2015 Annual Grants Report

Forsythia Foundation is pleased to report on its grant-making and impact investing activities in 2015. The foundation awarded a total of $665,000 in grants to 11 organizations that address critical issues in environmental health and green chemistry. The foundation also invested a total of $76,200 in three mission-related investments pertaining to environmental health. More broadly, as of the end of 2015, Forsythia had $8.1 million (33 percent) of its corpus in blended-value investments, which have positive social and environmental impacts and provide financial returns.

The foundation continues to pursue its long-term objective of improving human health by reducing harmful chemicals in our lives. The foundation works toward this goal by engaging in three areas of activity:

  • Strengthening the field’s ability to effectively reduce toxic exposures by building organizations’ internal capacities
  • Driving the demand for safer products and living environments by supporting organizations that excel at translating science for decision makers in public policy and medicine, and at leading public awareness and action campaigns for consumers, manufacturers, and retailers
  • Striving to make green chemistry the standard operating procedure, so that all materials are safer by design

Building on its 2014 grant investments to inform and advocate for sound reform of chemicals policy, Forsythia has invested in the implementation of the reformed chemicals bill expected to pass in 2016, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). For example, it has supported the Breast Cancer Fund—an organization dedicated to the prevention of environmental exposures leading to breast cancer and a respected advocate in the debates over reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) —to ensure the CSIA is implemented in a way that prioritizes human health.

While supporting the implementation of the CSIA, the foundation also made a grant to the Health and Environmental Funders Network (HEFN) to perform a retrospective evaluation of the campaign to reform TSCA. The results of this evaluation will help the field better understand the campaign’s victories, as well as how to avoid potential pitfalls in future policy reform initiatives. Given the high stakes of Forsythia’s goal to improve public health through reducing environmental chemical exposure, the foundation considers evaluation to be a critical step in ensuring its grant investments achieve the long-term impact that it seeks.

The foundation also helped to fund a newly formed collaborative in 2015: Healthy Babies, Bright Futures (HBBF). HBBF connects two important problems: the rising prevalence of learning and behavioral problems in children, and the ubiquitous presence of unregulated and untested chemicals in our water, air, food, and the products we use daily. Studies show that early life exposure to such toxic, or “brain drain,” chemicals contributes to a range of serious, debilitating disabilities and health problems. The foundation awarded a grant to HBBF to conduct an economic analysis of brain-drain chemicals, studying the costs of adverse outcomes due to the exposure to such chemicals.

In 2015, Forsythia Foundation brought to fruition a dream it had since its founding in 2010: the establishment of Safer Made, a unique investment vehicle to accelerate green chemistry innovations. Safer Made strives to spur innovation in and commercialization of green chemistry technologies by investing in the work of researchers, chemists, and inventors that will help get safer materials into the marketplace. The foundation is an anchor investor in and strategic partner to Safer Made, which reflects the foundation’s belief in putting the full spectrum of philanthropic capital—time, networks, and grant and investment funds—to work to achieve both social and financial results.

Looking ahead to 2016, the foundation anticipates exploring new opportunities for advancing the field, including potential market-based work, new angles for promoting disease prevention, and ways to fund linkages between food and toxic exposures.

Forsythia Foundation awarded the following grants in 2015:

Breast Cancer Fund
San Francisco, CA
Support for TSCA reform implementation
$50,000

Commonweal
Bolinas, CA
Operating support for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment
$30,000

 Earthjustice
San Francisco, CA
Support for the environmental/toxics program
$60,000

Environmental Working Group
Washington, DC
Support for the campaign to remove the “Dirty Dozen” toxic chemicals
$50,000

Health Care Without Harm
Reston, VA
Support for the organization to scale in order to achieve collective impact
$50,000

New Venture Fund
Washington, DC
Support for Healthy Babies, Bright Futures’ economic analysis on adverse toxic chemical effects
$100,000

Natural Resources Defense Council
New York, NY
Support for the Healthier Kids and Safer Chemicals campaign
$100,000

University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
General operating support for the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
$100,000

University of Massachusetts Foundation
Lowell, MA
Support for new models for collaborative green chemistry innovation for the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3)
$25,000

 Virginia Organizing Inc.
Charlottesville, VA
General operating support for Environmental Health Sciences (EHS)
$50,000  

Support for the Health and Environmental Funders Network to evaluate the TSCA reform campaign
$50,000

Forsythia Foundation made the following mission-related investments in 2015:
Ecosystem Integrity Funds I and II
San Francisco, CA
Venture capital investments in companies and projects that reduce or ameliorate key threats to ecosystem integrity, including land fragmentation and conversion, depletion of productive capacity, and contamination of land, air, and water

$0 invested in 2015 in Ecosystem Integrity Fund I, with $155,000 of a $200,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2015
$47,500 invested in 2015 in Ecosystem Integrity Fund II, with $147,500 of a $250,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2015

Sonen Global Sustainable Real Assets
San Francisco, CA
Financing core environmental infrastructure and natural assets that generate financial returns driven by the creation of tangible social and/or environmental benefits
$28,700 invested in 2015, with $41,500 of a $200,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2015