2015 “Selfie Awards” Salute Philanthropic Narcissism (Recipients Boycott Ceremony…but Need Not Be Present to Win)

Nonprofit Quarterly
by Phil Anthrop

Reform philanthropy from the inside or the outside? That was not a literal question for Jasmine Bluth, leader of True Philanthropy—a small group of former foundation program officers who formed their own pressure group after years of servitude, silently and agonizingly critiquing every guideline, grant, and pronouncement from the foundation presidents nearby who paid their salaries. These renegades had flown the coop, and now, after years of silent suffering, their talons came out, Twitter style, with the discreet invitation, “True Philanthropy Seeks Nominations for Selfie Awards.”

“This field has been begging for a feedback loop,” self-employed consultant Bluth posted, “and while it’s true that if the rich give away some of their money they won’t get shot, that doesn’t mean we have to be craven.”

A current challenge for awards programs is to distinguish themselves from other awards, since there is a limit to any one award’s ability to inspire desired behavior. Unhappily, the sheer number of awards programs has diluted their ingratiating effect.

For this reason, the Selfie Awards adopted a piggyback strategy—same time (April 27, 2015), same place (San Francisco)—as the annual conference of the Council of Large Foundations.

The first True Philanthropy Annual Selfie Awards (recognizing exemplary performances during the previous year) were announced in twelve categories:

  1. Outstanding Performance in Self-Congratulation by a Philanthropic Program;
  2. Definitive Self-Promotion by an American Philanthropist (Male);
  3. Definitive Self-Promotion by an American Philanthropist (Female);
  4. Most Insufferable and Self-Serving but Ultimately Destructive Funding Initiative;
  5. Most Dramatic Reversal and Abandonment of Previous Positions (with Scant Explanation) by a Private Foundation;
  6. Most Elegant Office Redesign Using Funds Designated as Paid Out for Charitable Purposes;
  7. Most Supremely Pointless (but Well-Catered) Destination Location Conference/Confab/Ideas Festival;
  8. Most Begrudging and Demeaning Treatment of a Grantee;
  9. Most Degrading and Abusive Rejection of an Unsuccessful Applicant;
  10. Most Self-Serving but Least Productive Celebrity Charity Activity;
  11. Least Productive Result yet Most Effective Publicity-Garnering Corporate Initiative; and, finally,
  12. Absolute Smallest Portion of Available Undesignated Funds from a Community Foundation.

Recognizing the essential role of lackeys accepting gifts from philanthropists—without them none of this would be possible—a special acknowledgment was promised for the Most Unctuously Groveling Nonprofit Shill in a Subordinate Role to Foundation Aggrandizement.

Not unexpectedly, Yusuf Arak, president of the Association of Large Foundations, criticized the announcement as “a juvenile and inappropriate intrusion on a serious professional meeting bringing together some of the most generous institutions that tackle society’s toughest problems with innovation and élan.”

The Association of Large Foundations, which for several years had presented awards for the Best Annual Report and the Best Leadership on Public Policy, decided to fight this upstaging battle, statuette to statuette.

“We’ve seen this kind of attack before,” observed Arak. “This is not so different from California, in 2007, with legislation from that Greenlining Institute, whose so-called ‘Foundation Diversity and Transparency Act’ attempted to coerce foundations into divulging a PC definition of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity on an annual basis.”

“We fought that off in 2008 with $38 million in targeted consortium grants,” added Brent Williams, president of the Bear Flag Foundation, “and guess what happened? That legislation crawled away by itself into a back room with our lobbyists and the brute force of reason.”

“The simple fact is, we can pay for a bigger spotlight than they can,” Arak confided in an interview with theEleemosynary Chronicle.

Surely, when wealthy donors compete, the public can only come out ahead. That’s how the Titanium Philanthropy Award came into being, with an eye-popping $100 million prize, Oprah Winfrey as its extra-special host, and the Boys Choir of Harlem as its premier $100 million recipient. Simultaneously, ten million YouTube views of the three-minute-long Selfie Award ceremony gave True Philanthropy a similarly permanent place in the philanthropic pantheon.

“Actually, it’s not the size but the number of spotlights,” Bluth cheerfully tweeted to her 450,000 followers.

Phil Anthrop is a consultant to foundations in G7 countries.

