Philippe Cousteau: From Grant-Seeker to Grantmaker and Fund Creator

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, aimed to accomplish two goals when he spoke at SXSW Eco last week. First, he came to talk about environmental conservationism with a receptive audience. Second, he came to announce two new endeavors, a conscious investment fund, and a grant-making foundation.

Cousteau’s polished speech hit all the high notes, including the unsustainability of our growing population, a food supply continually weakened by climate change, the long-term damage caused by our addiction to fossil fuels, the abuse of the Arctic, and environmental justice. He consistently wove the theme that we (people, animals, ecosystems, regions, the planet) are interconnected into his narrative, and he tied it all back to water.

Water is one of our most precious resources, and we are squandering it, poisoning it, and simply taking it for granted. Cousteau showed two clips aired on CNN. One showed how quickly ice is melting in the Arctic, “the AC of our planet,” Cousteau said, because it is responsible for cooling the other regions. As the ice melts, its effectiveness will wane.

The second clip was a before and after comparison of a reef in the Florida Keys. One film was shot in the 1980s and the other, in the last year. In the recent tape, the water quality, lack of marine life, and sickly appearance of the flora on the reef stood out in sharp contrast to the earlier film. Pictures are, really, sometimes worth a thousand facts, figures and dire warnings.

While focusing on water, Cousteau has broadened the scope his grandfather championed. While Philippe is still concerned about the oceans, he is turning his attention inward. Cousteau founded Earth Echo International, a nonprofit organization that promotes youth engagement in preserving our planet’s oceans, in 2000 with his mother and sister. He currently serves as president.

This year, he is launching a new nonprofit, Global Echo Foundation, and a conscious investment fund, Global Echo Exchange Traded Fund (NYSE: GIVE). Earth Echo is a grant-seeking organization, while Global Echo Foundation will be a grant-making organization partially funded by the Global Echo Exchange Traded Fund. Cousteau told Fast Company, “”I’ve been a grant seeker all my life,” he says. “But when I apply for one and get it, that means someone else doesn’t. I didn’t want to be a part of that anymore. I wanted to contribute to that pool and make it bigger.”

The Global Echo Foundation has three main goals: to invest in the lives of women and children, support local entrepreneurship, and to encourage environmental sustainability globally.

Cousteau cited the extreme lengths many women must go to in order to fetch the day’s water. Picking up the refrain from many organizations, Cousteau repeats the importance of clean water for all communities and spotlights the burden on many women and girls to spend hours getting the water, often venturing into unsafe territory to do so. With clean, accessible drinking water, girls would be free to attend more school, and for each year a girl attends school, her projected number of offspring dwindles.

With the Global Echo Exchange Traded Fund, Cousteau is creating a conscious fund for investors and funding his own venture. It is encouraging that Cousteau is looking at the impact of many ripple effects of poor water quality and scarcity, especially those affecting women, children and communities. Cousteau said, “I am looking forward with a tremendous amount of hope.”

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at and @anewell3p on Twitter.

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