Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Cisco Foundations continues to fund promising projects that mitigate the effects of climate change


Cisco Foundation acts as a catalyst for funding promising innovations that help mitigate impact of climate change

Scientific research continues to show that we humans have induced global warming leading to species extinction, and habitat loss, causing widespread disruption affecting billions of people across the globe.

Countries around the world are affected by severe storms, floods, wildfires, drought, food scarcity among other crises.

There is a growing number of people across the world who are increasingly becoming concerned the existential threats of the human species and are looking for ways to increase awareness and take decisive action.

A recent survey by the United Nations states 1.2 million people across 50 countries, equivalent to 64% of the global population are significantly affected by climate change. It is clear that we as a society must do more to reverse the effects of climate change, and slash human activities which are not in synch with the ecosystem which supports our very lives.

Currently, less than 2% of philanthropic investments are directed at addressing climate change. Investments in innovative solutions which could reduce carbon emissions is also inadequate.

Case in point: a report from the Climate Policy Initiative states there needs to be a hike of at least 590% in annual climate financing, which comes to around $4.35 trillion to meet internationally agreed climate objectives by 2030 and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

According to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recent investments to mitigate the effects of climate change requires at least five-fold increase in Southeast Asia, seven-fold in Africa and 12-fold in the Middle East, by 2030; If this is done, it will hold global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.

The Cisco Foundation  aims to play a role in filling this funding gap. In April 2021, its board committed to granting and investing $100 million over ten years to this end.

Cisco Foundation’s core strategy revolves around the following:
  1. Emphasize on early-stage solutions – A report from the Stanford Social Innovation Review found that capital flowing to early-stage climate solutions is surprisingly low, despite the critical role that these investments play in mitigating the effects of climate change. Financiers may be reluctant to invest in early-stage solutions for a variety of reasons which includes long term technical development timelines or costly testing. The Cisco Foundation is willing to take the risk on solutions which have the potential to significantly reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The foundation believes that investing in early stage climate solutions will allows it to help spark innovation or foster collaboration among organizations. By providing “patient capital” for innovative ideas, Cisco Foundation hopes to deliver solutions that are both inclusive and sustainable. 
  2. Customized financing. Since different climate solutions require different types of capital across early stages of growth, climate commitment financing consists of grants and an impact investing portfolio. This blended financing approach helps Cisco Foundation to comprehensively fill critical climate financing gaps and catalyze impact.
 Case in point – While grants to non-profit organizations support community climate           education and engagement, help in the building of markets, or develop proof of concepts, impact investments on the other hand provides critical growth capital to organizations that helps to scale innovation even further.

To this end, over the last 20 years, Cisco Foundation has built a model for giving grants called “venture philanthropy”, which is its climate portfolio. To this, it has added impact investing capital as well. Its emphasis on earliest stage solutions in this space is one of our key differentiators.
  1. Respect for natural systems with an emphasis on regeneration. With our ecosystems being interconnected to one another, climate is intrinsically linked to communities. To reverse the impacts of climate change and build an inclusive future for communities, holistic solutions that acknowledge the complex relationship between humanity and nature is required.
Efforts should be made to reconnect between these systems and integrate social equity and economic opportunity into climate solutions. Centuries of tribal and indigenous knowledge along with modern science and technology can help co-create solutions that anticipate, prepare, and respond to climate-related events, in an effort support a dynamic balance.

What have we funded
In April 2021, within 20 minutes of announcing our $100 million commitment, we received a request through LinkedIn. Since then, we have held hundreds of meetings with organizations led by amazing people who are devoting all of their attention to the climate change, and who are coming up with truly impressive regenerative solutions.

While our team dives into extensive due diligence on grants and investments, we strive to invest in climate solutions along the entire “innovation continuum,” from conceptual ideas to solutions that are ready for commercial deployment and widespread impact.

The following are some of the projects that we have funded that are a prime example of where we have invested our capital.
  • Nia Tero  is a nonprofit grantee that aims to ensure that Indigenous peoples have the economic power and cultural independence to steward and protect their livelihoods and the territories they call home. To this end, we partnered to fund Kara Solar - a community initiative that trains Indigenous community members as technicians to build, operate and maintain solar electric shuttle boats in rainforest communities. Not only do these boats reduce deforestation by eliminating the need for roads they also support communities by linking them across various Indigenous territories, while at the same time they create economic opportunity for community members. In its current phase of deployment it encompasses 70 villages. During the first 6 months of our grant partnership, Kara Solar trained 13 Achuar technicians in the Ecuadorian Amazon and 13 Tumucumaque technicians in the Brazilian Amazon.
Cisco’s support enabled Nia Tero, Conservation Strategy Fund, and Kara Solar to conduct an analysis on the impact of electric river transportation on the incursion of new roads and deforestation.
  • Project Vesta,  a hybrid nonprofit/public–benefit enterprise which aims to capture carbon from the atmosphere and support coastal resilience by using the mineral olivine.
The carbon-capture properties and safety of olivine have been proven in lab settings. Our grant was instrumental in enabling Project Vesta to test it in the real world to further assess olivine’s effects on wildlife and ecosystems and quantify the rate at which sequesters carbon grow. Factors like strength of wave action, temperature of the water and sand, and how the mineral dissolves all affect the growth rate at which olivine absorbs carbon. With our support, Project Vesta is able find the best conditions for optimal sequestration and advance the technology, which will help them create a new carbon credit opportunity for $35/tonne of carbon removed at full scale.
  • Vibrant Planet  & VP Data Commons, a for–profit/non-profit hybrid organization, aims to address the growing problem of wildfires and sustainable land management. In 2020, wildfires in California released 110 million tonnes of carbon, which is around 40% more than the state’s entire annual emissions. Vibrant Planet has developed a data-driven tech platform that supports better decision making on issues like forest restoration, wildfire risk mitigation, land use planning, insurance, and utility solutions. Using satellite data and a remote sensing method called light detection and ranging (LIDAR), a system was built to create maps that will allow planning data to be available to decisionmakers in minutes, and not years. For example, Land Tender, an app developed by them, was designed to help speed ecological forest restoration and wildfire risk mitigation to communities. The platform can be used by power companies, insurance companies, landowners, and governments to better manage resources, make critical land management decisions, and prevent wildfires. 
  • Azolla Ventures. A $5M investment was made in the second fund created by Prime Coalition, which will build a portfolio of 20 to 25 otherwise neglected climate startups from across the spectrum of industries, each with the potential of reducing for gigatons of greenhouse gas emission.
In addition to meeting the threshold for high–impact potential, all companies in Azolla’s portfolio must also be a fit for Prime’s test of additionality, which means was it not for Azolla’s support, they would not be in a position to scale their solution and achieve their climate impact goals.

Azolla is focused on ventures that tend to have long time horizons, are capital intensive, and carry outsized risk for first time investors.

Azolla Ventures is a $200 million fund that uses both charitable capital and traditional investments in a structure that allows it to catalyze transformative climate ventures at the early stage and keep them on track for impact through exit.

This is just a few case in points for some of the projects that have been funded by us. More such projects will be shares as and when they are completed. Please revisit to stay informed of innovations that could help society persevere against climate change as we build the climate future that we all want.