2015 Consumer Education Awards

SmartGrid Consumer Collaborative

In effort to recognize companies and organizations who serve as role models within SGCC and the industry in the development and implementation of a consumer education programs, SGCC honored the top Utility, top Technology Vendor and top Non-Profit Organization at our 2015 Consumer Symposium: Consumer Value in Action on February 2, 2015.

All SGCC members were considered for the awards. In consideration of potential new members, non-SGCC members were also eligible for these awards. The criterion by which candidate companies were selected is based on five behaviors and how they make Smart Grid CLEAR to consumers:

  • Consumers first: Demonstrated true consumer centric approach in the development and implementation of consumer education and awareness programs
  • Leadership: Exhibited initiative in the area of consumer education and is recognized as a consumer advocate and thought leader in the industry
  • Excellence: Demonstrated innovation and imagination in the creation of consumer facing initiatives and programs
  • Authenticity: Has demonstrated a high level of integrity in engaging with consumers and other key stakeholders in the industry
  • Results: Has been able to demonstrate, in a quantifiable way, a direct impact on consumer awareness and behavior

2015 Award Winners:
SGCC is proud to announce our 2015 Winners:

Peak Energy Savings Credit & Energy Wise Rewards, Pepco Holdings Inc
Pepco Holdings Inc. (PHI) is one of the largest energy delivery companies in the Mid-Atlantic region and has developed more than a dozen energy management programs to help customers save energy. PHI’s Energy Wise Rewards program allows Maryland customers to take more control of their energy use, save money, and take a step toward a more sustainable lifestyle. By combining customer education for its AMI-enabled dynamic pricing program, Peak Energy Savings Credit, and the Energy Wise Rewards program, the company positioned its offerings as “Two Ways to Save”. These programs allow customers to select one way or both ways to reduce energy use. Materials educate customers on the many ways to save energy, increasing awareness of both programs. By offering various programs that help customers save energy and reduce costs, PHI has been able to personalize its energy management programs to meet the specific needs of a diverse customer base.

Points and Rewards, Opower
Opower’s Points and Rewards product capitalizes on 400 years worth of consumer behavior data and global best practices to allow customers to earn points for saving energy and participating in utility programs. Points and Rewards is truly a customer-centric approach and has successfully driven a number of outcomes including customer satisfaction, digital engagement, and program participation. From motivating customers to sign up for electronic billing to driving participation in energy efficiency programs, Points and Rewards helps utilities accomplish key smart grid objectives.

Consumer Education & Awareness Campaigns, The Greenlining Institute
Greenlining envisions a nation where race is never a barrier to economic opportunity and communities of color thrive. They work with policymakers, utilities, and community leaders to ensure that energy education and awareness reach all communities, including those who speak languages other than English, are culturally isolated, or otherwise hard to reach. They conduct trainings and educate communities on clean energy and affordability issues and recently launched UpLift California, a way to show the benefits of clean energy happening in communities right now.

28,500 Californians Tell Senators to Stop Coddling Wall Street and Confirm CFPB Director


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – That was the message of petitions delivered to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office today by a delegation of Bay Area community leaders.  The petitions, which call on the Senate to confirm Richard Cordray to a full term as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, bore the signatures of more than 165,000 people, including over 28,500 Californians.

Liana Molina, Payday Campaign Organizer with the California Reinvestment Coalition, explained, “Senators have a simple choice: they can either bring his nomination to a vote, or they can continue coddling Wall Street.    With over 200,000 Californians in foreclosure in 2012, we’ve seen what happens when Congress chooses Wall Street.”

After favorable action by the Banking Committee, Cordray’s renomination goes before the full Senate. Director Cordray has earned wide and bipartisan praise for his leadership of the CFPB up to now. Unfortunately for Californians, a group of 43 Senators are threatening to block Cordray’s nomination indefinitely, unless the CFPB is first dramatically weakened.

Vivian Richardson from the community organization ACCE explained: “Every week we learn about another bank scandal.  Every day, more families lose their homes to foreclosure wrongfully. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau needs to be empowered to lead the charge in stopping Wall Street from profiting at the expense of Main Street. Congress needs to get their act together, confirm Cordray, and get down to the business of protecting consumers.”

Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate with the California Public Research Interest Group explained, “Senator Feinstein must use her position in the Senate to lead the fight for consumers. Californians need her to stand up and take the lead on this issue, and ensure that the CFPB can do its job protecting consumers.”

