TITLE: Chariman and President of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and Vice President of Global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Tiffany & Co.
FUNDING AREAS: Responsible mining, coral conservation, urban parks, excellence in design
IP TAKE: Costa started out in banking during a financial boom, but feeling unfulfilled, she went into philanthropy and sustainability. She now has a dual role in overseeing Tiffany's sustainability efforts and the corporate foundation.
PROFILE: As head of sustainability for the corporate arm, and president of the foundation arm for Tiffany & Co., Anisa Kamadoli Costa acts on behalf of both the conscience and the goodwill of the diamond titan. On the philanthropy side, she oversees around $5 million in strategic giving split between specific arenas of environment and the arts.
Costa's education and background are in big business and international affairs, having come out of the MBA program at Columbia and going straight to work for J.P. Morgan Chase. But she felt unfulfilled and quickly found her way into philanthropy and sustainability.
In an interview with GreenBiz, Acosta recounted that while her engagement with sustainability began professionally with her first foundation job, she ties it back to her early visits to India. She remembers visiting there when she was young and seeing people making lifestyle changes to combat environmental devastation decades ago. She'd watch her mother wash out and reuse Ziploc bags when she was growing up, thinking it was silly at the time but respecting it now.
In her role at The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, she's evolved far beyond reusable bags. Most of the foundation's giving is to environmental causes, and much of that giving aligns with the company's efforts to promote responsible mining and coral conservation. Given the high-profile devastation caused by conflict diamonds and mining in developing countries, Tiffany throws a lot of weight behind its efforts at corporate responsibility.
The foundation gives to efforts such as restoring abandoned mines and promoting economic development in communities where mining occurs in Africa. It has also come out in opposition of a proposed mine in Bristol Bay and has funded efforts to protect wildlife in the region. The third environmental priority for the Tiffany & Co. Foundation is unrelated to diamonds, but it fits the company's role in New York culture. The foundation writes whopping checks to urban parks, such as its $5 million matching grant to New York's popular High Line park. Its final program area gives to art and design causes such as MoMA, the Met, and Rhode Island School of Design. The foundation is global but has a tendency to support causes in New York.
The foundation is definitely closely tied to the corporation, and with her dual role, Costa lives in both worlds. Before starting her 10-year stint at Tiffany, she experienced a similar mix of responsibilities. For example, she credits her time at Columbia, where she studied for a master's in international affairs, with teaching her to look across disciplines such as science, government, and business.
When she graduated in the late 1990s, Costa went into banking during a financial boom, working for J.P. Morgan and cutting her teeth in dealing with large stacks of cash. Before going into philanthropy, she also worked for the Monitor Group, a Bain-style management consulting firm that has been bought out by Deloitte.
But it was at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a global foundation that gives to democratic practice in the United States, peace building abroad, and sustainability, that she was inspired to continue working with foundations and sustainability.
Since cracking into philanthropy, Costa has become a prominent figure in the field. She's currently the cochair of the affinity group Environmental Grantmakers Association, which represents more than $1 billion in giving. And she serves on the board of directors of Philanthropy New York, the professional organization of foundations in the region.