2016 Annual Grants Report

Forsythia Foundation is pleased to report on its grant-making activities in 2016. The foundation awarded a total of $650,000 in grants to seven organizations that address pressing issues in environmental health and green chemistry, including those advocating for chemical policy change and fostering innovation in green chemistry. The foundation also invested an additional $141,639 in four mission-related investment pertaining to environmental health. More broadly, as of the end of 2016, Forsythia had $8.8 million (35 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, and at leading public awareness and action campaigns for consumers, manufacturers, and retailers
  • Striving to make green chemistry the standard operating procedure, so that materials are benign by design

In June 2016, Forsythia’s long-term support for reforming national chemical policy paid off. Congress passed the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), an improvement on existing law granting the Environmental Protection Agency stronger authority to oversee chemical use and safety to protect human health. Passing this new law, known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, took more than a decade of effort on the part of many groups that demonstrated persistence and effective collaboration, including many current and past Forsythia grantees, such as Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly Breast Cancer Fund); Earthjustice; Environmental Working Group; Natural Resources Defense Council; Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families; and the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

TSCA reform is a significant win for the environmental health field; the bill’s passage reflects the importance of bipartisan collaboration, as both Democrats and Republicans worked together with dozens of organizations in the sector to achieve this milestone. However, the law is far from perfect and much work remains to address potential loopholes and ensure proper implementation. The law’s strength and ultimate impact on human health and the environment is in the EPA’s hands. Unfortunately, the agency faces unparalleled threats from budget slashing, staff cutbacks, and broad efforts to diminish its regulatory authorities. In light of these challenges, Forsythia remains committed to defending and strengthening the nation’s protections from dangerous toxics.

To help forge a strategic pathway forward, Forsythia helped lead an assessment of the environmental health field’s recent victory and lessons for further success. Informed by these findings, Forsythia continues to support key organizations and new collaborations for the next stages in the law’s implementation and beyond. One example is a planning grant to the Environmental Working Group to develop collaborative communication efforts for spearheading TSCA reforms and other regulatory protections that are at risk. While our national discourse is muddled with attacks on science, mainstream media, and government authority, the public remains passionately unified against lead in water, arsenic in baby food, or carcinogenic pesticides in our homes. History may repeat itself: When similar efforts were undertaken to roll back regulatory protections in 1995, the tide was turned by focusing attention on government’s role in protecting the public from environmental health risks, such as keeping E. coli out of hamburger meat and heavy metals out of drinking water.

Forsythia Foundation also saw the fruits of another long-term investment in 2016, when its grantee, Healthy Building Network (HBN), successfully launched the beta version of its Data Commons initiative. The Data Commons is intended to be a go-to resource for designers, advocates, and regulators in every field to inform safer design choices and move the market toward green chemistry as standard operating practice. The foundation seed-funded HBN three years ago to develop this concept and build an interactive platform that hosts up-to-date scientific information about chemicals and their associated hazards to better inform choices. During its creation, HBN partnered with a wide range of constituencies, including academia and NGOs, to fine-tune the tool and foster open communication and transparency. The Data Commons is now an online database that provides comprehensive information on hazardous chemicals and aggregates chemical data across platforms and industries.

In addition to its grant making, Forsythia continues to invest its philanthropic capital in the establishment of Safer Made, an early-stage investment fund advancing the commercialization of less toxic products for our everyday lives. Forsythia strongly believes that foundations should advance their missions through deployment of all assets—from grants to staff time to leveraging their corpus investments. With Safer Made, we see an added bonus: to eliminate dangerous products through supporting innovation. Safer Made is in the fundraising process and had a second close in June 2017 with a range of individual, foundation, and corporate investors, including Target. We are excited about Safer Made’s investment pipeline—which includes startup companies such as Mimikai, which is bringing to market a safe, effective insect repellent as an alternative to DEET, and Ecologic, which makes sustainable packaging using recycled materials.

Looking ahead to 2017, the foundation will work to help secure and strengthen vital federal regulations to protect the American public from dangerous chemicals in our lives. With its commitment to evidence-based decision making, Forsythia will work to ensure critical science is effectively translated for the public, policymakers, and the press. Lastly, we will continue to incubate and encourage the power of commerce and the consumer as a way to advance a safer, healthier world for all.

Forsythia Foundation awarded the following grants in 2016:

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (previously known as Breast Cancer Fund)
San Francisco, CA
Support for CSIA implementation

Clean Production Action
Somerville, MA
Support for the implementation of the GreenScreen® Institute’s business plan
$50,000 (final installment of three-year, $150,000 grant)

Environmental Working Group
Washington, DC
Support for CSIA implementation

Environmental Working Group
Washington, DC
Support for coordinated communication resources for CSIA implementation

Healthy Building Network
Washington, DC
Support for the Data Commons

New Venture Fund
Washington, DC
Support for Healthy Babies, Bright Futures’ initiatives on food and toxics

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

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

Virginia Organizing, Inc.
Charlottesville, VA
Support for Environmental Health Sciences to disseminate environmental health and green chemistry news

Forsythia Foundation made the following program-related investments in 2016:
Ecosystem Integrity Funds I and II
San Francisco, CA
Venture capital investing 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

$5,000 invested in 2016 in Ecosystem Integrity Fund I, with $160,000 of a $200,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2016

$25,000 invested in 2016 in Ecosystem Integrity Fund II, with $172,500 of a $250,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2016

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
$11,239 invested in 2016, with $52,738 of a $200,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2016

The Lyme Forest Fund IV
Hanover, NH
Focusing on the acquisition and sustainable management of  large working timber, ranch, and agricultural lands with unique conservation values
$100,400 invested in 2016, with $100,400 of a $200,000 commitment invested as of the end of 2016