Advice for Bill Gates, Warren Buffet on Giving Money

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© Hazel Henderson, 2010

(word count 1105)

Hazel Henderson

I join with many in applauding the leadership of Microsoft’s Bill and Melinda Gates and US leader Warren Buffet in challenging their fellow philanthropists to pledge 50% or more of their fortunes to charity in their lifetimes. In their secret “first supper” in May 2009, they invited David Rockefeller to co-host a group of billionaire peers, George Soros, Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, Peter Peterson, Julian Robertson, Charles Feeney, California couples Eli and Edythe Broad, John and Tashia Morgridge and David Rockefeller, Jr.

Melissa Gates wisely insisted that wives be included. She understands that women worldwide are now poised to take their place in partnership with men. Maria Eitel, president of Nike’s foundation, argues that education, particularly of women and girls, must be linked with economic opportunities so that they can become independent, resisting pressure to marry young. Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew points out that China is outpacing India because China educates its women, with female literacy rates of 90% compared with India’s 54%.

So the Gates and Buffet are already on the right track with the focus of their grants in Africa and other developing countries and on education. They can help steer their billionaire friends to go beyond funding “vanity” buildings at elite western universities. This type of self-serving philanthropy is embarrassingly passé. Also passé is coziness with existing elites who made their fortunes from the legacy companies and technologies of the fossilized sectors: coal, oil, petrochemicals, steel, gas-guzzling autos, massive-scaled industrial agriculture, big pharmaceuticals, all still subsidized as is nuclear power. Bill Gates can drop the self-serving American Energy Innovation Council lobbying the US Congress for $16 billion of additional subsidies for unnecessary research on “clean coal,” carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and more nuclear power.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobelist physicist, must know that such “investments” are misguided and waste more taxpayers’ money. Coal can now be phased out with abundant US natural gas and combinations of wind and solar installations. Nuclear energy, heavily subsidized since its inception, is still the most inefficient, expensive and hazardous way that humans have ever devised to boil water (what all power stations do to drive their turbines). Special interest pleaders, like the American Energy Innovations Council that recruited Bill Gates, are part of the incumbent industries lobbying to prevent the great transition from the fossil-fueled Industrial Era to the information-rich, cleaner, greener Solar Age. The Council and the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group of similarly rearview, re-tread politicians like Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and Howard Baker help lobby for the $16 billion additional subsidy.

Bill Gates can do better joining forces with progressive groups accelerating the transition to the worldwide Solar Age human development models based on utilizing the power and productivity of natural systems and billions of years of Natures’ innovation. The Green Economy Initiative of ILO, UNEP and UNDP are in synch with Gates Foundation programs, as is The Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the ZERI Institute founded by entrepreneur scientist Gunter Pauli in Tokyo, author of The Blue Economy, as well as Janine Benyus’ Biomimicry Institute. The Vision 2050 of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) moves toward the pioneering models of Nicholas Parker’s Cleantech, Jeffrey Leonard’s Global Environment Fund and Matthew Kiernan’s Inflection Point Capital Management.

How to corral the necessary investments to ramp up this great transition to the Solar Age?

Bill and Melinda Gates can steer their billionaire friends toward innovative technologies, ready and waiting for investments to scale up the transition. They can connect with the Network for Sustainable Finance and other leaders in finance already paving the way: the UN Principles of Responsible Investing ($20 trillion in assets); UNEP-FI; CERES ($3 trillion) and the International Investment Group on Climate Change ($8 trillion). We invite Bill and Melinda Gates to study the computer model Climate Solutions 2 by Climate Risk Pty in Sydney, Australia, the Climate Bonds Initiative, the Climate Prosperity Alliance, Richard Branson’s Climate War Room and many other private investors. Since January 2007, $1.248 trillion was already invested and firmly committed to companies in energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, solar, wind, marine, geothermal and non-food use of biomass, as well as other disruptive technologies that are displacing the old polluting legacy firms and financiers still trying to preserve the past and their doomed portfolios.

This exciting progress toward the equitable, ecologically sustainable future for humanity is often overlooked by mainstream media still funded by advertising from the world’s fossilized sectors. Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) is dedicated to reforming markets and growing the green economy globally. Thus, we publish daily reports on new technologies, investments, entrepreneurs and companies leading the way at and on our Green Transition Scoreboard™ ( We use the Climate Solutions 2 computer model (downloadable) to show how the green transition can be assured by investing $1 trillion worldwide – specifically in developing countries – every year from now until 2020.

This $10 trillion is less than the $23 trillion US taxpayers are liable for the bailouts of failing Wall Street firms and auto companies. This $10 trillion represents only 10% of the world’s institutional investors, pension and charitable foundations of $120 trillion. Ethical Markets Media updates its Green Transition Scoreboard™ to track private investments to encourage such pension fund and foundation portfolio managers to shift at least 10% of their assets toward growing green economies. This will assure a healthier future for their beneficiaries and descendents. Yet, these portfolio managers still use obsolete economic textbook models now discredited, based on “efficient markets” and “rational actors,” so they take real risks investing in hedge funds, private equity “dark pools,” flash-trading, commodities and other speculation. These obsolete portfolio strategies led to the huge losses in the endowment of Harvard University.

So, Bill, Melinda and Warren, how about leading your billionaire friends into information-rich investments in green productivity and help them write-off their old portfolios? They can re-train their managers and consultants in new asset-valuation “triple bottom line” ESG (environment, social, governance) models that accurately track eco-productivity and nature’s assets. Bill and Melinda Gates’ vision already includes this great transition to real human development. They and Buffet can help lead toward this new world game and all its new scorecards beyond GDP (


Hazel Henderson, author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy and other booksUSA and Brazil) and co-created with the Calvert Group the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators (regularly updated at www.calvert-henderson.comm).