Can of Worms (2) Tellus Mater

Wherever you look in the strange world of Climate Campaign Funding, the same names keep popping up; philanthropic foundations set up by dead American billionaires; various offshoots of the United Nations and the European Commission; the Dutch National Lottery – and Tellus Mater.
I’ve spent a morning idly googling around and this is what I found. I’ve always thought this wasn’t a job for me. What it needs, I thought, is a chartered accountant or a proper investigative journalist. Now, I’m not so sure. What I found is so weird; it would require the talent of a certain kind of twisted novelist to really do it justice – a Thomas Pynchon or a Donald Barthelme. I haven’t got that, but I have got a butterfly mind and an eye for the odd.
This is the tale of four charities and a public relations firm; only a tiny part of the tale, of course. If anyone has more to add I’d be most interested.

1.Tellus Mater (chapter 1)

As Ben Pile has noted, Tellus Mater (Latin for ‘earth mother’) is a mysterious organisation. In 2014 he found them financing the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. They also give bungs to the European Climate Foundation and the Environmental Funders Network. The latter has carved itself a nice little ecological niche in one of the nether orifices of the Green Blob – providing advice to environmental NGOs in search of funds. They are the ultimate green facilitators, and in their November 2013 report they thank the ten millionaire-backed foundations that fund their facilitating, one of which is Tellus Mater.

Their site is “temporarily down as we update the content” – since at least May 30th, 2015 according to the Wayback Machine. The address invites you to contact Director Kelly Clark, and gives US and UK phone numbers and an email address. Wayback last picked up a signal on May 3rd, 2015, when their home page was announcing that:

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation Campaigner Awards recognise the outstanding contribution that a new generation of campaigners are making towards achieving social, environmental and economic justice here in the UK and abroad. […] Applications and nominations will soon close at 1pm on 17th June 2013.

It’s odd that their website in May 2015 hadn’t been updated since June 2013, given that they were still actively doling out the dosh in 2014, as Ben discovered.
So I had a look at the subject of their last recorded item:

2. The Sheila McKechnie Foundation
From their website:
The Sheila McKechnie Foundation (Patron Gordon Brown) was “established in 2005 to help develop a new generation of campaigners who are tackling the root causes of injustice.”
They give various awards every year under a variety of different headings, from fighting global poverty and injustice to helping people keep local bus services running. The environment award section was sponsored by Tellus Mater from 2011 to 2013. On the page announcing the winner of the Environment Award they describe themselves thus:
The Tellus Mater Foundation is a grant-making trust that supports leaders to put in place a low impact future. They do this by providing grant funding to forward-thinking organisations with cutting-edge ideas that will change the rules of the game. Tellus Mater seeks innovative solutions to shift political, economic, and financial institutions to a sustainable path.

In 2013 the head of the judging panel was Kelly Clark:

Kelly Clark is the Director of the Tellus Mater Foundation, responsible for the strategy and day to day running of the organisation, and the Managing Director of Marmanie Consulting, an impact investing and advisory firm that she founded in 2006. Prior to setting up Marmanie, Kelly spent 10 years as a banker in the US, London and Hong Kong. She also serves as an Advisor to the Friends Provident Foundation and is a Board Member for the Ashden Trust.

And the award in the Environment section went to Mardi McBrien of the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB)

3. The Climate Disclosure Standards Board

Mardi is the Managing Director of the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB). They have developed the Climate Change Reporting Framework, which enables companies to include non-financial information in their mainstream financial reporting, so that they may assess and act on the risks related to climate change. Mardi’s primary role is to campaign for the integration of the CDSB Framework by companies and regulatory bodies, including the EU and the UK Government.

On its website CDSB says:
The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) is an international consortium of business and environmental NGOs. We are committed to advancing and aligning the global mainstream corporate reporting model to equate natural capital with financial capital.
Who Benefits from CDSB’s work? Investors […] Analysts […] Companies […] Regulators […] Stock exchanges […] Accounting firms…

The two unsuccessful finalists in the Environment section were Stop Plastic Bags Campaign, and Love Food Hate Waste, Brighton and Hove Food Partnership.

Imagine for a moment that you’re an environmental activist and you have to choose between eliminating food waste, banning plastic bags, and providing a service to improve global mainstream corporate reporting models for investors, analysts, companies, regulators, stock exchanges and accounting firms. Which would you choose?

The following year there were no Campaigner Awards at the The Sheila McKechnie Foundation. But in 2015 they were back, though without the sponsorship of Tellus Mater.