“For over four years, Republicans have made a historically unprecedented mockery of the filibuster. The Senate is supposed to provide “advice and consent” on presidential nominations, not use minority tricks to undo laws passed by Congress, signed by the President, and supported by large majorities of the public,” explained Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of CourageCampaign.org, a leading California-based progressive organization. “Americans stand firmly behind the CFPB, and Richard Cordray is by all accounts an ideal candidate to lead it. Senator Feinstein can help restore democracy to the Senate. We’re confident she will.”

“Under Richard Cordray, the CFPB has been a strong voice for consumers,” said Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar. “California consumers, and especially the communities of color that got hammered during the financial crisis, need a strong champion, because we’ve seen the devastation that predatory lending causes. Richard Cordray has been that champion.”

The California Reinvestment Coalition, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the California Public Research Interest Group (CALPIRG), the Greenlining Institute, Jobs with Justice, the San Francisco Labor Council, and CourageCampaign.org took part in today’s delivery. They also met with Senator Feinstein’s office to discuss the importance of Cordray’s confirmation.

The CFPB was created after the financial crisis of 2008 to end predatory lending and bring basic standards of fairness and transparency to the world of credit cards, mortgages, education loans, auto loans, debt collection, credit scoring and other financial products and practices.

The CFPB has already:

  • Returned nearly half a billion dollars to consumers cheated by credit card companies;
  • Moved to end the era of mortgages designed to rake in up-front fees before they self-destruct;
  • Targeted harmful lending practices that disproportionately harm people of color, such as predatory auto lending;
  • Stood up for students and families trapped in high-cost private education loans; and deceptive lending practices; and
  • Protected military families against illegal foreclosures and deceptive lending practices.

# # # # #

Brett Abrams : 516-841-1105 : brett@fitzgibbonmedia.com

4 Challenges That Could Hinder PPACA Success

Becker’s Healthcare
by Ayla Ellison

More than 9 million people have gained insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, due to a number of challenges, the number of insured may begin to decrease, as some people cancel or forgo renewing coverage due to frustration and lack of use of their new health plans.

Here are four challenges that could negatively affect PPACA success.

1. Health literacy. Just weeks before open enrollment for state and federal exchanges began last year, 42 percent of Americans were unable to explain a deductible and 62 percent did not know a HMO plan had greater restrictions than a PPO, according to a study by researchers at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics in Los Angeles. Researchers also found low-income and uninsured Americans — those most likely to benefit from the PPACA — had the least awareness of health reform.

Americans began signing up for health insurance under the PPACA nine months ago, and it is becoming apparent many of them are extremely confused by the insurance plans they signed up for. Christine Barber, a senior policy analyst with Boston-based Community Catalyst, told the Washington Post that hospitals across the country are being swamped with calls from newly insured individuals who are saying “Okay, I have my card. What do I do now?”

2. Language barriers. Many of the newly insured have limited English proficiency, which creates a steep learning curve when trying to understand their policies. A recent study from the Greenlining Institute found 90 percent of Covered California enrollees speak English as their primary language, despite over half of all Californians and 40 percent of those eligible for Covered California having limited English proficiency. Although specific to California, the study’s findings indicate many people may be foregoing enrolling in insurance under the PPACA because of a language barrier.

3. Technical glitches. Some of the newly insured who purchased their insurance through the federal and state-run marketplaces still have not received their insurance cards due to technical problems. In addition to problems last fall with the federal HealthCare.gov website, many of the 14 states that created their own health insurance exchanges have dealt with malfunctioning systems. For instance, the federal government spent a total of $474 million on the development of exchanges that failed because of technical problems in Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon and Nevada.

4. Data discrepancies. In June, the government began asking millions of people who enrolled in subsidized insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov to provide additional documents to verify information to resolve data discrepancies in their insurance applications. A data discrepancy in an application means the information the individual supplied on their application does not match the information the government has on record. Most of the inconsistencies were related to income, citizenship and immigration status.

In July, HHS’ Office of the Inspector General announced 2.6 million of the 2.9 million inconsistencies — 89.6 percent — were still unresolved. The legal status to obtain insurance coverage and the amount paid for coverage of those with discrepancies still remaining in their applications could be affected.

4 Policy Recommendations To Address Barriers Women Physicians of Color Face in U.S. Healthcare

Fierce Healthcare
by Matt Kuhrt

Women of color will be the majority of their gender by 2050, according to the Greenlining Institute. Unless policymakers take action now, however, they will continue to be severely underrepresented among active physicians in the United States.

