The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, has announced a new initiative designed to advance a water-equity agenda that reflects the needs and priorities of low-income communities and supports solutions that address climate-related impacts on urban water systems.
Developed by the foundation's environment program, investments team, and social investment practice, the Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) initiative calls for the deployment of the full range of Kresge's capital tools — including high-impact grants, program-related investments, and mission-related investments — to help transform urban water systems in ways that address and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. According to the foundation, the initiative was informed by a capital scan of the field that identified storms and flooding as the largest addressable climate-related water threat to low-income communities, and green infrastructure and planning and preparedness as the top solutions to such flooding. The scan also identified strategies that are investable today and others that could help the foundation better understand how grants might be used to foster the development of nascent markets or encourage innovative transaction structures, broadening the potential investment pipeline in the future.
Based on its scan, the foundation has developed an aspirational set of characteristics for well-run urban water systems. Such systems, it argues, should be nimble and responsive to climate change; able to manage water supply, storm water, and wastewater in an equitable way; engage low-income and other marginalized communities in long-term water planning; provide multiple benefits (economic, social, and health related) to users; create a path for a variety of investments — grants, social investments and market-rate investments — in physical water infrastructure; process and distribute water in an energy-efficient manner; and embed climate change considerations into capital-planning processes.
Over the coming months, Kresge's Social Investment Practice will be actively sourcing opportunities for program-related investments that align with the above priorities as well as potential co-investors within the philanthropic community and beyond, while its Environment Program will be issuing an RFP for placed-based work later this year.