Roger Sant has been in the energy world for decades, so perhaps it makes sense that he and his wife Victoria have made one of their philanthropic priorities the environment. Their Giving Pledge letter states that they plan to give "more than 90 percent of [their assets]" to charity during their lifetime or as planned gifts. Through the Summit Foundation and the Summit Fund of Washington (which recently closed down), the couple have been active philanthropists in this space, with likely plenty more to come down the line.
Sant is chairman emeritus and cofounder of AES Corporation, an international power utility which distributes electric power to countries around the world. Prior to starting AES, Sant was assistant administrator for Energy Conservation and the Environment at the Federal Energy Administration and also served as director of the Energy Productivity Center. Sant has chaired the World Wildlife Fund. In 2006 alone the couple gave $20 million to WWF to work on conservation projects in the Amazon such as Amazon Regional Protected Areas (ARPA).
It's important to note that the Summit Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but here's what you need to know about this environmental funder:
1. Region is Key
A component of the Sants' philanthropy appears to involve focusing in on particular regions for targeted conservation efforts. Summit currently has three program areas: "Empowering Girls," "Conserving the Mesoamerican Reef," and "Sustainable Cities."
Its Conserving the Mesoamerican Reef program focuses on both land-based and coastal/marine issues that threaten the Mesoamerican Reef region which includes Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and the northern coast of Honduras. Summit has identified three major threats to the region: overfishing, mass tourism, and commercial agriculture.
Recent grants have included $190,000 to the Centre for Marine Ecology in Honduras and a $100,000 grant to the World Wildlife Fund towards "reducing agricultural and shrimp farming runoff to Protect the Mesoamerican Reef." As well, the foundation supports the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, which "tracks changes in reef health and social well-being through a strong set of commonly agreed indicators that effectively inform management actions."
2. Washington D.C. Has Been Another Key Region
The Summit Fund's Anacostia River program focused on protecting the Anacostia River in the Maryland and Washington D.C. The Fund was founded in 1993, but since 1998 has prioritized the Anacostia River and has invested some $13 million towards projects supporting that region, according to the Bay Journal. Recent money has gone to outfits such as Anacostia Riverkeeper, Earthjustice, and the National Resources Defense Council.
3. Sustainability is Also Important to this Funder
Given Sant's background in energy, perhaps it isn't surprising that Sustainable Cities is a grantmaking program at the Summit Foundation. Unlike some of Summit's other programs, this program doesn't seem to have geographic preferences. A recent $50,000 grant went to Architecture 2030. Architecture 2030 issued the 2030 Challenge, one of whose goals is for all new buildings and major renovations to be carbon-neutral in 2030. This program area seems to be big on supporting research and recently gave a $24,500 grant to the Institute for Sustainable Communities in Vermont for research on sustainability planning.