The City of London’s first major environmental initiative?
The Environment Foundation was established in 1983 with funding from the international insurance industry in what was probably the City of London’s first major initiative designed to address the environmental agenda. Today, that start-up funding forms the major part of our modest endowment. But any formal link with the insurance industry has long gone.
From environment to sustainable development
The Foundation’s central objective when it was established in 1983 was to protect and improve the environment. But over time it became increasingly apparent that this needed to be addressed in the broader context in which environmental decisions are made. As a result, the Foundation’s activities shifted to encompass the environmental, social and economic dimensions (the so-called ‘triple bottom line’) of sustainable development.
We spent some time on efforts to persuade the Charity Commission that sustainable development could be accepted as a charitable objective in its own right. The Charity Commission had initially refused to accept an application to register us as a charity set up to promote sustainable development.
In 2003, the Charity Commissioners reconsidered this position, taking the view that the promotion of sustainable development for the benefit of the public should now be accepted as charitable so long as it was confined to purposes and activities which are recognisable as charitable in law.
Today, the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development’s core objectives relate to the promotion of sustainable development for the benefit of the public, and to advancement of the education of the public and promotion of study and research in subjects related to sustainable development.
We are proud that other charities can now adopt sustainable development as their overarching goal because of our efforts.
Sowing seeds of change
From the outset, the Foundation was in the business of sowing seeds of change, both in markets and in the minds of decision-makers and opinion-formers. It did this first through its award schemes for industry, aiming for replication of the best technologies and practices. In the early days the Foundation also provided seed funding for a wide range of initiatives including research projects and travelling Fellowships.
From 1992-2006, the Foundation organised a series of consultations which addressed issues at the cutting edge of sustainable development. Many were organised by Consultant Director Helen Holdaway, who the Foundation had worked with in her previous role at the Royal Society of Arts.
The consultations were held at St George’s House in the grounds of Windsor Castle on the outskirts of London. Consultations were attended by no more than thirty people at a time. They acted as seedpods, helping to set and disseminate the sustainable development agenda.
The most recent of the Windsor consultations, in 2006, focused on challenges of sustainability in the so-called ‘emerging markets’ of countries such as India and China that are rapidly rising in importance on the global stage.
In 2007 we began to refocus our work on democracy and sustainable development. That is where this website begins. We began with a consultation and public event in London. And in February 2009 we turned to India, the world’s largest democracy, for a seminar on Democracy and Sustainability: India as a case study.
In April 2009 The Environment Foundation welcomed a full time staff member for the first time. Director Halina Ward now leads the work of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.
Our old website is still in place as an archive. It records our work over the years from 1983 until we changed our name in July 2009.