Leading By Example: A Case Study in Foundation Advocacy

A Meeting of Clean Energy and Green Jobs Stakeholders

One of the most powerful advocacy tools available to foundations is the ability to serve as a convenor of various stakeholder groups. On May 26, 2011, as part of their statewide initiative on green jobs and clean energy, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation did just that by sponsoring Leading By Example: A Case Study in Clean Energy, Green Jobs, and Foundation Convenings. The specific focus of the gathering was bringing energy efficiency to scale in public buildings – and convening a diverse array of individuals and organizations with an interest in the topic was their first step.

More than 100 individuals, including Connecticut business leaders and workforce providers, educators and town officials, clean energy experts and advocates attended the session. The goal of convening was two-fold. First, to organize an active constituency that would undertake and support a campaign to encourage state and municipal governments and agencies to retrofit public buildings using energy-saving upgrades. Second, to demonstrate to state elected officials that: this constituency exists; it has expectations related to the role of state government; and it is willing to be engaged in a public-private partnership in pursuit of clean energy and green jobs.

Green energy and jobs policy agenda

As with any foundation convening of this type, the sharing of information and perspectives was a key ingredient. Donald Gilligan, President of the National Association of Energy Service Companies, offered compelling evidence as to the economic and environmental benefits of the state energy initiative “Lead By Example.” As Gilligan noted, the dollars accrued from energy cost savings can more than pay for the physical conversion of public buildings, as energy efficiency investments can be financed and don’t necessarily require additional government spending. Moreover, he challenged the group to understand the potential job creation opportunities from an increased investment in clean energy (from existing studies, every $1 million invested in energy efficiency creates approximately 7 new jobs.) Clearly, if Connecticut were to make a scaled investment in energy efficiency of $100 million (a reasonable estimate of what the market will bear) hundreds of new jobs could be created. Access Gilligan’s presentation here. Access the event videos here.

Key takeaways

  • It is possible to reap significant savings – estimated to be $500 million – if public buildings can be made to be energy efficient.
  • There is little data about how towns and cities use energy and more is needed; projections for the potential amount of increased efficiency over time is necessary for real markets to develop.
  • Financing options exist that can be used for improvements. With the actualization of new energy legislation, these options can be expanded to use private finance coupled with energy performance contracting. However, prior to launching a campaign of this type, more education is needed to explain how the financing of energy efficiency can be accomplished.
  • Workforce issues continue to be challenging. More training and more real time connection between workforce supply and demand is crucial. A key element is whether employers choose to engage in this type of work, and if so, are they able to assemble the appropriate workforce.
  • Support and leadership from state government, including the Governor, will be critical to maximizing the benefits of this initiative. The Governor’s leadership brings coherence, a common vision, and sustained interest in this kind of quest. The legislature must pass legislation enabling the use of energy performance contracting in public buildings, state agencies must be proactive, and a single point of information for towns and cities, businesses, and state agency managers must be implemented.


Advocacy activities

In conclusion, there are many ways foundations can engage on public policy issues, as in this case relating to clean energy and green jobs. Convening stakeholders, providing a common vision for a policy initiative and continued support and assistance with the relevant constituencies, are all vital components to this type of foundation activity. In Connecticut, what began with philanthropy’s connection to economic recovery issues is now continuing through a number of foundations’ involvement on a growing list of public policy concerns.

Green Jobs Learning Group

The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation is an instrumental contributor to the Green Jobs learning group hosted by the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy. While the Foundation organized the May 26 gathering, the meeting itself is part of a larger campaign that is currently being mapped out and will likely be funded by a wider group of foundations. Stewart Hudson, president of the Foundation, shared news at the convening of the collaboration that is taking shape and made special mention of the philanthropic community’s broader efforts and potential opportunities for collaboration. He invited other foundations to join the initiative.

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