16 April 2024

Fundación Antonio Aranzábal – Feeling the Heat


Climate change is already impacting the people, places and causes that foundations care about. Still, for a variety of reasons, philanthropy practitioners often struggle to translate their awareness and concern into action at the scale and pace that are required. Investing their endowment and assets in a way that takes climate change into consideration and seeks alignment with a rapid and just transition to a net-zero economy is a lever many foundations have at their disposal, regardless of size or mission area.

By surfacing examples of foundations like Fundación Antonio Aranzábal, we hope to provide a valuable resource for foundations in their journeys to climate-align their investments.

TypeOperating foundation
MissionThe foundation has an entrepreneurial spirit and is focused on the development of best practices in its territory, with family businesses and young people as protagonists.
Focus areasEntrepreneurship, family businesses, youth employment
BudgetAnnual operating budget: €85,000
EndowmentSize of endowment: €1.6 million


Following the founder’s death in 2012, this family foundation underwent a significant governance transition process that involved defining roles for the second generation of family board members and welcoming changes in external board members. Recognising the need for a revised investment policy statement, the board focused on family values, investment objectives and return expectations, identifying values such as audacity, honesty, collaboration, discretion and long-term contribution. This statement provided a framework for board members and their trusted financial advisor.

As the foundation contemplated integrating the founder’s grandchildren, the catalyst for their climate awareness emerged. Jokin Aranzábal, a family board member overseeing strategy, financial planning and investments, raised crucial questions about the foundation’s appeal to the next generation and the alignment of its portfolio with their values. Concluding that changes were necessary, the board decided to revisit the foundation’s purpose and overall strategy, and to shift incrementally their investment strategy to be climate-aligned.


At the prompting of certain family members and working with their financial advisor, the board decided to start reallocating some of the foundation’s portfolio away from non-sustainable investments to ESG investments in 2017. In these initial stages, they came to realise that not everything that was labelled as “green” was in line with their expectations of a sustainable investment. This set the foundation and their advisor down a path of scrutinising their ESG investments one by one.

While attending a training programme for the Fondo de Fundaciones de Impacto in February 2020, Jokin Aranzábal met an investment manager experienced in impact investing at another Spanish foundation. He advised the foundation on several more impact-oriented investments. These include actively managed funds, for example one funding women entrepreneurs in Latin America, and direct investments in a company working on sustainable mobility in cities. Impact measurements are embedded in these investments which represent 6% of the foundation’s investment portfolio. The current goal is to increase such impact investments to 10% over the next year.

The overall approach takes into consideration that the portfolio needs to make returns so the foundation can sustain its programmatic work. It also focuses on creating impact over making major profit. However, at this time, the return on investments falls somewhat short of the annual 5% needed to sustain the grants for the foundation’s activities. Aware of this trend, two years ago, the family committed €200,000 more for the endowment which is €50,000 more per family member to address lower returns and ensure that grantmaking can increase in line with a projected 2. 5% annual inflation rate.

Additionally, as a result of their impact investment activities, the foundation became a signatory of Fundaciones Por El Clima within the Asociación Española de Fundaciones, the Spanish #PhilanthropyForClimate commitment. As part of this, the foundation is currently putting in place a climate fund with a group of interested foundations. Fundación Aranzábal trustees have committed to putting another 2.5 – 3% of the endowment into this climate fund initiative. They are hoping this initiative works well and foresee creating a future stock-based climate fund based on the current learning-by-doing experience.

Success and limiting factors

Success factors

Founder’s family commitment

The driving force behind the shift was the commitment and enthusiasm of the founder’s family members.

Shared values

Board members converged around shared family values, contributing to the success of the transition.

Expert guidance

Supportive and trustworthy investment managers, along with guidance from peers in other foundations, were critical to the process.

Learning culture

The foundation’s readiness to learn and ambition to progress further strengthened the success factors.

Limiting factors

Advisory challenges

The process faced delays due to the time-consuming search for a reliable source of advice on understanding climate investments.

Limited opportunities

The speed of change was hindered by a scarcity of genuinely attractive climate-aligned investment opportunities for foundations, emphasising that willingness and ready capital alone are insufficient.

Greenwashing risks

The risk of greenwashing created resistance within the foundation, prompting a thorough evaluation of each investment without relying solely on green labelling.


Through sound advice and trial and error, the foundation successfully evolved its portfolio into a more cli- mate-aligned investment strategy, with ongoing projections for further improvement. The process resulted in a sense of rejuvenation and tighter focus of the family foundation to better transmit the family values to the next generation and better serve the community’s needs. Active participation led to the creation of an ecosystem fostering informed actors, supporting the establishment of a climate fund in Spain. This collaborative effort extends to enhanced advisor/foundation trustee relationships and the development of climate-aware investment managers working on a dedicated fund.

Find the full case study in our report Feeling the Heat: How Foundations Can Use their Investments to Curb Climate Change