Posted on Jun 27, 2020
On 25th June 2020, Rotary International President Mark Maloney announced that the Rotary Foundation Trustees and Rotary International Board of Directors both unanimously approved adding a new area of focus: Supporting The Environment! This now becomes Rotary's seventh area of focus, which are categories of service activities supported by global grants. It joins peacebuilding and conflict prevention; disease prevention and treatment; water, sanitation, and hygiene; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and community economic development.
Rotary’s first project was an environmental one in Chicago.  Now the 7th Area of Focus enables Rotarians to strive to make our world a healthy place for all life to live.
More than $18 million in Foundation global grant funding has been allocated to environment-related projects over the past five years. Creating a distinct area of focus to support the environment will give Rotary members even more ways to bring about positive change in the world and increase our impact.
Grant applications for projects will be accepted beginning on 1 July 2021. Gifts and commitments from Rotarians and others will be sought to provide global grant support for the new area of focus.

How did Rotary come to this decision, and what happens next?

Rotary's leadership created a task force in 2019 under the leadership of Past President Ian Riseley to decide how to handle environmental projects in Rotary grant-making.
Leaders from the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) submitted a position paper recommending that environmental sustainability be named a distinct Area of Focus rather than a subset of the original six.
Working with RI staff, ESRAG developed a questionnaire which was submitted to Rotarians and youth in Rotary programs around the world at the end of January 2020. Almost 6,000 people responded in just over one week.
Over 94% said that Rotary can have a significant impact on environmental issues, that it's important for Rotary's reputation to be active on this, and that their friends would be interested in joining Rotary if Rotary got involved.
62% supported the creation of a new environmental Area of Focus. 
ESRAG's Communications Director Karen Kendrick-Hands was invited to speak to the Task Force at the start of its February meeting and presented updates and further justifications. Then, as COVID-19 upended the world, Rotary in-person meetings were cancelled, and the Foundation Trustees and Rotary Board held confidential discussions.
Finally, at 12:00 p.m. (EST) on June 26,  the closing day of RI's 2020 Virtual Convention, news of Rotary International's decision to add a new area of focus dedicated to the environment was released. Within 8 hours, over 2,000 Rotarians had liked and shared RI's announcement on Facebook.

Two steps are essential before grant-making can begin under the new Area of Focus in 2021

  1. The Rotary Foundation must develop the criteria for what kinds of environmental projects will be eligible for global grants
  2. Donors are needed to contribute for environmental grants
ESRAG's new Carbon Offset Fund is a great first step in raising money to be used for grants reducing or capturing carbon emissions.

On June 26th 2020,  Rotary Past President Ian Riseley commented about the new area of focus

"The Trustees and Directors have unanimously accepted our recommendation to create a 7th Area of Focus of our Rotary Foundation, being the Environment.  As Chair of the Task Force that put together and argued for this decision, I’m enormously proud today. We still have lots of work to do, including finalizing the Area of Focus statement and getting the fundraising going to support the grant applications that are sure to come flooding in after 1st July 2021. Congratulations, team, we just made Rotary history!
Help spread the word about our new area of focus by reaching out to your Club, District, or Zone with stories of how environmental sustainability promotes the other humanitarian goals Rotarians are pursing with such passion and skill.