“There won’t be much of an economy or stock market left without a planet!”
When Zerodha decided to commit $100 million funds towards initiatives to combat climate change, it wasn’t just a random (or namesake) CSR act ― it was their love, responsibility and pain for this planet that made them support grassroots individuals and organisations working on problems related to climate change.
“Climate Change is no longer a problem for just researchers and governments to deal with and solve. We’re seeing an impact from it in a variety of ways. There is a strong belief in the team that this is our responsibility, too and much beyond mandatory CSR levels. It’s not just a “domain” to address or profit from,” says Sameer Shisodia, CEO, Rainmatter Foundation.
The Rainmatter Foundation is making both grant funding as well as investments in entrepreneurship that can create scaled solutions for addressing various aspects and impact of the climate change and ecological crisis we face. They are largely going after the ideas and organisations that have already done good work or shown some promise and helping them be more effective in terms of lasting changes over a longer period, and is being replicated or scaled across the country, either directly or through shared learnings and playbooks.
Love for nature
Sameer, on the other hand, has also been running Linger Leisure, an eco-friendly and sustainable chain of properties offering vacation rentals and workations.
“I’ve been running Linger for over ten years now, and more recently, have helped create multiple permaculture-based farming collectives for communities that live more sustainably and regeneratively. In both cases, my exposure to a wider, larger India has been immense, and I have started to understand ― or at least have deeper questions about ― the problems and issues we face as a country significantly better. I have seen consumerism especially represented through packaged food, start to devastate even remote ecologies and economies; I have been witness to changes that are adding up to a very scary future across the country and at least have some thoughts around how these might be fundamentally addressed,” Sameer continues.
However, grants or funding are not the only things required to bring a large scale change; he believes: “impact, philanthropy, giving back, sustainability etc., are all popular notions these days. They sometimes deflect from more serious responsibility and deeper engagement. Big corporations, individuals and society and governments all need to double down on issues like climate change that impact everyone and everything. We need not just funding commitment, but a lot of collaboration, technology, research and especially a huge amount of messaging that helps make the issue and discussion mainstream.
Finally, the test will be when corporations face the hard decisions that need them to pick less ecologically harmful or even regenerative practices over cost savings or even growth. At every level, we have to realise that the larger good is critical for the survival of each of us and what we do.”
Inside the Rainmatter
On asking him about the operation and survival strategy of Rainmatter, Sameer says that they do not take any equity for grant funding; however, there are some small amount of equity involved in case of investments. “We’re structured as a section 8 company, and the idea of the investment is not profit, per se, but the growth of good ideas. The profits and payouts from these investments will, of course, be ploughed back into the fund and help with further grants and investments. In all grants and investments, we look for the possibility of the idea growing at a country scale or beyond. Indeed we think good ideas should be replicated rapidly by many, and further iterations and local adaptations will create solutions that make sense everywhere,” he further adds.
Rainmatter has supported many great organisations that are working to protect and extend forests, wildlife to further and popularise agro-ecological techniques that benefit the environment, strengthen localised economies, help with waste management, and solutions that drive energy efficiency, amongst others. They further plan to foster wide-ranging collaborations across problem solvers, create playbooks that help many more start solving problems in their neighbourhood. They are also starting to support journalism and storytelling focused on ecological issues and how they relate to us every day.
Is the government supporting/ backing up such startups or initiatives? Sameer believes that every solution must either become part of the market in a sustainable way or become institutionalised, depending on whether “I” need to pay for it or “We” should, as in the case of cleaner commons for all.
“There is a lot of institutional support available that can be used, and once enough folks in geography or context want something, the government usually does follow up with policy, laws, provisions and funds for it. Part of what we are trying to do is discover and make available the policy, funding support that exists that can be used towards climate change solutions. We do believe the government is an important part of solving these problems, as is civil society, and we need a very large set of collaborations going between these,” he says.
Need of the hour
And do you remember how the initial phase of lockdown cleaned out the lakes/ ponds and even the Delhi clouds? #DoPalKiKhusiyaan… Well, that was just a temporary phenomenon and not sustainable either!
It also came at a huge economic and human cost. “While it did present an opportunity to create a more spread out localised economy and relook at how our economic engine works, I think the changes need to be a lot more structural, will happen over time and hopefully with a positive impact on people and livelihood rather than as a shock. Of course, without starting the journey in this direction, we can almost certainly expect many sudden disruptions, shocks and much pain ― COVID was only one such that we came face to face with,” adds the Bengaluru based serial entrepreneur.
NextBigWhat asked Sameer if the Rainmatter Foundation is further looking to invest or focus on other Sustainable Development Goals to which he replied, “The climate change problem is deeply linked to the structure and nature of our economy, to livelihoods. It finds parallels and both cause and effect in the problems we see today with equitable distribution. It has deep roots in how human society, and especially agriculture, has developed over the ages. The SDGs talk about these issues, but we would rather not look at those as separate, isolated silos ― we risk too many short terms, symptomatic fixes with that approach.
We believe that there are four broad pillars that help make a place more livable, and people can and will fundamentally care about places they live in and depend on. We are trying to foster multi-dimensional problem solving, even as we pitch for urgent attention to address the most broken one ― the ecology ― in whatever problem solving is being attempted.”
The untold compunction
“I have two kids stepping into the world, and I say sorry to them often for leaving them a world that’s broken in so many ways. We have been terrible custodians for a generation and a half, and I wish I personally, and we collectively, had woken up to this earlier and started to create better goals for us all than the limited, self-focused ones we pursue today, and also create a set of better tools the coming generations could build upon for truly making the planet a better place to inhabit,” Sameer ends with an emotional yet practical and worrisome thought!
Cheers to Rainmatter Foundation and several other similar initiatives that are trying to make this world a better place to live in ― for us ― for our future generations! You can check their website here!
Stay tuned with NextBigWhat for more such inspiring and informative stories! #TowardsABetterWorld