Civic Leadership

Flinn Foundation incorporates sustainability into its philanthropic work to benefit Arizona

September 17, 2019

By brianpowell

By Brian Powell
Flinn Foundation


For more than 50 years, the Flinn Foundation has been dedicated to improving the quality of life in Arizona for the benefit of future generations.

The Phoenix-based philanthropic grantmaking organization has done so through its support of the Arizona bioscience sector, the Flinn Scholars Program, arts and culture, and the development of state-level leaders through its Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.

Another way the foundation is committed to benefiting Arizona well into the future is through environmental sustainability. In May, the Flinn Foundation was recognized for its efforts in this area as a city of Phoenix Green Business Leader and received Platinum certification—the highest possible ranking.

The employee-driven effort to receive the certification was led by longtime Flinn staff members Felecia Clack and Bob Ramsay.

“When I started reading about sustainability, I found this to be very important for so many reasons—our nature, our well-being, our health, and all of this pours back into sustainability,” said Clack, the board and executive assistant.

The efforts of the Flinn Green Team have resulted in many sustainable improvements, including:

  • A refillable water station was added in the building’s lobby, which is used by both employees and guests at the Foundation’s conference center to reduce the use of plastic bottles. The two conference-center rooms, which are available at no cost to nonprofits working within the foundation’s areas of interest, were used by nearly 7,000 guests last year;
  • Additional bins for recyclables were added in offices and public areas;
  • A procedures audit reduced the printing of materials for internal meetings and public events;
  • Recycled materials were prioritized in newly installed conference center chairs and carpeting;
  • Energy Star certification was prioritized in new appliances, including a refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave;
  • Low-flow settings on faucets and toilets were implemented; and
  • New low-water trees were planted, and landscaping-water audits are being conducted four times a year.

In addition, to better communicate its priorities to the community, the foundation has added a “Sustainability” page to its website describing how sustainability is a priority within its four areas of philanthropic giving; the website also promotes the nearby light-rail station. Operationally, the foundation has increased its emphasis on working with locally based and environmentally friendly vendors and suppliers. A new initiative under discussion is electric-car charging stations, said Ramsay, the building-operations specialist.

The foundation building that opened in 2000 along Central Avenue near downtown Phoenix includes a lot of glass, which Ramsay says reduces the need for electric lighting on sunny days, especially in the lobby. The building also features LED lighting, and motion-sensing light switches in storage closets, printing rooms, and restrooms.

The Flinn Green Team—conceived by President and CEO Tammy McLeod, who joined the Flinn Foundation as its new leader in October 2017 and holds a doctoral degree in sustainability studies—has impacted employees beyond work hours.

“Since starting with the Green Team, I’ve thrown something out at home, then went back and got it out and put in the right can,” Ramsay said.

Clack goes beyond keeping fellow employees and foundation guests informed about environmentally friendly practices.

“It’s become personal now, and I will let family members know,” she said. “It’s being responsible, I feel, to spread the word.”

This article originally appeared in the September edition of Green Living Magazine.