The Endowments’ Sustainability strategic funding area incorporates the activities of the foundation’s former Environment & Health and Community & Economic Development program departments. The Sustainability funding area seeks to address underlying threats to Pittsburgh’s quality of life while focusing on opportunities to support the region’s health, safety and prosperity, now and for the future.
The Sustainability area’s vision is to contribute to a Just Pittsburgh, where economic and community development and healthy environment systems protect and benefit all citizens, where race, experience, identity and zip code do not determine life outcomes, where air and water are safe and where large sections of poor and vulnerable populations are not left behind.
As part of our Sustainability strategy, the Endowments seeks to improve the economic position of marginalized populations and places by advancing a clean economy, protecting the environment and public health and pursuing equitable development.
The Endowments also is focused on reducing disparities in our broad community related to environmental health, increasing access to healthy foods and successfully reintegrating veterans and their families into our community, in recognition of the assets they represent for our region.
Improve people's economic position through higher wages, family-sustaining employment and entrepreneurship.
- Connect workers on the margins to family-sustaining employment.
- Expand minority entrepreneurs’ access to capital and business development assistance.
- Bolster opportunities for minority entrepreneurs to manage and increase their own income.
- Connect opportunities from the innovation economy to all residents.
Endowments point of contact: Rob Stephany, Director, Community & Economic Development
Advance a clean economy with renewables, green infrastructure and climate-friendly solutions.
- Implement renewable and alternative energy solutions.
- Apply green infrastructure best management practices to improve the water quality in Pittsburgh’s rivers and streams while providing secondary benefits to communities.
- Promote innovative strategies at the neighborhood, local and regional level to reduce climate pollution.
Endowments point of contact: Philip Johnson, Director, Environment & Health
Pursue socially just economic opportunity so that distressed neighborhoods thrive without displacing vulnerable residents.
- Target distressed neighborhoods that are adjacent to strong markets that can leverage public and private capital to improve housing markets without displacing vulnerable residents.
- Embrace first-in-class civic design.
- Connect Pittsburgh through “complete streets,” transit-oriented development and alternative transportation.
- Engage the arts and artists in socially just community revitalization, ennobling culture and neighborhood beautification.
Endowments point of contact: Rob Stephany, Director, Community & Economic Development
Restore and protect Pittsburgh’s environmental systems, and enhance its public health.
- Protect all populations from disproportionate harm caused by pollution and reduce environmental health burdens, especially among those experiencing environmental injustice.
- Encourage socially and environmentally responsible use of western Pennsylvania’s natural resources.
- Deepen community engagement and leadership networks through education, outreach and advocacy.
- Advance independent, comprehensive and fact-based scientific knowledge to foster healthy environments.
Endowments point of contact: Philip Johnson, Director, Environment & Health
Promote community health and vitality through sustainable food systems, especially in food deserts.
- Improve access to fresh, healthy, local foods in low-income neighborhoods.
- Promote urban agriculture as a means of increasing food security and educating participants about food systems.
Endowments point of contact: Andrew McElwaine, VP of Sustainability
Create communities where military veterans and their families are welcomed, valued and understood.
- Create easy-to-navigate pipelines to family-sustaining jobs, services, and opportunities for veterans and service members in the region.
- Equip post-9/11 veterans and service members with the skills and networks necessary to become regional leaders.
- Promote changes in workforce initiatives, social services, program funding and community conversations about veterans by supporting and advancing the narrative that veterans are assets for the region.
- Work proactively and preventatively in the support of veterans, service members and family members, and promote best practices to impact predominantly reactive public policy.
Endowments point of contact: Megan Andros, Program Officer, Community & Economic Development
The Pittsburgh Filmmakers is one of the oldest and largest independent media arts centers in the country, and offers curriculum, equipment and expertise to filmmakers in the Pittsburgh region. Documentary filmmaker Kirsi Jansa recently completed Sustainability Pioneers, a 10-part short film series that focuses on people and communities taking bold steps to address the climate crisis and blaze trails toward a more livable planet. See the series here. You can get news of Sustainability Pioneers screenings and community conversations, as well as other energy and climate solutions news, on the Sustainability Pioneers Facebook page.Learn more
Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project hosts record event in Pittsburgh
More than 1,500 people from around the world came to Pittsburgh Oct. 17-19 to attend the 36th Climate Reality Leadership Corps event, an environmental training led by former Vice President Al Gore.
The Heinz Endowments sponsored the international event at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which was the largest Climate Reality Project convening since Mr. Gore founded the initiative in 2006. The program trains participants to become leaders in addressing climate issues in their communities.
Individuals from 42 countries joined people from across the United States, including 425 from western Pennsylvania, for the three-day gathering. The Climate Reality Project has trained nearly 14,000 Climate Reality Leaders from 140 countries since its inception.
Pittsburgh was thrust into the national spotlight regarding climate change in June when President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull the U.S. out the Paris Climate Accord, claiming he represented “Pittsburgh not Paris.”
“That was another ‘alternative fact,’ ” said Endowments Chairman André Heinz during the workshop’s opening day. He described how Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has committed the city to 100 percent renewable energy, issued a new comprehensive climate strategy, and, in a joint statement with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, pledged to uphold the Climate Accord.
As one of the first featured speakers, Mr. Heinz introduced Mr. Gore and spoke about the polarized national debate surrounding climate change and the environmental achievements and challenges facing the Pittsburgh region.
“We seem to inhabit a world where opinion, often misplaced and broadcast through the realms of social media, is mistaken for fact and where vast numbers of the population seem oblivious to what we must consider now to be one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time,” Mr. Heinz said. “The effects that we are seeing as the result of global warming have long been predicted by science, and the costs are materializing before our eyes. Just in recent months we have seen the tragic consequences with a series of devastating hurricanes, epic flooding, catastrophic fires and severe drought.”
Pittsburgh has made significant advancements in recent years, and Allegheny County has more clean energy jobs than any other county in Pennsylvania. The region also has one of the fastest-growing tech sectors in the country, attracting Google and other cutting-edge enterprises and serving as a home to driverless car entrepreneurship and benefits from major innovation partnerships with local universities, including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.
However, Pittsburgh’s air quality, though much-improved, is still poor with particulate pollution, placing it among the top 10 most polluted cities in the country, Mr. Heinz noted. Toxics emanating from industrial plants places Allegheny county in the highest 1 percent of counties in the nation for cancer risk from air pollution, and the region has severe issues with water quality and run-off, with the impact of fracking and the construction of the first of possibly five cracker plants posing serious concerns.
Pittsburgh’s environmental challenges “are connected to a much bigger story of environmental deterioration that contributes to and is impacted by the consequences of climate change,” said Mr. Heinz.
“The best defense we have for our planet is to communicate with others through outreach, meetings, presentations, and persistent and repeated messaging, and to contact decision-makers to advocate for change. Your training this week will equip you with the knowledge and understanding of the urgent climate issues we face and provide guidance in helping you to make your voices and actions count.”
Capturing the Next Economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city
Pittsburgh’s innovation economy is strong and growing, but city leaders can do more with its existing assets to compete globally and capitalize on the region’s growing innovation clusters, according to a new report from the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking at the Brookings Institution.
The culmination of an 18-month study, “Capturing the Next Economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city” examines Pittsburgh’s unique opportunity to become a top global destination for technology-based economic activity and as a key part of Pittsburgh’s efforts to become a world-class innovation city.
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