4. Tellus Mater (chapter 2)

On their website, apparently untouched for two years between June 2013 and May 2015, and out of service for the past six months, they say:
Tellus Mater’s mission is to catalyze a shift to sustainable capitalism: to change the operating rules for capitalism so that finance can better fulfill its role in directing systems that preserve and enhance Natural Capital. The Foundation’s 2013 focus will be on the pension fund industry; specifically on encouraging pension funds to fully assess the climate risk in their portfolios and begin to take action to address that risk.

And in a short talk given by Director Kelly Clark in May 2012 she defines Tellus Mater as: “a private family foundation dedicated to catalytic environmental philanthropy”.

Kelly Clark fell quiet on Twitter at about the time she stopped updating the Tellus home page. Her last tweet was on July 31st 2013 about congestion in Perth, Western Australia, and the one before that on March 16th 2013, when she tweeted: “Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: ‘only love can save us from climate change’” with a link to an article in the Guardian about the 86 year-old Buddhist monk.

She hasn’t been idle though. In March 2014, she attended a seminar at Gresham College, and the link provides this further information.
Kelly Clark is the Director of the Tellus Mater Foundation… She is also the Managing Director of Marmanie Consulting, an impact investing advisory firm that she founded in 2006. Previously, Kelly spent 10 years as a banker in the US, London and Hong Kong, culminating in her role as the Head of South East Asian Private Banking for UBS out of Hong Kong. Kelly serves as an advisor to Carbon Tracker and to the Stranded Asset programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, Oxford University. She is the impact investing advisor to the Friends Provident Foundation, and she holds Advisory Board seats with the Ashden Trust, Finance Matters and Just Energy (a South African community renewable energy social enterprise, spun out from Oxfam).
Kelly has worked across Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. She … has extensively mapped the capital markets and pension fund industry in order to identify the key leverage points for market reform.

5. Marmanie Consulting Ltd.

But what of Marmanie Consulting, the impact investing advisory firm of which she is Managing Director? Their site returns the message: “Oops, this site has expired or the hosting has been removed.” On August 1st 2015 Wayback took a snapshot: “WE’LL BE BACK SOON! Our website is currently undergoing renovation. CONTACT Kelly Clark PHONE +44 (0) 785 839 2327 EMAIL”.
Wayback last spotted Marmanie on January 3rd 2015 when we learn that: “Marmanie is an impact investment and advisory firm that works with family offices, foundations, corporates, non-profits, governments and multilateral agencies to assist them with the strategy, structuring and implementation of their double and triple bottom line initiatives (i.e. a combination of investing for financial, social and environmental returns).”

And there’s a dispatch on the home page that says: “SOCIAL INVESTOR BREAKFAST SERIES Next Meeting: 23rd October 2012”.
[Hang on though, in March 2014 she was at a seminar, billed as the Managing Director of a consultancy – which hadn’t updated its website for more than two years?]

Among their clients are Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); Decc (Department of Energy and Climate Change); Earth Love Foundation; Shell Foundation; Barclays; Climate Change Capital; Standard Bank; JP Morgan; Oxfam; DfID (Department for International Development); African Agricultural Capital and The Gatbsy Charitable Foundation.

Here’s a small sample of their Case Studies:
Oxfam – Just Energy
Recruitment of Board of Directors; commercialisation of business plan and fundraising.
Telecommunications and Development Project for the United Nations
Global regulatory study of spam regulation and its implications on existing communication infrastructure
E-Government Inventory Project
A national level study of the status of information and communication technology adoption in public sector institutions for a developing country in the Caucasus.
Marmanie Publishes UK Government White Paper
Marmanie Publishes White Paper for the UK Government’s Department for International Development
The Earth Love Foundation Launch and Strategy Project
Launch and day to day management of a climate change foundation founded by the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum.
The African Community Forestry Carbon (VER) Project
Strategic planning, rebranding and expansion of a Sub Saharan African community carbon reduction and forestry business.
Establishment of an African Carbon (CDM) Trading Business
Marmanie appointed to carry out feasibility study, write business model and launch Africarbon, a business aimed at increasing the flow of certified emission reduction credits from Sub Saharan Africa
Designing Deal Flow Database for a Private Equity Fund
Design of a proprietary deal flow database for a London based investment fund
Writing the PPM for the launch of investment fund
Production of a private placement memorandum to support fundraising and launch of a new fund for a London based investment firm.

Wow! Who are these multi-talented, multi-tasking Stakhanovites? Here’s the team:
Kelly Clark – Managing Director
Audrey Selian “works in an advisory capacity to Marmanie, with a focus on the venture philanthropy space and a particular interest in emerging markets and sustainable, socially-oriented investments.”
Natalie Pinon – freelance consultant
Henrietta Lake“ethical sourcing consultant, specializing in labour productivity improvement and human resource management upgrading for labour-intensive industries.”

