Robertson’s Sarah Brennan Seeks Public and Private Climate Solutions

Program Officer Sarah Brennan has forged something of a hybrid career dealing with both government and business, all in the pursuit of big solutions to the climate crisis. This makes her a perfect fit to guide the Robertson Foundation’s philanthrocapitalist approach to climate funding. 

THe Robertson Foundation was established by hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson as a way to channel “high-impact” giving for education, medical research, religion, and the environment. The foundation has a trust of almost $1 billion, and like many of the financial industry’s mega-philanthropists, Robertson believes the most meaningful solutions come from the principles behind successful business, and include market-based approaches.  

The foundation pursues a mix of public and private strategies, which is where program officer and environment program lead Sarah Brennan comes in. [Read our full IP Profile here.]

Brennan has pursued a career almost entirely focused on climate change work, with a synthesis of research, consulting and advocacy in pursuit of both policy and private sector fixes. 

Her resume is a combo of the two sectors, boasting a masters of public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and an MBA from Columbia. She was also a research associate at the Harvard Business School, writing case studies of the economics of environmentalism and sustainability. 

She’s done consulting for the U.S. and Canadian governments and the United Nations on environmental policy, and an analysis of environmental impact for a major beverage company. She also spent time at Columbia’s Earth Institute, at one of its research centers devoted to blending technology, policy, economics and public outreach.

All this paved the way for Brennan’s entry into philanthropy, as a program officer for Robertson. The funder takes a businesslike approach to giving, only backing well-established outfits that can act on a large scale. They support both market-based approaches and “smart” government regulation. The Environmental Defense Fund, a Walton Family Foundation favorite that's big on business-friendly environmentalism, is one of Robertson's huge beneficiaries. As is the Energy Foundation, a pass-through funder that promotes policy and green business to accelerate the clean energy economy. 

Robertson is a difficult one to approach, and grantees can expect intense scrutiny. But they do receive long-term and very generous support.

Learn more about Brennan and the Robertson Foundation below:

Sarah Brennan, Robertson Foundation

Robertson Foundation, Grants for Climate Change