Strategic philanthropy in China gaining traction in the environmental sector


March 1, 2018

Co-author: Patti Chu

5 min read

  • Collaboration among grantmakers is vital to tackle social issues;
  • Trends of China environmental grantmaking are revealed;
  • Strategic philanthropy is the approach to achieve maximized impact.

China, as many other countries in the world, faces great environmental challenges: smog, soil and water pollution, ecological deterioration, desertification, to name a few. The government fiscal spending on environmental protection has been on the rise in recent years, with an estimated US$ 8 billion allocated in 2017.

Meanwhile, more Chinese philanthropists and High Net Worth individuals are taking a much more active role in supporting organizations that are tackling environmental and ecological issues. Both Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group and Pony Ma, President of Tencent are part of the Advisory group for The Paradise International Foundation, a Chinese non-profit organization focused on protecting land and water in China.

In spite of this increased interest, only 3% of the 6,400 foundations in China are supporting the environmental sector, which is a diminutive force in relation to the daunting challenge.

Mobilising more philanthropic funds poses both hardships and opportunities

There is an increasing awareness on the importance of taking a more collaborative and strategic approach in fighting climate change and its socio-environmental implications. Asia Environmental Innovation Forum, an AVPN member, has been convening annually since 2015 to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, incubators, investors, and donors to support the development of environmental innovations so that they can become scalable and investment-ready.

The most recent collaborative initiative in China is the formation of the China Environmental Grantmakers Alliance (CEGA) which was launched on January 29, 2018. Initiated by ten of the most renown foundations supporting environmental issues including Mangrove Wetland Conservation Foundation, SEE Foundation, Lao Niu Foundation, and China Environmental Protection Foundation, CEGA is under the administrative leadership of China Foundation Centre, an AVPN member.

CEGA aims to build a database of foundations supporting environmental causes as well as high quality environmental projects, provide guidance to grantmakers through its research and impact assessment, and facilitate knowledge sharing among both domestic and international players.

Grantmaking trends, with special focus on the environment

With an increasing number of new grantmakers, here are a few of the most interesting findings shared by the China Foundation Centre:

  • Beijing, Guangdong Province, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are the top 3 provinces/municipalities supporting environmental projects;
  • More small-scaled innovative projects have emerged;
  • Projects that receive most grants are seen sectors such as forest conservation, desertification control, and water pollution rectification;
  • An increasing amount has been spent on capacity building.

AVPN shares CEGA’s view that strategic philanthropy is the direction in which impact can be maximized, especially considering the fact that only a very small percentage of Chinese foundations are currently engaged in the environmental sector.

AVPN Conference 2018

Taking place on June 4-7 in Singapore, the AVPN Conference will have a strong sustainability focus and a number of sessions around Climate Change, including Gender and Climate Change, Sustainable Finance and Impact Investing, Unleashing the Power of Philanthropic Funding for Climate Change and Sustainable Cities.

Confirmed speakers among these sessions include Mark Sainsbury from the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trust, which has a strong agenda on climate change; Annie Chen from RS Group which recently released a report Mapping Sustainable Finance in Hong Kong.

We look forward to continuing the conversation around the importance of collaborations and strategic philanthropic to tackling Climate Change at the conference. Please contact for more details.



About Author
Cindy Wang
Cindy Wang Consultant for China AVPN

Cindy has over fifteen years of experience in Marketing and Communications with multinational corporations in China including Procter and Gamble, Alcatel and NCR. Her last position was with IBM China where she worked for eight years and led the Marketing and Communications team. Cindy ventured outside of the corporate world in 2015 and has been working as a Business Development Manager for Shanghai Young Bakers, a nonprofit organization in Shanghai training disadvantaged youth.

Cindy has a Bachelors’ degree in English Studies from Peking University, a Master’s in Communication Studies from Northern Illinois University, and an MBA from Boston University.