So it’s a team of one then, with two consultants and an adviser. Their photos are on the Team page. To this old wrinkly they look like schoolgirls – and what exactly are they doing writing Government White Papers?

Here’s a bit more information about Kelly:

 …Kelly began her career at Merrill Lynch before moving to UBS where she was ultimately positioned as the Hong Kong-based Head of South East Asian private banking, and managed a team of 25 across 5 emerging markets. She led the first business sector in the Asia Pacific region to double its assets in less than 18 months .


 Kelly is a skilled and experienced Executive Coach and Trainer, and Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, (NLP). She is also a competitive athlete who has completed over a dozen marathons, ultra-marathons and triathlons. Kelly applies this same commitment, stamina and drive to her work at Marmanie.

Then she explains why she founded Marmanie:
“I decided to set-up Marmanie because I saw a clear lack of cross-sector dialogue between established businesses and the raw innovation systems that we find in emerging markets. The capital, both social and financial, is often there, but few know how to unlock it. I believe the key to this is to create unexpected links, and in so doing open up the dialogue and the flow of information and resources…

Which is all very well, but are government White Papers really being written by a part time managing director with seven other jobs on three continents, plus two consultants and an advisor? And what did she do actually for Oxfam? And can they keep it up?

The answer to my first question is: No. Their document for the Department of International Development is not a White Paper, but a simple technical document, which cost the Department £50,000.
Here’s what they did for Oxfam:

6. Oxfam

The UK branch of Oxfam International incubated and spun out “Just Energy,” a social enterprise to advance the development of renewable energy projects that bring socio-economic benefits to low-income communities in Southern Africa and contribute to greenhouse gas reduction.
Marmanie was originally engaged to recruit Just Energy’s Board of Directors… .
By mapping out the major players in the carbon space and cross referencing those interested in development and aware of the policy arena, Marmanie was able to come up with a short list of potential Board candidates that met Oxfam-Just Energy’s strategic leadership needs…
As a result of our hands on approach, experience in the Sub-Saharan African region and carbon market expertise, Marmanie was not only able to assist with the formation of Just Energy’s Board but has also become instrumental in approaching investors, drafting the business plan and writing investor documents.

just energy

It was in 2009 that Oxfam paid Marmanie (sole employee – Kelly Clark) to find a board of directors for their project to bring renewable energy to Southern Africa. She found just the chap for chairman of a charity’s third world renewable energy offshoot – a carbon trader, Abyd Karmali, Managing Director and Global Head of Carbon Trading, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and President of the Carbon Markets & Investor Association.
Other members of the board are Zuki Jakavula from the South African Civil Aviation Authority, David McCullough from Oxfam via management consultancy, Becky Buell, from The Green Hub, Massachusetts Institute for Technology via Oxfam, and … Kelly Clark.

But Kelly didn’t just “assist with the formation of Just Energy’s Board” (by assembling one carbon trader, one civil aviation bod, two ex-Oxfam employees and herself) she was also “instrumental in approaching investors, drafting the business plan and writing investor documents.”
And this is no doubt where her talent lies, because the partners in this plan to bring renewable energy to the poor in Southern Africa (as listed on an October 2015 Just Energy document) are:
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Oxfam, EDF, Norton Rose, Standard Bank, ARUP, KPMG, Simmons & Simmons, Marmanie, and McKinsey & Company.

And all for a project which, when built, will provide 33 MW of power from ten wind turbines, as detailed in Industry South Africa, June 25, 2015:

A wind energy project jointly developed by Just Energy, a not for profit organization, and InnoWind, a subsidiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles, has been selected as a ‘preferred bidder’ by South Africa’s Department of Energy. Just Energy is the first not for profit project developer to successfully compete for the opportunity to connect a renewable energy project to the South African national electrical grid.

Why this tiny project, about to be born 6 years after the formation of the parent company, should have two international banks, two law firms, one firm of international auditors, two management consultancies and the world’s largest constructor of nuclear power stations among the fairy godmothers hovering over the cradle is a question that is perhaps answered in the Just Energy document quoted above.

This shows a bar chart estimating an Internal Rate of Return of 8.6% for a single plant, and up to 18% with clustering of up to 100 plants. (The words “with subsidy” can just about be read under the first bar of the chart).

This is perhaps where the skills of a competitive athlete and Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming able to “create unexpected links, and in so doing open up the dialogue and the flow of information and resources” come in handy.

My last question above was: “Can the Marmanie team keep up this frenetic activity, bringing together the mighty powers of modern finance and cutting edge sustainbable technology?”

