Aug 28 2023

Standing for Transparency and Accountability: Why GainForest Opted to Focus on Community Funding

Chona Billones +Simge Sandal +David Dao 
Chona Billones
Simge Sandal
David Dao

During the Gitcoin Grants 18 #GG18, GainForest has been fortunate enough to be included yet again in the Climate Round. This is a privilege we hold in high regard, especially given the outcomes of our previous gitcoin series wherein we have received incredible support from several donors enabling us to reach new heights such as getting into the XPRIZE Rainforest finals, growing the Green Globe, success in the pilot implementation of our measure-to-earn project, to name a few.

And while we highly appreciate the support we continue to receive especially in this round, GainForest has made a big decision in relation to our funding—a choice we have determined to be more aligned with our core values. We have decided to decline Shell’s Gitcoin Matching Fund, and instead focus on fostering our core community and rely on community-based funding.

Our driving force is this: You can only treasure what you can measure.

GainForest is all about transparency and accountability. And we’re disheartened to know that these are lacking in Oil Giants in relation to their environmental responsibilities, especially given the impact the industry is having on our climate crisis today. Last year was especially a time to reflect upon as Shell reported a record annual profit of $40B but allocated only a mere 1% of their substantial earnings to climate funding [1].

As GainForest, we want to see:

  1. Defunding Destructive Activities

    Source: The Guardian

    The path to a sustainable future begins by diverting funding away from activities that harm nature and the environment. It's crucial for big oil companies to redirect their investments and resources towards initiatives that support conservation, restoration, and ecological balance.

  2. Radical Reinvestment in Net-Zero Technologies

    We see an immense opportunity for big oil companies to spearhead investments in cutting-edge net-zero technologies. By channeling their financial prowess into research, development, and implementation of innovative solutions, they can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

  3. Increased Allocation to Climate Funding

    Source: Al Gore on TED Countdown Summit

    To make a substantial impact, it's imperative for big oil companies to significantly increase their commitment to climate funding. Allocating a higher percentage of their budgets—ideally 100%—towards projects that directly combat climate change will demonstrate a genuine dedication to positive change.

  4. Ending Counterproductive Lobbying

    Source: Al Gore on TED Countdown Summit

    We advocate for an end to lobbying efforts that perpetuate a broken system. By shifting focus from preserving the status quo to advocating for policies that drive sustainability and environmental stewardship, big oil companies can play a vital role in systemic change.

    During various COP events, GainForest consistently observed fossil fuel lobbyists on the periphery of formal negotiations, leveraging side events to shape energy transition discourse by advocating gradual shifts or the sustained relevance of fossil fuels. Noteworthy was COP24 in Katowice, where select oil-rich nations resisted embracing the IPCC's 1.5°C report, highlighting diverse stances on climate action.

    Transitioning to COP26 in Glasgow, negotiations witnessed a compelling change. The term 'phase-out,' referring to all fossil fuels, was abruptly substituted with 'phase down' only for coal — a last minute shift that underscored Big Oil's influence in negotiation dynamics.

    In a significant milestone at COP27, the largest-ever fossil fuel delegation was present. This delegation voiced skepticism regarding AI and MRV technologies, including projects like ClimateTRACE, for CO2 emission monitoring, reflecting ongoing debates shaping emissions reduction approaches.


We believe that if Big Oil drives positive changes such as these, they can evolve into ambassadors of transparency, accountability, and ultimately, sustainability that we at GainForest advocates for. And while they have not done so and lost our trust last year, we continue to hope to see them embrace a leadership role in championing these practices with us and our fellow conservation groups.

It is clear that Big Oil is at a significant juncture. They're faced with a simple decision: Do they honestly wish to spearhead the transformation towards cleaner energy or stubbornly remain as a fossil of a bygone era? If they choose not to adapt, the global shift to sustainable energy will continue without them—but at a cost to local communities. The moment to decide is now.

The daunting reality of climate and biodiversity catastrophe looms ever closer—and we believe that the choices we make today shape the path that lies in our future. This is also why we understand that some people or organizations cannot make the same decision that we did.

The formidable challenge of securing funding for advocacies like ours cannot be overlooked. Countless promising green initiatives are stifled in their infancy due to insufficient resources. We recognize that choosing where funding comes can sometimes take a back seat in order to fulfill the overarching mission.

Our decision to forego Shell’s donations in the current Gitcoin round was made after a thorough contemplation and is aligned with our specific circumstances. But we acknowledge the several challenges facing the wider conservation and climate tech community.

There’s no universal solution that fits all molds. We respect the choices made by fellow organizations, recognizing that paths may be different but the destination is one—to foster a sustainable and a healthier planet.


  1. The Guardian. Shell accused of ‘profiteering bonanza’ after record first-quarter profits of $9.6bn. Source. Accessed on: Aug 28, 2023.

  2. TED. Gore, A. What the fossil fuel industry doesn't want you to know. Source. Accessed on: Aug. 28, 2023.

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GainForest is a registered non-profit association in Switzerland.
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