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Earth Is Now Our Only Shareholder

If we have any hope of a thriving planet—much less a business—it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have. This is what we can do.

Read Yvon’s Letter

Where to Find Hope on Climate

Brad Wieners  /  Apr 22, 2024  /  5 Min Read  /  Planet, Our Footprint

Introducing Home Planet Fund, an independent nonprofit that supports local and Indigenous communities who work in concert with nature to stop climate breakdown.

Patagonia has long donated to conservation efforts in the Tongass National Forest. Home Planet Fund invests in the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a collective of local Alaskan communities that see healthy trees as essential to their economic livelihoods. Old-growth forests keep Earth cool, naturally. Photo: Colin Arisman

“Over the years, people have asked me, can I donate to what you’re doing?” says Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder. “The answer has always been ‘no’ because we’re a business. But it’s stuck with me. Maybe a public charity is something else we ought to try.”

Well, now we are.

Lately, a tiny group here at Patagonia headquarters, as well as a broader network of friends and advisors, has been laying the groundwork for Home Planet Fund, a nonprofit that everyone can donate to and that directly supports nature-based solutions to the climate crisis practiced by local and Indigenous communities around the world.

Home Planet Fund is an exciting new planet in Patagonia’s solar system of environmentalism, which includes 1% for the Planet, Patagonia Action Works, Tin Shed Ventures, and the Holdfast Collective, established in 2022 to distribute Patagonia’s profits to environmental initiatives.

Launched with $20 million in seed funding from Patagonia, Home Planet Fund is a separate organization dedicated to discovering where it can get the biggest bang for its climate bucks. To do so, the fund’s leadership identifies habitats and practices proven by science to reduce global warming and other threats to the natural world. Then, it carefully vets local groups who have deep knowledge of their lands and waters, and how to restore them, and writes grants to expand projects in these areas, particularly in remote regions where conservation organizations aren’t always comfortable operating.

“Much of our Western rhetoric around climate breakdown is panic,” says Dilafruz Khonikboyeva, the fund’s founding director. “But we have the knowledge and tools and actions that have been proven out through millennia by Indigenous people and local communities, and again by modern science. In that way, relief and joy can very much be part of our climate answer.”

Where to Find Hope on Climate

Can herding and cultivation methods that are proven to emit less greenhouse gases be expanded upon rather than replaced with modern, polluting ones? Home Planet Fund is helping the Maasai, in Tanzania, find out. Photo: Anup Shah / Minden Pictures

Dilafruz, 35, is Pamiri, an Ismaili Muslim people native to the mountains at the nexus of the five major ranges in Central Asia. She has spent her career responding to conflict and climate-related crises. Dilafruz is convinced it’s not too late to keep Earth livable: “Each grantee’s program will manifest differently, and there is strength in that diversity—the mono-cultural mindset got us into this crisis, only a poly-cultural strategy will get us out.”

Some of the best opportunities to make progress on climate already exist but need help to expand or “scale,” as investors say. In fact, many of the communities Home Planet Fund will support might never call what they do “nature-based climate solutions;” it’s just what they’ve done for millennia—traditional burnings to manage wildfires, reforestation techniques, the restoration of grasslands and wetlands, or regenerative organic farming that yields healthy, carbon-rich soil.

Indigenous peoples manage more than 24 percent of the world’s land, representing 40 percent of the intact landscapes left on the planet—and a staggering 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. These communities feel the impacts of the climate crisis firsthand while contributing practically nothing to it. And they’re pursuing brilliantly simple solutions that can slow it down.

Where to Find Hope on Climate

Home Planet Fund invests in projects led by women across Vanuatu to regenerate their land and waters, including nearby coral reefs. These efforts include nurturing cultural knowledge, such as how to grow a variety of local greens for healthy diets. Photo: Mark Chew

Building upon Yvon’s vision of “business unusual” that has animated Patagonia for 50 years, Home Planet Fund will practice “philanthropy unusual,” which includes a rare, even radical, level of trust in its grantees; minimal expenses; and a willingness to go where others don’t.

Home Planet Fund has identified regions where the science confirms the greatest potential for addressing global warming, including carbon sequestration and restoring soil health. Some of these regions are experiencing political unrest and even armed conflict, but the fund is willing to work in areas that others cannot or will not work in—conflict zones, remote and rural communities, and sparsely populated but critical locations. Having grown up in just such a region, Dilafruz says, “We aren’t afraid to get out there.”

The confidence to operate in a wide range of global hotspots is helped, too, by an international board of directors that includes Alejandro Argumedo, the Quechua director of programs and Andean Amazon lead for the Swift Foundation; Sanjay Joshie, the executive director of the Foundation for Ecological Security in India; Masego Madzwamuse, director of the environmental program of the Oak Foundation; and Ayisha Siddiqa, a human rights and land defender from the tribal lands of Moochiwala in Pakistan. Lisa Pike Sheehy, Patagonia’s former vice president of environmental activism, and Claire Chouinard, a creative director and member of the Patagonia board of directors, serve as environmental and philanthropic advisors.

Many charitable institutions insist that the groups they fund follow their agendas rather than listening carefully and abiding by their recipients’ decisions. “We want to change that,” Dilafruz says. “Home Planet Fund won’t be imposing our ideas or loading grantees up with reporting requirements. We want them to spend the money on climate solutions, not audits.”

“We are vetting the communities that we invest in very carefully, so these can be Indigenous-led ‘for-the-people, by-the-people’ initiatives,” says board member Ayisha Siddiqa. “We trust our grantees to know best what to do. With the exception of a few hyperlocal organizations, I don’t know of anyone who is doing this. It’s incredibly exciting.”

Where to Find Hope on Climate

In the Pamirs, the mountains at the nexus of the five major ranges in Central Asia, some communities, such as this one near the Tajikistan border in Afghanistan, now cultivate native flora after decades of growing mono-crops that depleted the soil, leading to erosion, desertification and carbon emissions. Photo: Beth Wald

Patagonia’s seed funding will cover expenses so Home Planet Fund can invest every dollar it receives from donors into communities and climate solutions that work.

“Every cent of donations will go to grants and not salaries and expenses,” Dilafruz says. “Overhead will be paid for out of the original seed money.”

“No fancy dinners. No galas. We’re not going to spend the money on raising money,” Yvon agrees. “We’re going to spend it!”

“If we’re going to get ourselves out of this mess and save our home planet, we’re going to have to make some real changes,” Yvon says. And the solution to a lot of the world’s problems, including climate chaos, he says, may not require new technologies but techniques we’ve previously discarded. “Instead of trying to force a flawed system to work, let’s follow David Brower’s advice,” Yvon adds. “Let’s turn around and take a forward step and see where that gets us.”

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