$1 Billion Green Challenge Launches

October 11, 2011

Harvard, Stanford, Arizona State, and other leading universities commit $65 million to new energy efficiency financing initiative

PITTSBURGH, PA (Oct. 11, 2011)– To “Save Energy, Grow Money,” the Billion Dollar Green Challenge invites colleges, universities and other nonprofits to invest a total of one billion dollars in self-managed green revolving funds that finance energy efficiency upgrades.

The Challenge is inspired by the exceptional performance of existing green revolving funds, which have a median annual return on investment of 32%, as documented by Greening The Bottom Line, a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

A bright spot in a rocky economy, these profitable investments are helping create green jobs in campus communities, while lowering operating costs on college and university campuses.

“We’re transforming energy efficiency upgrades from perceived expenses to high-return investment opportunities,” said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which is coordinating The Challenge along with 15 partners. (See complete list included below.)

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge launches publicly on October 11 at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Pittsburgh. With more than 2,500 participants, the conference is the largest gathering to date on higher education sustainability.

“The Billion Dollar Green Challenge asks our higher education systems to invest in green revolving funds to support the campus sustainability movement. AASHE supports The Challenge in that these funds will help institutions become more sustainable and will help the higher education community understand the commitment they are making to a just and sustainable future” said Paul Rowland, Executive Director, of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

In advance of the launch, 32 institutions have already joined The Challenge’s Founding Circle by committing to invest a cumulative total of more than $65 million in green revolving funds. In addition to Harvard, Stanford and ASU, other Founding Circle institutions include Caltech, Dartmouth, George Washington, Middlebury, the University of British Columbia, and Weber State University. (See complete list in the appendix.)

Several Founding Circle schools have already established funds and are enthusiastic about the benefits. Harvard’s Office for Sustainability Director Heather Henriksen said, “The Green Loan Fund has generated high returns on investment, while improving Harvard’s environmental impact and our bottom line.” Endowment investments, operating funds and alumni donations have all been used to establish green revolving funds at institutions across the country.

Guided by a 34-member expert advisory council, The Billion Dollar Green Challenge offers technical assistance, best practices sharing, access to an advanced web-based tool for managing green revolving funds, peer institutions’ project-specific data and invitations to specialized webinars and conferences.

At Stanford, Office of Sustainability Associate Director Fahmida Ahmed said, “Our fund has already financed over 200 small and large efficiency projects on campus, with an average simple payback period of just four years.”

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge has received financial support from the David Rockefeller Fund, HOK, John Merck Fund, Kresge Foundation, Merck Family Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Roy A. Hunt Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, and the Wallace Global Fund.

Fifteen partner organizations have played a pivotal role in developing and launching The Challenge: American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), Clean Air-Cool Planet, Clinton Climate Initiative, Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology, Net Impact National Association of Environmental Law Societies, New England Board of Higher Education, Rocky Mountain Institute, Second Nature, United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Building Green Initiative, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.

Please visit www.GreenBillion.org for more information.


About the Sustainable Endowments Institute
The Sustainable Endowments Institute was founded in 2005 as a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Cambridge-based nonprofit organization has pioneered research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.

Billion Dollar Green Challenge – Founding Circle

Agnes Scott College
Arizona State University
Bellevue College
Berkshire School
Bethany College
Boston University
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Burlington College
California Institute of Technology
Daemen College
Dartmouth College
Denison University
Edgewood College
George Washington University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Green Mountain College
Hampshire College
Harvard University
Mars Hill College
Middlebury College
Northland College
Oregon State University
Stanford University
Thompson Rivers University
Unity College
University of Arizona
University of British Columbia
University of Minnesota
University of New Hampshire
University of Oregon
Weber State University
Western Michigan University