For their study, Greenlining, a nonprofit that advocates for economic opportunity and empowerment of people of color, teamed up with Artemis Medical Society, which works to generate a supportive environment for women of color within the medical community. Their report (PDF) details findings based upon a series of interviews with women of color currently practicing as physicians, looking to explain their underrepresentation in the field.

The most recent available statistics show women of color representing only 11.7% of active M.D. physicians in the United States. Interviewees in the report described barriers ranging from active discouragement of their career aspirations to casual discrimination among medical school lecturers and residency faculty.

More than half indicated they had never met a physician who matched their racial identity.

“The lack of diversity and equity in medicine, coupled with persistent racism and sexism, denies women physicians of color and their patients fair and equitable treatment,” the report concludes. It suggests policymakers target four general areas in their efforts to level the playing field:

Improve educational support for women of color. The report recommends greater support for STEM education at all levels, along with scholarships, grants and training opportunities that community healthcare organizations, along with colleges and universities, can use to develop a more diverse “pipeline” of aspiring physicians.

Address structural discrimination throughout the healthcare sector. Casual and implicit bias exist in areas such as pay inequity, a lack of support for pregnant workers, and a general lack of diversity among healthcare leaders, per the report.

Increase diversity among medical school students and faculty., Just as cultural competence yields a better patient experience, increased diversity among medical school faculty and medical students would yield a more supportive environment for students and boost representation throughout the field. The report recommends increased recruitment activity from underserved communities as a way to address both issues of diversity and care gaps in socioeconomically challenged areas.

Improve support structures for practicing physicians. Interviewees reported an urgent need for a more diverse mentorship network to guide young physicians’ personal and professional development. The report suggests investing in robust mentorship programs will yield results by developing a more diverse set of physician leaders and increasing pressure within institutions to deal with the unique challenges faced by women of color.

5 Organizations Empowering Marginalized Communities In California


California is home to a very diverse population, with a significant number of residents who are underrepresented by our present forms of social organization. This list, presented in no particular order, highlights some institutions working to improve the lives of marginalized populations in the Golden State.

Read the full article here.

50 Stealable Grassroots Marketing Campaigns


If you’re in advocacy, grassroots, membership or marketing, you’re undoubtedly constantly on the lookout for effective grassroots marketing campaign ideas that actually work – be it for your donation cycle, membership engagement or to create awareness.

To make it easier, we compiled a list of 50 great examples that did just that, including success metrics, and placed them all in one post for your convenience.

Greenlining Institute: 200% Increase in Twitter Followers

The Greenlining Institute is a policy, research, organizing, and leadership institute working for racial and economic justice. The organization works to bring the American Dream within reach of all, regardless of race or income.

Campaign Goal: Develop a clear vision for using social media, with intention to listen to what people were saying about the institute’s issues and build relationships as a result.

Channel(s): Twitter

Results: The organization’s original foray into social media in 2007 was disappointing because it hopped on the bandwagon without a clear vision in mind. In 2011, after hiring interns and eventually full-time staff members to focus on building and implementing a social media strategy, the institute developed goals and objectives for utilizing different tools. As a result the organization tripled its Twitter followers from a humble 500 to 1,500 in 10 months. In 2013 the institute published The Art of Listening: Social Media Toolkit for Nonprofits to help other organizations avoid their initial missteps in using social networks.

60K Enrolled Through Covered California So Far, Officials Say

California Healthline

On Wednesday, Covered California officials announced that nearly 60,000 state residents signed up for coverage through the exchange during the first six weeks of open enrollment, Kaiser Health News‘ “Capsules” reports (Gorman, “Capsules,” Kaiser Health News, 11/14).

Details of Enrollment

Exchange officials said that 30,830 state residents signed up for health coverage through the exchange during the first month of open enrollment. Another 29,000 signed up in early November (Goodnough, New York Times, 11/13).

In addition, the rate of enrollment appears to be increasing, as the number of people signing up for exchange plans increased from an average of 1,000 daily in October to an average of 2,400 daily in the first 12 days of November (Aliferis, “State of Health,” KQED, 11/13).

The state is on track to enroll about 289,000 by April 30, 2014, according to Payers & Providers.

