Ecotrust announces change in leadership

Release Date: 12-19-2012

Carolyn Holland

Vice President, Engagement
503.467.0754

Organization adapts to new climate for mission-driven organizations

Portland, Ore. — Ecotrust today announced several changes to its governance and leadership team to adapt to what the organization sees as a changing landscape for mission-driven organizations.

Founder Spencer B. Beebe is assuming the role of board chairman, handing over the President’s reins to Dr. Astrid J. Scholz. Beebe has always nurtured a senior leadership team and  will work closely with Scholz and an expanded group of vice chairs: Kat Taylor, CEO and co-founder of One PacificCoast Bank; Robert E. Friedman, founder and chair of the Corporation for Enterprise Development;  and immediate past chair Gun Denhart, Portland civic leader and co-founder of clothiers Hanna Andersson, to expand the regional organization’s ability to address global problems.

“We’re at an inflection point in our history– the urgency for transformative solutions has never been greater,” Beebe said. “Climate change, financial inequity and failing democracies threaten vulnerable communities and the social fabric within the region and around the world. Now more than ever we need a new model of development that creates wellbeing for people and place.” Scholz added, “This is the next stage in the organization’s evolution and positions it for success and impact as we face the challenges of the 21st century.”

After leading The Nature Conservancy’s international program and co-founding Conservation International in 1987, Beebe conceived of Ecotrust as an organization for “radical, practical change” to create greater wellbeing for people and place in the coastal temperate rain forests of North America. Founded in 1991, Ecotrust is based in Portland, Oregon with an annual budget of $10 million, a staff of 65, and $110 million in assets under management.  Among other innovations, Ecotrust co-founded ShoreBank Pacific (now One PacificCoast Bank), the world’s first environmental bank; created the world’s first ecosystem-based investment fund; and restored an old warehouse in Portland’s Pearl District into a hub for social enterprise, triple-bottom line investment, and green commerce. And, for two decades Ecotrust has invested its working endowment, the Natural Capital Fund, in like-minded organizations and businesses around the region. The Natural Capital Fund has converted $30 million in grants and program- and mission-related investments into $800 million in assets at work in communities from California to Alaska.

In 2010, Ecotrust published Beebe’s book Cache: Creating Natural Economies (with Sam Beebe) to reflect on forty years of conservation and development work around the world.  Beebe is now looking to the future and will be working full time with the board and the new leadership team to grow the board, capital investment initiatives and helping to tell the hopeful story of a natural model of development. “A lot of folks are asking if I’m looking forward to slowing down and spending more time fishing,” Beebe commented, “ and I tell them, not slowing down—but yes, fishing for capital, partners, and initiatives that articulate a whole new way of doing business.”

The recent leadership changes reflect the organization’s overall approach: “It’s time to scale our impact,” said Beebe. “We are at a point in time when Ecotrust’s experience has greater relevance, especially as private capital is increasingly seeking to serve greater good.”  Indeed, the landscape for mission-driven organizations is changing rapidly as foundations shift to mission- and program-related investments and impact investors look for social and environmental, as well as financial, returns.  In the United States alone, the impact investment sector is valued at over $4 billion. And activists are helping to change this market by the day, initiating efforts such as the fossil fuels divestment movement.

Kat Taylor, who has served on Ecotrust’s board since 2010 brings extensive private sector experience in triple bottom line investment practices to her post as Ecotrust’s vice chair for capital initiatives. Oakland-based One PacificCoast Bank is a certified B-corporation focused on “beneficial banking” with over $300 million in assets. “One of the greatest tools to change the world is creatively deployed capital,” said Taylor. “We are just beginning to see the possibilities in mobilizing capital for good.”

Robert E. Friedman, who has served on the Ecotrust board for nine years, and previously served as board chair, also offers invaluable asset building expertise. As founder and chair of the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), Robert E. Friedman is dedicated to expanding opportunities and financial assets for low- and moderate-income families.  “Ecotrust’s future must be as much about markets as it is about philanthropy,” Friedman said. “We aspire to have catalytic effect on those key sectors essential to wellbeing.”

Astrid J. Scholz, who will now lead the organization, has been with Ecotrust for 11 years. Ecotrust’s board praised Scholz as a visionary leader with a deep understanding of the organization, and an ability to take it in new directions.  “Astrid is deeply steeped in the unique culture of Ecotrust and that’s an invaluable asset as she leads us into its next phase,” Denhart said.  Scholz, an ecological economist by training, pioneered the organization’s work in developing innovative, collaborative, award-winning tools and approaches to improve social, economic and environmental decision-making. She served as Ecotrust’s executive vice president in 2012 and was previously vice president for Knowledge Systems, managing a variety of initiatives involving Ecotrust’s analytical capacities. Scholz received her Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley and she serves on the boards of the Living Oceans SocietyHabitat Media, and Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI).

Scholz added: “The transition strategy, like everything else we do at Ecotrust, is inspired by nature: much like the giants in the Redwood forests of the bioregion become more prolific with age while a circle of saplings grows up around them, we are liberating Spencer to do what he does best while cultivating a circle of leadership to take Ecotrust into the next era.”  Also appointed as officers of the organization were Nancy Bales as Vice President for Development, and Dr. Kristen Sheeran as Vice President for Knowledge Systems. Bales has been at Ecotrust for nine years, serving for the last four years as Director of Development. Sheeran is the director of the E3 Network a national network of economists working for social equity and environmental wellbeing, and also has led the organization’s Knowledge Systems team throughout 2012.

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About Ecotrust

For more than 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $80 million in grants into more than $800 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust’s many innovations include co-founding the world’s first environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, food, farms and indigenous affairs, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic and environmental decision-making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it honors and supports the wisdom of Native and First Nation leadership in its work. Learn more at www.ecotrust.org