The answer is: No. Here are details of their accounts. Marmanie Consulting Ltd made a loss of £30,000 in 2014 following a loss of £32,000 in 2013 and owes Kelly £39,000. The company has tangible assets of £301.

7. Tellus Mater (Part 3)

But what about Tellus Mater? At this site they are listed as having signed the Carbon Divestment Pledge, and as having assets of £18,650,000 ( a far cry from Marmanie’s assets of £301.)
More information is available at this site, updated in August 2015. Their accounts are as follows:
Year end        Income          Spending
2013-04-05   £ 288,823    £ 699,822
2012-04-05   £ 303,759     £ 262,890
2011-04-05   £ 265,643     £ 573,479
2010-04-05   £ 255,568     £ 849,389
2009-04-05   £ 286,830   £ 256,705

I’m not at all clear how a charity whose sole purpose is to issue grants to other charities can suddenly decide one year to spend more than three times its income. Looking at those figures, it seems to me that someone’s £1.3 million out of pocket.

There’s nothing here about those £18 million recorded by Divestinvest, and Kelly Clark’s name no longer appears on the latest return to Companies House dated April 17th 2015, which gives as sole director James Ashley Arbib, which is logical enough, since prior to 1999 the company’s name was The James Arbib Charitable Foundation Limited. Otherwise the company has just two employees, a secretary and an advertising executive, Nicola Arbib. Lady Anne Hermione Arbib was director until she resigned in 2008, and so was Seda Arbib who resigned in 2003.

In Jauary 2015 Kelly Clark and James Arbib were quoted in a presentation at the Cranley University School of Management as working together on mapping projects for Tellus Mater, and they’re both on the Equity Investment Advisory Committee of WHEB: a “specialist investor focused on the opportunities created by the global transition to more sustainable, resource efficient and energy efficient economies.”

The only other recent source I found that linked Kelly with the Arbib family was that they have both attended the Slow Life Symposium, which brings us to the fourth and last charity.

8; Slow Life Symposium

At their site we learn more about Jamie Arbib.
After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge where he read History, Jamie qualified as an accountant and worked in the City as an investment analyst. He is currently a venture investor in resource-efficient technologies… He is also the founder of Tellus Mater, a grant-making foundation that aims to support the movement towards a sustainable econom … He is currently studying, part-time, for a Masters in Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge…

Also in attendance at this 2014 Symposium was Sonu Shivdasani, Chairman and CEO, Soneva Group; Founder, SLOW LIFE Foundation.
In 1995, Sonu and his wife Eva opened their first property – Soneva Fushi, in the Maldives, creating a high end market in what was formerly a mass market destination… Sonu’s concept was Intelligent Luxury and was the forerunner and inspiration for a host of imitators who saw the potential in going green.

And it’s at this haven of Intelligent Green Luxury in the Maldives where the Slow Lifers gather.

Kelly Clark has also been, but in 2013. Other attendees have included Daryl Hannah, Richard Branson, Mark Lynas, Jeremy Leggett, and Jonathon Porritt (who goes every year).

I do recommend the site especially for its choice of photos, tastefully mixing images of millionaires discussing poverty under palm trees and peasants plucking some Fairtrade crop or other. There’s even an image of someone driving a cart pulled by two bony oxen, but I’m not sure if its a real peasant or Richard Branson having a laugh.

SLOW LIFE stands for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences. The Soneva Foundation, which runs the Slow Life Symposia, is a registered charity “which supports the development of innovative and imaginative projects whose impacts directly address social and environmental challenges around the world.”

But especially under palmtrees in the Maldives. With Daryl Hannah.


  1. Here’s some frass from someone with a caterpillar mind.

    When Dan Glass superglued himself to Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street he had been invited there to recieve an award from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. Plane Ungrateful?


  2. I’ve revised the post slightly, removing an irrelevant mention of a member of the Arbib family and shortening many of the citations of interminable green-business garbage. It’s still a lot to wade through, though.

    Thanks for making that link. Whatever one thinks of Plane Stupid, the Sheila McKechnie Foundation remains a “normal”, i.e. worthy, NGO, aiming to make life better for people. You could argue that Slow Life aims to make life better for people too, I suppose – at least some people – while Oxfam tries to have the best of both worlds by making life better both for African peasants and for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. An 18% rate of return on investment is good these days, and if it comes with the added bonus of bringing electricity to Africa’s peasants, who could criticise?

    Here’s another image from the Oxfam/Just Energy document. Note that while renewables deliver both electricity for recharging their phones to African peasants and dollars for investors, the said African peasants are still living in mud huts.


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