The Rose Foundation’s unique role as a bridge between philanthropy and the community may be best exemplified by our cy pres and restitution funds. These grants typically stem from class action lawsuits related to consumer and environmental issues. In these cases, “full restitution to all injured parties is either impossible or infeasable, such as when the amount of damage per person is insignificant even though the aggregate damages are large” (CY PRES Awards Information). The Rose Foundation acts as a neutral third party trustee, overseeing the funds resulting from the lawsuit.
Guided by settlement instructions and the courts, the Rose Foundation distributes these funds to support programs that preserve consumer privacy rights; promote environmental stewardship and protect ecosystems and public health; or to directly mitigate pollution problems. To best align grant awards with the nexus of the settlement, we prefer to award grants to organizations that are active in the communities which suffered the original harm. State and federal courts have appointed the Rose Foundation as trustee for over 600 cy pres and restitution funds owing to our deep ties to community and environmental resliency organizations.
From January to July of this year, the Rose Foundation distributed 1.6 million in cy pres and restitution funds. In total, 36 grants were awarded to community resilience-oriented work that benefits water sources, the natural environment, and consumer rights and privacy. Read on to learn about some of this year’s restitutions grantees and their work.
Understanding Preventable Toxic Threats to Southern Resident Orcas
Toxic-Free Future plans to test Chinook salmon, key orca prey, and potentially other food web elements to better understand Southern Resident orca exposure to PFAS and flame retardant chemicals that may be impacting their health.
Because federal regulations do not prevent the widespread use of harmful chemicals, many products on the market today— furniture, electronics, food packaging, building materials—contain toxic chemicals that can escape products and contaminate waterways, fish, and wildlife.
Toxic chemicals have been identified as a threat to Southern Resident Orcas. The 2019 Southern Resident Orca Task Force recommendations call for policy action to “identify, prioritize and take action on chemicals that impact orcas and their prey.” That same year, as part of the orca recovery legislative package, Safer Products for Washington (RCW 70A.350) was adopted, giving the Washington Department of Ecology unprecedented authority to ban classes of chemicals in products and directs it to address the first five classes of chemicals that threaten sensitive populations and species by 2023. These first classes include PCBs, organohalogen and other toxic flame retardants, phthalates, phenolic compounds including alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) and bisphenols, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, also commonly known as “forever chemicals”).
Orcas are known to be highly contaminated with PCBs, and there is information on their exposure to some flame retardants, but very little for PFAS or current-use flame retardants. Their research will indicate the extent to which orcas are exposed to PFAS and flame retardants. This will provide urgency for Ecology to adopt bold restrictions on those chemicals in products identified under Safer Products for Washington to protect orcas. It will also help the public and research community better understand how orcas and their food sources are contaminated by everyday products and enable us to engage communities in solutions. Source: Wild Fish Conservancy v. Cooke Aquaculture
Consumer Products Fund
Buy Now, Understand Later? Consumer Knowledge of Buy Now, Pay Later Products
Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options have proliferated over the past years, yet consumer understanding varies with many not viewing BNPL as credit. BNPL loans may provide consumers with an affordable way to finance larger purchases—consumers pay a portion of the price up front and pay off the rest of the debt in three equal, often interest-free installments over a set period. However, depending on structure, they can lack underwriting for a consumer’s ability to repay, can rely on the expectation of fees, can lead consumers into accumulating further debt, and can lack dispute or refund rights. In California, the top six BNPL providers originated more than 12 million loans to consumers in 2020, accounting for 91% of consumer loans originated in 2020. Although California is the only state to have required a few BNPL providers to abide by financing laws, it remains unclear how much consumers know about their rights when using BNPL, and how they view and use these products.
The purpose of this project will be to explore consumer knowledge and usage, using those findings to develop necessary consumer education and policy implications. This project will include three parts: 1) a statewide community-based survey to better understand consumer awareness, usage, and effect of BNPL loans on financial security, 2) a consumer education campaign based on survey findings, and 3) a roundtable with stakeholders to share results of the survey, determine necessary regulatory, legislative, or product design changes, and further educational needs. Working with community-based organizations focused on financial security, CFA will use this insight to develop effective and meaningful educational resources for consumers likely to be more impacted by the lack of consumer protections or limited understanding of the products and their potential financial implications. These educational resources will address BNPL, as well as other access to credit issues that specifically impact low-income consumers and consumers with thin or no credit files.
California Watershed Protection Fund
Angeles National Forest Junior Field Rangers
This grant will support the National Forest Foundation’s Junior Field Rangers Program, which is conducted annually in partnership with Pacoima Beautiful, the University of California Extension, and the U.S. Forest Service. This Program is seeking to restore and protect an under-resourced watershed that is heavily used by recreationalists from historically marginalized communities. The goals of the program include conducting restoration work on four acres of riparian habitat and two river miles of Big Tujunga Creek (a major tributary of the Los Angeles River) through clean-up efforts and re-naturalizing of areas impacted by heavy recreational use. The group also expects to reach at least 100 Angeles National Forest visitors through multilingual communications and educate them about recreating responsibly to protect water resources and wildlife habitat. The student participants in the program include BIPOC and economically disadvantaged youth as well as young adult leaders from northeastern San Fernando Valley who will help conduct this restoration over several months. The youth who participate in the program are paid a stipend, and upon completion, they will also earn a California Naturalist certification and college credit through University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources extension. This provides participants with knowledge of local ecology and the issues facing their public lands. Additionally, participants learn about careers in natural resource management, all with the aim of creating a diverse next generation of public land managers and stewards.
The Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund
Commencement Bay Initiative: Restoration of Squally Beach and Yowkwala Sites
EarthCorps is a core partner of innovative community-based restoration taking place in the coastal area and surrounding watersheds of Commencement Bay. The Commencement Bay Stewardship Collaborative is managed by trustees, which include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, WA Department of Ecology, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. Since 1998, they have worked to restore over 300 acres of habitat throughout the Puyallup River Watershed. In 2014, the Trustees entrusted the ongoing stewardship of 17 individual sites to EarthCorps, which the group continues to manage today.
EarthCorps will use this funding to continue expanding upon the long-term restoration efforts they started at Yowkwala and Squally Beach, which belong to the Puyallup Tribe. Grant funds will allow the organization to remove invasive species and planting native trees and shrubs in Yowkwala’s upland forests to benefit water quality and salmon habitat as well as continue habitat restoration at Squally Beach, an emergent intertidal marsh that consists of a mix of freshwater and saltwater that is essential for a complex food web upon which local marine life thrives. This project will activate and link restoration on a fuller expanse of the Puyallup Tribe’s lands, ensuring these sites can safeguard water quality and healthy habitat for salmon and other marine wildlife for years to come. Source: PSA v. Carlile Transportation Systems
We are proud to support our cy pres and restitution grantees defending environmental and consumer rights. Stay tuned for updates on these exciting projects!