanthropies’.

Creating catalytic change

The discussion concluded on the importance of having vehicles to bring philanthropic actor together. Which seemed apt at the largest social investing convening in Asia with over 1,000 attendees from across the world to share knowledge. The appetite to engage and develop within networks was clear and there were call for funders to do the same. Benjamin Bellegy said, ‘The roles of networks are critical. Platforms and networks are where organisations learn from each other. It’s not about just protecting the future, but the present, and how do we be more present and impactful? Networks have a key role to play’.

Zibran Choudhury is Communications, Partnerships & Membership Manager at Alliance magazine

Tagged in: #AVPN2022

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