Exchange officials also said that:

  • 203,904 exchange applications were started, representing 370,000 individuals;
  • 97,494 applications were completed, representing 177,331 individuals (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 11/14);
  • About 4,850 residents qualified for federal exchange subsidies (New York Times, 11/13); and
  • 25,987 residents did not qualify for such subsidies (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 11/13).


The exchange has not yet released demographic information on exchange enrollees, but officials indicated that those who have signed up for coverage tend to be older and have health issues.

“These are people who have been waiting for a long time to get coverage,” Lee said (“Capsules,” Kaiser Health News, 11/14).

However, he predicted that the exchange will “see that shifting in dramatic ways as we go through November and December,” adding that when younger, healthier individuals “understand how easy it is, when they understand the cost, they’re also going to be signing up.”

Detailed demographic data is expected to be presented during a meeting of the Covered California board next week (New York Times, 11/13).

Survey Results

Covered California officials also released the results of a survey of website users.

The survey found that:

  • 70% of respondents found the enrollment process “easy to complete;” and
  • 88% said they “were able to choose a health plan that is right for them” (“State of Health,” KQED, 11/13).

Comments From Exchange Officials

Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange, said the enrollment figures are “better than encouraging” (Viebeck, “Healthwatch,” The Hill, 11/13).

Lee added that the enrollment rates “show momentum and very high consumer interest,” adding, “As anticipated, consumers spent October comparing plans and educating themselves about their health care options.”

Advocates’ Reaction

Carmella Gutierrez, executive director of Californians for Patient Care, said, “While these initial numbers fall short of enrollment goals, they are not surprising.” She agreed with Lee that consumers likely are “looking under the hood and kicking the tires before they make such an important decision” (Payers & Providers, 11/14).

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said that officials expected “that the younger folks will be signing up later, just because they may feel the urgency a little bit less.”

In addition, he said the increased rate of daily enrollment suggests “a trend line that’s going up.” However, he said that the exchange needs to “redouble” its marketing efforts and train additional enrollment counselors (“State of Health,” KQED, 11/13).

Moving Forward

The current enrollment figures are far from the state’s goal of enrolling at least 500,000 residents who qualify for federal subsidies by the end of March 2014, according to the Times (New York Times, 11/13).

Carla Saporta, health policy director at the Greenlining Institute, said a statewide campaign to increase enrollment will be launched on Friday (Payers & Providers, 11/14).

8 Years Watching and Influencing Urban Transformation: Reflections From a Foundation Program Officer

The City Fix
By Margarita M. Parra

Can innovative work be achieved by a program officer in a philanthropic organization? I remember asking this question when I started at the Hewlett Foundation in 2010. In my time there, I learned that program staff at philanthropies get to focus on some of the world’s biggest problems and have the advantage of using their institution’s many resources to craft the best strategies to address them and lever innovation.

Eight years ago, no one could have imagined the revolutionary technological advances and innovation we have today. Yet these years will likely pale in comparison to the next eight as technology continues to develop.

City landscapes have and will continue to adapt to waves of innovation, such as those created by autonomous vehicles, likely leading to a complete rewiring of streets and modes of transportation. I have seen the need to “ride the wave” of new developments, look around the corner, and make the case for new policy and new approaches to advocacy that enhance the new paradigm we are entering.

The New Mobility Revolution
As part of the climate program at Hewlett, we worked to reduce emissions from the transportation of people and goods. Through years of research, analysis, and collaboration with NGOs, government, industry, and academia, we developed a two-part strategy:

Decarbonize fuels used by cars, ships, trains, and planes
Optimize the efficiency of the overall transport system – that is, move more people and more goods with fewer vehicles, producing significantly fewer carbon emissions
While this approach itself didn’t change much in the last eight years, what has changed is the urban landscape itself.

Many cities around the world have gone from a small set of transportation choices to a variety of options, aided by information technology improvements and the extensive use of smart phones. It’s hard to imagine cities without ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft, Didi, and Ola, but these are all companies that emerged in the last eight years.

Bike-sharing has also become a way of life in many cities – first with physical docks, and now with the invention of dockless and electric bikes. Companies like Ofo, Jump, and Mobike have existed for only a couple of years, yet they have revolutionized urban transportation, particularly in crowded metropolises like New York, Mexico City, Washington, Beijing, San Francisco, and many others.

