How is Turkish philanthropy funding climate? A Sabancı Foundation seminar explores


Simon Hungin


If you protect nature, you protect people.

On 1 December 2022, the Sabancı Foundation hosted a seminar, presented by Güven İslamoğlu, on philanthropy’s role in the climate emergency.

Following a performance by 8-year-old pianist İpek Nisa Göker, in conjunction with one of the event themes of the importance of youth activism in climate emergency, theSabancı Foundation General Manager, Nevgül Bilsel Safkan, gave her views on the subject, emphasising that historically, conferences have been human-centric and that nature has only recently begun to receive attention in the same manner. A strong emphasis was placed on the importance of awareness and education when it comes to climate issues, something which Sabancı Foundation has sought to do through the production of a series of books aimed at informing elementary school children to the current situation. She closed by saying: ‘Making a commitment is just the beginning of everything, but it helps progression. The more you can do as individuals and as organisations, the happier they are.’

The first panel on the role of philanthropy in climate emergency was moderated by Uygar Özesmi, Founder, Good4Trust, and included:

  • Alice Amorim, Philanthropy for Climate Lead, WINGS
  • Stefan Schurig, Secretary General, Foundations 20
  • Ümit Şahin, Coordinator of Climate Studies, İstanbul Policy Centre

A few highlights from the panel:

Alice said: ‘Research from climate works foundations have shown in the past three to four years that only 2% of philanthropic money is going to climate change. More resources need to go into this space, these resources and expertise also need to come from different parts of the world… Peer exchange can save a lot of time when it comes to philanthropy.

Stefan said: ‘We must make connections between work that foundations do in terms of environmental action, justice, equal rights and locate this within the global effort to transform the world into a more sustainable, regenerative world.’

Ümit said: ‘It is not just about survival of species but deeply connected with inequalities. Inequalities between north and south, between countries and inside countries. Tension between survival and justice. Generations have changed, now new generations who are not responsible have created new climate movements to solve the problem.’

The second panel on Youth Activism in Climate Emergency was moderated by BurcuMeltem Arık, Education Observatory Coordinator, Education Reform Initiative, and included:

  • Alperen Davran, Coordinator, Sabancı University Preservation of Nature Club
  • Melisa Akkuş, Change Activist
  • Resul Hüseynzade, Climate Ambassador, Roots & Shoots Turkey

A video message from Jane Goodall, Roots and Shoots was featured shortly before the second panel in which she stated that ‘the greatest hope for the future lies in the dedication, determination and hard work of young people.’

This second panel served to demonstrate the desire and willingness of young people today to not just sit idly by and become victims of the problem of climate change. New and refreshing ideas included:

  • Alperen’s work within his university campus ranges from workshops to encourage fellow students to adjust their daily practices when it comes to environmental impact, as well as creating content to better educate younger generations by utilising platforms which appeal more to the younger generations.
  • Melisa’s emphasis on a holistic approach to philanthropy aims to tackle crises with their overlapping issues such as gender inequalities or animal rights which tie in with the climate crisis, as well as a focus on mental well-being and the need for change to begin on an individual level.
  • Resul’s work with over 40 different organisations, and his insistence that all people should have access to opportunities to enable change, suggests that conferences and seminars shouldn’t solely take place in major cities, but nationwide.

Sabancı Foundation is one of the signatories of the ‘International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change’, with the foundation’s sole focus for 2022 being that of climate, and combatting climate change.

Watch the full recording of the event:

Simon Hungin is a freelance writer.

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