Every spring, Vancity Community Foundation supports Earth Day and celebrates the changing of the seasons. We have long prioritized climate action and justice across our organization, and in recognition of Earth Day and the larger environmental movement we are actively participating in, we are sharing some of our key efforts with you below.
Climate-Ready Affordable Housing Programs
Being without a home or housed in sub-standard environments presents significant risk in adverse weather events brought on by climate change such as extreme heat and flooding. By investing in affordable, sustainable housing, the Foundation improves local climate resilience and adaptability, particularly for those most vulnerable to climate change.
The Vancity Affordable Housing Program does this by investing in affordable housing development projects for low-to-moderate income households. 91% of the Affordable Housing Development projects we have supported to date through the Accelerator Fund will use at least 50% less energy relative to the BC Building Code and many are built to be near zero emissions.
Homes that are safe and affordable can help households be more prepared for climate emergencies and reduce their emissions by freeing up expenses for related goods and services and increase access to essential services like public transit (100% of the projects are near transit with an average distance of 145 metres).
The Foundation also supports environmental efforts through 312 Main, a centre for social and economic innovation and a project of the Foundation. At 312 Main we provide affordable and accessible spaces to social enterprises and non-profits, including those working on climate action and the green economy. Examples include Dogwood BC, Ecotrust Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society British Columbia, Drinkfill, Impact Engineering and HUB Cycling.
Social Enterprise Programs
From 2011 to 2019, the Foundation's Strategic Programs directed close to $1 million in grants to social enterprises that strengthen the green economy, many of which provide goods and services directly related to climate mitigation and adaptation. Multi-year funding and technical support helped many social enterprises to successfully launch, strengthen and grow.
A key example is 312 Main's work with Binners' Project, a thriving social enterprise that empowers binners as part of the circular economy through employment programs, raising awareness and building community capacity. 312 Main is one of their key locations, where Binners' Project conducts training for binners before they move to larger sorting sites. The Binners' teams run their weekly meetings out of 312 Main. The building also contracts their waste sorting services across all five floors, which ensures waste is sorted correctly before it is hauled away by another member organization, Recycling Alternative.
Donor Advised Funds
The Foundation holds several Donor Advised Funds that have environmental and climate action-related objectives, including the Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST) Fund, which helps to make communities healthier places to live by promoting sustainable transportation and land use planning and pedestrian-, cycling- and transit-oriented neighbourhoods.
The Comox Valley Land Trust: Pat Glazner Memorial Fund was established to generate income to support the Comox Valley Land Trust, which develops projects and programs to conserve the richness and diversity of the environment in the Comox Valley region of Vancouver Island and promotes and encourages the protection, beneficial use and management of natural and recreational lands.
Other Donor Advised Funds held at the Foundation with an environmental focus include Hans Peter Rodseth Memorial Fund, Goodly Foods Fund, Environmental Youth Alliance Fund and Youth Civic Engagement Fund.
Vancity Community Foundation's Investment Strategy - Socially Responsible Investments
The capital of the Foundation's 225+ Donor Advised Funds is pooled and invested according to the Foundation's investment strategy. Approximately 90% is invested with Vancity Investment Management (VCIM).
Vancity Investment Management is a wealth management firm focused on investments that deliver competitive returns while making a positive impact in the world.
VCIM believes climate change is the most pressing environmental issue both locally and globally, and their investment approach seeks to address this. It begins with assessing potential investments on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria, which includes environmental performance and policy.
The core of VCIM's approach is climate risk strategy. They went fully fossil fuel-free in 2019 and seek to help peers in the banking sector move towards financing lower carbon projects. VCIM has been highly influential in creating positive change in the financial space - notably, after more than a year of dialogue, VCIM successfully influenced TD Canada Trust and Scotiabank on a major policy change to ban Arctic oil and gas project financing.
Vancity Community Foundation's Investment Strategy - Direct Impact Investments
Approximately 10% of the pool of capital from the Foundation's Donor Advised Funds is invested more directly for impact, primarily in the Vancity Affordable Housing Accelerator Fund, which supports climate-ready housing through loans that fill a capital gap for community organizations, as well as in impact equity funds such as Renewal 2 which funds environmental innovation.
Vancity Humanitarian Fund
The Foundation works in partnership with Vancity credit union to raise funds for the Vancity Humanitarian Fund for emergency relief related to climate change impacts.
Together we launched a donation program in July 2021 to support communities affected by the wildfires across British Columbia. Vancity credit union donated $25,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and matched every additional dollar donated to the Humanitarian Fund up to $50,000. The Governments of Canada and British Columbia also matched every dollar donated to the Fund, meaning a $1 contribution would become up to $4 to support those affected by the devastating wildfires.
At the end of 2021, Vancity credit union and Vancity Community Foundation also created a matching campaign in response to extreme flooding in BC, which resulted in a total of $255,000 being raised.
Vancity Community Foundation is proud to support climate action and justice throughout our organization and our affiliates, and will continue to prioritize environmental efforts in our future work. The Foundation has signed the Canadian Philanthropic Commitment on Climate Change, which is an opportunity to embed climate commitments more actively and deeply throughout all aspects of our organization.
To get involved, please consider donating to the Vancity Humanitarian Fund to support climate emergency response efforts, or the Vancity Affordable Housing Program to support our work in affordable climate-ready housing. To keep up-to-date on the work of the Foundation, please follow our Twitter and LinkedIn pages.