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Pritzker Family’s Libra Foundation Prioritizes Environmental Justice

Pritzker family - (Crain's Chicago Business/Erik Unger) From left: Margot Pritzker,   Cindy Pritzker,   Jason Pritzker,   Abigail and Gigi Pritzker Pucker,   Ben Pritzker,   Michael Pucker,   Brian Traubert,   Penny Pritzker,   David Pritzker and Bea Barbareschi.

(Crain’s Chicago Business/Erik Unger) From left: Margot Pritzker, Cindy Pritzker, Jason Pritzker, Abigail and Gigi Pritzker Pucker, Ben Pritzker, Michael Pucker, Brian Traubert, Penny Pritzker, David Pritzker and Bea Barbareschi.


The Pritzker Family, which has 11 members worth over a billion dollars, is known for its enormous wealth derived from the Hyatt hotel empire. But it has also made a name for itself from its many charitable endeavors, such as the Libra Foundation, which has made an interesting shift in how it works on the environment to emphasize justice and women’s rights, a report said.

Libra was founded in part by Nicholas J. Pritzker, who now serves on the board with his wife Susan S. Pritzker and other family members. The foundation is all about human rights and social justice, with interests in women’s rights and drug policy reform. But it also has an environment program, which recently shifted from sustainability to environmental justice, now focusing on human rights, promoting social justice, and mitigating impacts of climate change, Inside Philanthropy said.

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While it’s not a huge program, in its last round of funding, decided in December, Libra did renew and increase support for all of its environmental grantees, and added four new grantees, according to Jennifer Near, senior program officer, the website said.

“We are open to accepting a very limited number of new partners from the environmental movement that are using this framework, and we are also interested in exploring new groups that identify climate change and environmental impacts as a core women’s rights issue, ” Near said in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, more climate funders are getting attuned to the role of low-income groups in climate work, so in that sense, Libra’s shift to a justice frame can be seen as part of a broader trend in environmental philanthropy, the report said.

The Libra Foundation, which has also signed on to Philanthropy’s Promise, which means it pledges to give 50 percent to underserved communities and 25 percent to policy and civic engagement, the website said.

A lot of people may not associate the Pritzker name with progressive philanthropy. The family’s “brand” is closely linked to business and the mainstream of Chicago civic life, as opposed to liberal causes, although Penny Pritzker is a well-known Obama supporter who now serves as U.S. Commerce Secretary, the report said.

Still, the more we dig into Pritzker giving, the more we see how different members of this clan, all born to great privilege, care deeply about inequity and the well-being of vulnerable people, Inside Philanthropy said.

Libra accepts applications, and while they give nationwide and globally, emphasis is on programs in Illinois and California, the website said.



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