Philanthropy can support the Building Performance Standards Coalition by investing in frontline organizations
Today we learned that the Biden-Harris administration has launched the Building Performance Standards Coalition, the first-of-its-kind partnership between 33 state and local governments dedicated to providing cleaner, healthier, and more affordable buildings. This new initiative will not only support energy-efficient buildings, but will also create green jobs and reduce energy costs for those with the heaviest energy loads.
In each of our funding branches at Kresge, we focus on how to support the efforts of community-led movements to deconstruct barriers to equity and replace inclusive and sustainable policies, norms and practices in their place. .
The National Building Performance Standards Coalition is a perfect example of these principles in action. Not only does the Coalition aim directly to help cities combat and adapt to climate change, but it does so by elevating the primacy of promoting racial, economic and social equity, opportunity and justice.
Even with the myriad of other powerful and effective efforts in the environmental sector, the Coalition may be the most powerful lever we have to decarbonize the built environment in communities across the country.
And that’s why I call on my colleagues in philanthropy to support this effort. Philanthropy in all its shapes and sizes – corporate foundations, community foundations, family foundations, national foundations – can make a huge difference in the success of local Coalition efforts. In particular, we can invest in local organisations.
Frontline organizations – organizations working at the intersection of environmental, climate and racial justice – are already serving as first responders – responding to the immediate needs of their neighbors while working to prevent the next crisis by tackling the systemic barriers to progress. The track record of success is growing impressively. And yet, they are too often overlooked by philanthropy. I hope that a tangible result of the Coalition is to help rectify this.
At Kresge, we are particularly pleased to see that equity and community leadership are central elements of the Coalition. For example, as stated in the ad:
“When building performance standards are designed in partnership with frontline communities and key stakeholders, innovative and equitable solutions can meet multiple needs in a community. Energy efficiency upgrades and electrification of multi-family buildings improve indoor air quality, eliminate drafts and protect residents from extreme heat, providing health benefits and reducing costs health care.
Equity is a key driver of the Coalition. Yet equity has become a philanthropic buzzword. It’s hard to have a conversation about any dimension of contemporary American society without it. But it is as it should be. There can be no more compelling impulse within philanthropy than to base our institutional capital – financial, intellectual and reputational – on improving outcomes for marginalized communities.
This is amplified incalculably in the area of climate change and energy.
It is members of marginalized communities who disproportionately bear the cutting edge of all dimensions of climate change – from rising sea levels to more severe weather, from wildfires to drought. And it is low-income people, older people and communities of color who bear the heaviest energy costs – heat, electricity, gasoline.
These same energy systems are also detrimental to our health.
We don’t need to look too far to find examples. Consider the air pollution generated by the energy systems’ reliance on fossil fuels that power our homes, businesses, public buildings and other forms of infrastructure – it’s a leading cause of illness and death. premature in the world. And again, especially in low-income communities of color.
The Biden-Harris administration has appropriately, yet boldly, recognized that any policy at the federal level to address climate change must consider the effects of that policy on low-income people, disengaged communities, and at-risk populations. risk who are most affected by climate change.
It’s a big challenge. But, from the perspective of the foundation that I lead, it is clear that it is the type of policies that will be identified, elevated and advanced by the National Building Performance Standards Coalition that will achieve the administration’s aspirations.
We are particularly pleased to see that the Coalition will pursue decarbonization through the renovation and modernization of existing buildings. Although the United States has made considerable progress in improving the energy performance of new buildings, existing buildings have proven more difficult to break.
It is these older buildings that represent the bones of our communities – the buildings that provide the structure, literally, that defines the contours of our economic, educational, recreational, social and residential life.
It is these older buildings that need to be made safer, healthier and more affordable. The Coalition becomes an essential catalyst for state and local units of government as they pursue this task through an equitable opportunity lens.
Just a word on the importance of community engagement in this process. The Coalition will be a powerful new force on the scene – an indispensable force, as I have noted. But no Coalition work can be done without the full participation, co-creation and buy-in of community residents.
And we, in turn, must think of the community in its broadest dimensions – building owners and neighborhood residents. . . entrepreneurs and organized labor. . . housing and tenant advocates and community development organizations. . . block clubs and local faith-based organizations. Always, by the way, with a keen eye for vehicles capable of raising the voice and ensuring the participation of black, brown and indigenous communities.
The fundamental principles that guide the Building Performance Standards Coalition – indeed the design of its strategies and methods – provide a huge opportunity to make this calculation correctly. That is why we unequivocally support – and welcome – the launch of the Coalition.
So fellow philanthropists, join us in supporting frontline organizations. It is a historic moment. We have to catch it.