The emergence of ride-hailing, bike-sharing and other innovations in mobility were made possible by entrepreneurs seizing an opportunity and forward-looking policy and leadership from local governments. One of Hewlett’s grantees, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, supported officials in Mexico City to implement Ecobici. Launched in 2013, it is the largest bike-sharing system in Latin America, with over 6,000 bikes replacing many car trips through dense neighborhoods of the city.

The same year, WRI Ross Center in India ran Rickshaw Challenge, the first accelerator for new mobility business for three-wheelers, which opened the door for many other improved first and last-mile connection services across the country.

Electric Vehicles Rising
In the last eight years, we’ve also seen the dramatic rise of electric vehicles (EVs) in many countries, such as the United States, Norway, Germany, Japan, and China, and ambitious commitments by developing nations like India and Costa Rica. There are now 3 million EVs in the world, and cities like Los Angeles, London, Shenzhen, and Bangalore have committed to all-electric public bus fleets.

As a program officer, I was given the opportunity to pivot our strategy to go beyond fixing our current internal combustion engines, to pushing for the industrial transformation of zero-emissions technologies. The rapid initial adoption and expansion of electric vehicles was made possible because of strong vision from leaders at national, state, and local governments, and because of sound policy – policies such as stringent vehicle emissions standards, vehicle mandates, consumer purchase incentives, and industrial incentives. I worked with many partners in the field to support these policies, bring knowledge to every corner, overcome barriers to consumers, foster new industry allies, and bring an equity perspective locally and globally.

The Hewlett Foundation and other philanthropic partners contributed to the electric vehicle revolution by supporting policy development and policy advocacy. First, we supported California’s pioneering efforts through the Zero Emission Vehicle Program and advocacy campaigns, such as Charge Ahead California. Composed of a strong coalition of organizations, such as Environment California, the Greenlining Institute, Natural Resource Defense Council, Coalition for Clean Air, and Communities for a Better Environment, the campaign aims to facilitate 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025 and ensure policies have an equity component, like incentivizing access and services for low-income communities.

Perhaps the most remarkable example of change that Hewlett was involved in is the New Energy Vehicle Mandate in China, one of the most ambitious countrywide policies for promoting electric vehicles in the world. If the mandate is fully implemented by 2020, China will have 4.5 million EVs. This policy benefited from collaboration across the Pacific, and organizations like the Energy Foundation China played an important part by commissioning studies and providing technical assistance.

Is It Enough?
Despite the progress on electric-friendly initiatives, we still have a long way to go. Clean vehicles are still just 2 percent of vehicles sales, and we need to get to at least at 30 percent by 2030, and close to 80 percent adoption by 2050, to ensure transport plays its role in the decarbonization of the global economy. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to carbon pollution and climate change; its share of emissions now constitutes 23 percent of the global share. Moreover, only a handful of countries in the Paris climate agreement – 9 percent – proposed a transport sector emission reduction target.

Likewise, new mobility services and cities need to find more ways to encourage shared rides and reduce the overall number of vehicles on urban streets. Some cities have reported that rather than reducing congestion, ride-hailing services are making things worse, for example.

I am confident that philanthropy will continue to provide space for experimentation to achieve these goals, whether through new technologies and business models, or the policies that enable the development of those innovations and steer them toward public benefits. I am excited to contribute to the next great wave of transportation innovation that ushers in both progress and opportunity for people and the planet worldwide.

A previous version of this blog appeared on Hewlett Foundation’s blog.

Margarita M. Parra was a Program Officer in the Environment Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation from 2010 to 2018. The Hewlett Foundation has and continues to support WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

9 Major Opportunities for Electric Buses & Trucks

Meeting of the Minds
By Joel Espino

When most people think of electric vehicles, we think of cars, like Teslas, Chevy Bolts and Nissan Leafs. But trucks and buses are going electric, too, and the impact on both our air and our economy could be huge.

In 2016, we at The Greenlining Institute joined forces with The Union of Concerned Scientists to analyze the growing electric truck and bus industry, producing the report “Delivering Opportunity: How Electric Buses and Trucks Can Create Jobs and Improve Public Health in California.” While we focused on California, where electric buses and trucks are taking off rapidly, what we found has major implications for the whole country. Especially at a time when many transit agencies across the country are committing to 100 percent electric, many states are increasing their efforts to get more electric cars, trucks, and buses on the road, and The Green New Deal is generating buzz and conversation on climate change.

Here are nine things we found.

1. Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming in California and nationwide.

