Together, we can find solutions without leaving anyone aside
How do you feel about the climate crisis we are facing?
I find it difficult to talk to people my age who don’t realise how urgent the situation is. I’m really worried right now because the situation today, between the shrinking space for democracy, increasing inequalities, multiple crises and above it all, climate change – the global context is particularly tense and complex.
But this is why I come to Fondation de France every morning. You have to work hard; you have to play your part. We have to try to accelerate solutions on climate and the environment, because there is no other choice. There are, of course, many different pressing issues, but if we don’t tackle in depth the climate issue, which is so pressing and existential for the planet and for all of us and future generations living on it, fixing the others won’t make much sense. After all, it is a matter of time. We cannot continue living our lives as if everything is okay. Things are not okay at all.
How can foundations tackle the climate crisis?
All foundations have to understand that they have to play their part, whatever that part may be, in addressing this crisis. So, part of the work is showing foundations how all their missions intersect with solving the climate crisis.
The first step is training people to understand the true scale of what’s happening. It would be great to see a collective commitment from board members and executives at foundations undergo this type of training. Once you have done it across the board, as it were, opinions will change because board members will have a clearer vision of what’s happening. And for sure they are all clever enough to understand that what they are doing day to day is intrinsically connected with the climate crisis in one way or another. If we could, collectively, commit to such training, that would already be a great starting point.
As foundations, we need to identify solutions that work with and for people. We will not fix the climate crisis if we offer solutions which aren’t feasible for people, which either cost too much, which lead to radical life changes, or which make their daily jobs impossible. Foundations can help find solutions that work with and for everyone because our sector is agile, it is flexible. Foundations can test, they can succeed, but they can also accept failure and nonetheless try again and again. We have this great opportunity: we can fail until we succeed.
Top-down solutions won’t work. Exactly the opposite: If you want solutions that work, you have to start with grassroots projects. You then show that those projects are working, that they are sustainable, and so on. Of course, we will need bigger companies and public authorities to help us, but at least we can do the proof of concept for such projects. Our role is to imagine and create a transition that will be possible for the most vulnerable and poorest communities.
How is Fondation de France helping?
Fondation de France has been committed to funding environmental work for 50 years – the foundation’s epiphany was in the 1970s, during the oil crisis. Each year, Fondation de France allocates more than €20 million to the environment, with various programs combating climate change and preserving coastlines. We also joined the French Coalition of Foundations for Climate (CFFC), right from its creation in 2020. The Coalition promotes joint and coordinated action by foundations and strongly believes that civil society commitment is paramount. It helps implement innovative solutions, introduce new cooperation models, transform the way we produce and consume goods, and our lifestyles in general. To achieve more impact, Fondation de France also encourages non-profits and other stakeholders to limit the negative impact of their activities.
We have also incorporated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals across our charitable projects and our own organisational structure. Since 2019, we have identified the SDGs addressed by each and every one of the 10,000 projects we have supported. SDG 13, ‘Climate Action’, ranks fifth in the most supported programs we undertake.
What gives you hope?
We have to remind ourselves that there is still hope. And that’s not easy because all you ever see and hear in the media are the bad stories, the terrible things that are happening, and never about the great solutions and the amazing people working on them. I meet so many people with creative ideas and innovative solutions that allow me to remain optimistic because we they show that we still have matters in our own hands. Now we just have to move forward, together, without leaving anyone behind.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.