Why does Kone Foundation support environmental activists?

Image: Marika Maijala

Climate change and biodiversity loss are advancing at an alarming rate and are already destroying life on Earth. Clearly, these global crises will not be resolved quickly enough without civic activism. The right of activists to demonstrate should be defended.

Kone Foundation has long funded academic research and the arts. In the Metsän Puolella (“In the Woods”) initiative, the Foundation has extended its support to forest-related activism.

One of the projects funded is a project by a working group of Extiction Rebellion Finland, aiming to diversify public debate on forests. Events related to the project will also be organised as part of Extinction Rebellion Finland’s Storm Warning campaign, which started today.

Foundations can support activism on important issues

“Peaceful and non-violent civic activism should be encouraged. It is an indispensable force for social change in the current situation, where the climate and environmental crisis is destroying life on Earth at an alarming rate,” says Hanna Nurminen, Chair of the Kone Foundation Board of Trustees.

“Environmental activists understand that climate change and biodiversity loss are issues of global fate that are not taken seriously enough by policy makers. They want to take concrete action for the future of the planet and are bravely using unconventional means,” Nurminen continues.

Internationally, foundations have a long tradition of supporting civil society and activism. In Finland, activists are also increasingly seeking funding from foundations, and activists may be well suited to receive support from foundations for their core activities, notes the Association of Finnish Foundations on their website.

“Foundations can act according to their values in areas where government or other public funding has not yet reached, and support civic activism on issues of particular importance. There are signs that the role of foundations in mitigating the climate and environmental crisis will only grow in the coming years,” says Ulla Tuomarla, CEO of Kone Foundation.

Protesting is not illegal, but a fundamental democratic right

Historically, civic activism has been instrumental in achieving significant social change, such as women’s suffrage or ending racial segregation.

“Freedom of demonstration and assembly, which Extinction Rebellion Finland also uses, are fundamental democratic rights. It is important that these rights can be exercised safely now and in the future. In many European countries, the rights of demonstrators have been restricted in recent years and we are concerned about this development,” says Ulla Tuomarla.

How will Extinction Rebellion Finland use Kone Foundation funding?

In August 2023, Kone Foundation granted funding to a working group of Extinction Rebellion Finland for a project aiming to diversify the debate on forests.

The working group has made a project plan and the funding will be used according to the project plan. The Storm Warning campaign, which started today, will highlight corporate subsidies that are harmful to the environment and climate in a variety of ways, and the topics will also include forests.

The campaign will include talks on forests, carbon sinks and climate justice. The funding from Kone Foundation can be used, for example, to pay for speakers’ fees for such events or to compensate activists for their work in communication, coordination or event production. In this way, the funding can also be used to develop the activities of Extinction Rebellion Finland.

“The project plan was found to be very sound during the evaluation phase and is now being implemented. As with all the other projects we fund, we have trust in our grantees, while obliging them to report on the use of the funding and the results of the project”, says Ulla Tuomarla.

The Association of Finnish Foundations points out on their website that in projects involving activism, clear and transparent criteria and guidelines for the allocation and use of funding help both the funder and the grantee to act responsibly.

Kone Foundation funding cannot be used for illegal activities or to pay fines, for example.

“If there were any reason to suspect illegal activity in any of the projects we fund, it would always be a matter for the police to investigate.”

More information:
The Association of Finnish Foundations: Questions and answers on jurisdiction: can a foundation support activism? (in Finnish)