Including carbon pollution from refining petroleum products, transportation accounts for more than 50 percent of global warming emissions in California, and the transportation sector recently overtook power plants as the largest contributor to climate change nationwide.

2. Trucks and buses form a major part of our air pollution problem.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the single largest source of smog-forming pollution in California. They also emit more particulate matter than all of the state’s power plants. And they make up seven percent of the state’s global warming emissions—an amount projected to increase as freight shipments grow.

3. Air pollution from transportation discriminates, hitting poor communities of color the hardest.

Poor communities suffer disproportionately from exposure to traffic-related pollution because they are more likely than wealthier neighborhoods to be near busy roads and highways. Breathing lung-damaging exhaust from vehicles on a daily basis leads to higher rates of pollution-related diseases such as cancer and heart attacks. Race matters, too: even for people in the same socioeconomic class, people of color are more likely than whites to be exposed to pollution from cars, trucks and buses.

In fact, a recent Union of Concerned Scientists analysis that quantified pollution from on-road sources reinforces this finding.

4. Electric trucks and buses are cleaner than diesel and natural gas vehicles.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, meaning you won’t have to gulp pollution while waiting for the bus or walking down the street. In terms of global warming emissions, smog forming emissions, and particulate matter; electric vehicles powered by clean electricity have the lowest emissions compared to any other vehicle technology, including natural gas. The clean air benefit continues even when you look at “life cycle” emissions from electricity generation and hydrogen production.

And these clean vehicles will only get cleaner: California will get at least half of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030, has virtually no coal power in the state, and will end contracts for coal power imported from other states by 2025. California also requires that at least 33 percent of hydrogen must be produced using renewable energy, a standard the state already exceeds. Bottom line: We’re blazing a path toward clean power that other states can follow.

5. Electric trucks and buses are far more energy efficient.

Depending on the type of vehicle, electric trucks and buses are up to four times more efficient than diesel and natural gas vehicles. This means that for the same amount of energy used to power a vehicle, the electric vehicle will travel up to four times as far. This can lead to significant savings in fuel costs.

6. Electric truck and bus technology is here and ready to clean the air today.

This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky future dream. Battery-powered electric trucks and buses have ranges over 100 miles. One company recently announced a transit bus with a 350-mile range. Fuel cell trucks and buses have long had ranges over 200 miles. While these vehicles may cost more to purchase, reduced fuel and maintenance costs mean the total cost of ownership of electric trucks and buses is becoming competitive with traditional technologies. Electric trucks and buses can accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel and natural gas vehicles. They’re quieter, too.

7. The heavy-duty EV industry is creating good jobs.

Some of the leading electric bus and truck manufacturers in California pay assemblers $13-$20 per hour for entry level jobs, which is considerably above typical pay for assembly jobs in California. These jobs can also lead workers into higher-skilled, well-paid occupations. When we asked representatives of heavy-duty EV companies what jobs were likely to grow the most if demand for heavy-duty EVs increases, they unanimously identified assembler positions. Increased investment in this technology should spur growth of good, well-paying jobs—especially if unions and community benefits agreements like the one BYD struck are in the mix.

8. This industry can be a great source of jobs for underserved communities—if workers get the training and skills they need.

Leading electric bus and truck companies in California typically require one to three years of related experience for assemblers, a higher standard than assembly jobs in general manufacturing. Jobs in EV manufacturing, charging and maintenance require significant electrical skills. These requirements can be barriers to employment for people from low-income communities. But good, readily accessible training programs can overcome this barrier and make sure those most in need of good jobs will get a fair shot.

9. It will take conscious effort to bring workers from marginalized communities into the electric truck and bus workforce.

We don’t currently have enough training programs accessible to those who need them. Manufacturers can help fix this by partnering with workforce training organizations and community colleges to establish pathways for training and certifying workers from these communities and placing them in quality jobs. This emerging industry needs effective, equitable workplace policies, programs, and practices to ensure opportunity for all.

You may not hear much about electric trucks and buses, but they’re here and growing. We have to put the policies and actions in place now so that we can leverage the clean air and economic benefits of this technology to fight environmental injustice and give an economic boost to people most in need.

The proposed Green New Deal has already begun to stimulate new discussions of the role of transportation in fighting climate change and strengthening communities. Electrification of trucks and buses should be part of plans going forward to fight climate change, clean our air and – with help from the right policies — bring new opportunities to underserved communities.