Lenko Family Foundation

Sprinting to net zero

17 April 2024

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Australia isn’t going to become a renewable energy superpower by accident. Tech entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor and Boundless CEO Eytan Lenko is focused on fast-tracking the climate solutions we need, combining agile ways of working and the power of philanthropy to get there.

Part of the AEGN’s mission is to deepen members’ understanding of the many ways philanthropy can support the environment — ultimately to maximise their impact. To this end, we produce a regular podcast series where members share stories of effective leadership for our planet, climate and future.

Eytan Lenko generously shared his story with AEGN CEO Amanda Martin in December 2023. Key take-aways from their conversation follow.

To listen to the episode and access a full transcript and show notes, head to our podcast page.

A focus on solutions

“I had my ‘climate moment’ back around 2008/2009 when I saw An Inconvenient Truth like so many other people, and it just seemed to me that there was a lot of focus on all the risks and downside of climate … but not a lot of focus on how do we actually avoid it. And as an engineer … my mindset just went straight to the solutions.”

Taking a tech approach

“Our [Boundless’] mission is to have Australia on track to being a renewable energy superpower by 2030. The tools that we have to achieve that mission are investments, philanthropy and direct advocacy … We break the problem down into small chunks that we call epics, and we’ll try to choose the right topic at the right time to make decent progress.”

An agile methodology

“We [Boundless] spend three months on an epic: we build a strategy; we work out a goal that’s ideally some kind of a tipping point for that topic that we can accelerate; and then we go out to try to find partners who can execute on that strategy. That’s the three months. Then … we generally give 18 to 24 months of funding for those projects.”

An epic in play

“Boundless has been helping to bring together a coalition of advocates to prosecute the case for [an] Australian version of America’s Inflation Reduction Act [which is] probably the biggest investment the world’s ever seen in clean energy and renewables and clean manufacturing.” (Australia’s version has since come to pass, with the PM announcing in April 2024 that he will legislate a Future Made in Australia Act.)

On partnerships and co-funding

“At Boundless, one of our core values is in partnering … we’re a very small team, we’re just eight people, so obviously all of our work is done through incredible partners. But we also have a strong emphasis on co-funding, and if we’re confident that we’ve chosen the right topic at the right time, it means it’s the right time to put funding into that topic.”

Spending down

“With the climate crisis, these 10 years are the key 10 years. So, now’s the time to throw everything at it, which is what we [Eytan and his wife Debbie through the Lenko Family Foundation] have been doing. Similarly with Boundless … all of our resources will be spent by 2030 … It drives us to take risks and to act urgently and to not get into analysis paralysis. So, I think that’s the benefit of a spend down. It forces you to not be risk-averse and to just do things.”

Key lessons

“Having a mission or a North Star or a big idea where you’re going … [then] taking steps towards it, testing, seeing what fits, seeing what works and what doesn’t work …’Good enough’ strategy is the thing I’m always talking to our team about … and the importance of networking and getting out there and meeting people … you’ve got to build that network, because the network is what helps you run fast … that’s shorthand for joining the AEGN.”

Philanthropy at its most basic level doesn’t require a return in terms of dollars, so it just gives you ultimate flexibility … Philanthropy at its best can take huge risks, that’s why philanthropy is so powerful.

Eytan Lenko

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