Seattle Foundation Blog

Taking a Stand on Climate Justice

President & CEO Tony Mestres shares Seattle Foundation’s new Climate Justice Impact Strategy

October 17, 2018

By Tony Mestres, President & CEO

We live in a time when our world is facing an urgent crisis due to climate change. From recent flooding to forest fires and poor air quality, our region is already experiencing the impacts here.

Many may believe this complex global threat is beyond the capability of our communities or people to change. That is a myth. Any effort to address this problem comes down to the actions of individuals and organizations. At Seattle Foundation, we believe we can make a difference in the global movement to protect our planet and our people, while leading from right here in our community.

While climate change affects everyone across the globe, the impacts do not affect us all equally. We believe climate justice is critical to a future that is vibrant, inclusive and sustainable for our region. In Washington state and across the country, we have seen meaningful progress occur when the communities most affected by issues like climate change lead the way.

In alignment with our commitment to creating a thriving community for all, Seattle Foundation is launching our Climate Justice Impact Strategy to support the communities most impacted by climate change.

In this first of its kind strategy among community foundations, we are putting justice and equity at the center of our approach to climate change. We will invest in community-based research, build strong, diverse coalitions, and strengthen the capacity of nonprofits working to advance local solutions to this global challenge. We will use our voice, exercise our leadership, and align philanthropic efforts to enhance climate justice for our region’s most vulnerable communities.

Advancing Climate Justice in Our Region

Research shows that low-income communities and communities of color experience pollution and climate change first and worst, shouldering a greater burden of extreme weather events, contaminated drinking water and waterways, poor air quality and unhealthy housing.

The more than 5,000 people who live near the polluted Duwamish River have a life expectancy eight years lower than the city average. They will experience climate change through sea level rise, storm surges and flooding that amplifies their community’s urgent need to take action.

Fortunately, there is transformative work already underway in this area, and across our community, to address the impacts of climate change. Duwamish area residents, the City of Seattle, and other key stakeholders are working together to replace heavy equipment and gas vehicles with electric versions, as well as develop more green spaces and install rooftop solar panels on homes and businesses. This is evidence that there are local solutions to the global challenge of climate change.

The Intersection of Climate and Justice

Seattle Foundation and its partners have been developing our Climate Justice Impact Strategy over the last 18 months. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the need for this work and is a reminder to all of us that we must act with urgency. The panel of scientific experts found that we have a little over a decade to cut carbon emissions to near zero levels, or risk global disaster that includes extreme droughts, increased flooding and more heat-related deaths.

As we learned in the new report, “An Unfair Share,” written by the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and the nonprofit coalition Front and Centered, with support from Seattle Foundation, local communities are often most effective at increasing their resilience to climate change impacts. Extraordinary change can happen when we invite everyone in, rather than leaving some voices out.

Our Commitment and Leadership

Seattle Foundation is committed to investing in and supporting the leadership of these impacted communities. As we continue to develop this impact strategy, there will be many opportunities for you to engage, learn more and support this effort. We look forward to working with you to build local solutions to this global challenge. You will hear more from us in the coming months, but if you are interested in learning more about our approach to climate justice, please contact our lead, Sally Gillis, Managing Director of Strategic Impact and Partnerships, at



Community Issues


Climate changeClimate justiceEnvironmentRacial equitySustainable developmentSystems and policy change

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