Other Group

The Sunrise Project




Environmental Charity



Founder/Co-Executive Director:

John Hepburn




17 Randle St
Slurry Hills, NSW, Australia

Budget (2020):

Revenue:  AU$51,457,688

Expenses:  AU$47,329,881

Net Assets: AU$8,781,141 1


  1. The Sunrise Project. “The Sunrise Project 2021 Annual Report.” Accessed May 10, 2023. https://sunriseproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/The-Sunrise-Project-2021-Annual-Report.pdf

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The Sunrise Project is a left-leaning environmental advocacy nonprofit based in Australia. The organization operates internationally with the objective of pressuring financial institutions and various other industries to defund and abandon conventional energy sources, and to expand the use of weather-dependent energy and electric vehicles.

The organization became entangled in a debate over its funding after the WikiLeaks release of emails hacked from Democratic Party operative John Podesta in 2016.


The Sunrise Project was founded by John Hepburn, an engineer who had formerly provided services for the coal, oil, and nuclear industries. After becoming an environmental activist in the 1990s, Hepburn founded a recycling company in Brisbane and became a staff member at Greenpeace. He occupied several roles at Greenpeace, eventually becoming the organization’s senior climate campaigner. 1

Hepburn and Sam La Rocca are co-executive directors. La Rocca is the former chief of staff for Adam Brandt, a Member of the Australian Parliament and leader of the Australian Greens party. 2 The Sunrise Project’s board chair, Claire Mallinson, is the former CEO of Amnesty International Australia. Director Giles Gunsekera is the founder and CEO of Global Impact Initiative, a global Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) investment firm focused on pressuring companies to adopt the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 3 4


The Sunrise Project employs roughly 30 employees and 40 full-time equivalent staff members. In addition to Australia, the Sunrise Project operates in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The organization’s efforts are focused on cutting off funding to conventional energy projects and expanding the use of weather-dependent energy sources. The Sunrise Project operates primarily through public awareness campaigns and grants to left-leaning advocacy groups. 5

The organization pressures financial institutions to abandon conventional energy through its “Shifting Global Finance Beyond Fossil Fuels” campaign. The Sunrise Project claims credit for “driving up the cost of capital and shifting the cost/benefit equation for new projects.” The campaign urges insurance companies to stop underwriting conventional energy projects, banks, and private equity companies to limit funding to the projects, and central banks to enact financial regulations that factor in “climate risk” to make conventional energy projects less likely to access capital. The organization also lobbies automakers to end the production of internal combustion vehicles, and to expand the production of electric vehicles. 6

In 2023, the Sunrise Project co-sponsored the “Vanguard S.O.S.” campaign, which ran advertisements condemning Vanguard Group’s decision to withdraw from the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. 7

The Sunrise Project also has a dedicated program for “transforming Australia from Climate Laggard to Leader.” The program seeks to replace conventional energy generation with weather-dependent energy sources, and to eliminate the country’s coal mining and natural gas extraction industries. 8

In 2019, the Sunrise Project joined the Bloomberg Philanthropies “Beyond Coal Campaign,” which seeks to phase out coal power plants by 2030. 9


The Sunrise Project limits disclosure of its donors and grantees, claiming the “hostility shown by opponents of climate action to some philanthropists” as the reason. However, the organization does identify the major foundations that support the Sunrise Project. The benefactors include a variety of major left-leaning organizations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Oak Foundation, the Laudes Foundation, and the KR Foundation. 10 The Denmark-based KR Foundation reported over 8.2 million DKK (approximately $1.2 million) in contributions to the organization from 2020 to 2022. 11 12 13


The Sunrise Project became embroiled in a battle with the Australian coal industry when emails hacked from the account of Democratic operative John Podesta obtained by WikiLeaks revealed that the U.S.-based Sandler Foundation had contributed to the Sunrise Project’s campaign to shut down coal mining operations in Australia, and that top Hillary Clinton campaign advisors were highly supportive of the effort. The leaked emails also revealed that the Sunrise Project’s executive directors were actively seeking ways to keep the identities of their financial supporters a secret. 14

The chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia condemned the effort and called for a “rethink of the oversight of environmental groups that operate as charities and that have tax-deductible recipient status.” 15


  1. “John Hepburn – Greenpeace’s Asia Pacific Climate Energy Campaign Leader.” The UWS Communication Arts Students’ Blog, November 8, 2009. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://uwscommartsstudents.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/john-hepburn-greenpeace%E2%80%99s-asia-pacific-climate-energy-campaign-leader/.
  2. “Sam La Rocca.” Linked In. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://au.linkedin.com/in/sam-la-rocca-454890b0.
  3. “People.” The Sunrise Project. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://sunriseproject.org/people/
  4. “Global Impact Initiative.” Global Impact Initiative. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://www.globalimpactinitiative.com.au/.
  5. “Shifting Global Finance beyond Fossil Fuels.” The Sunrise Project, September 2, 2022. Accessed May 23, 2023https://sunriseproject.org/project/shifting-global-finance/.
  6. “Shifting Global Finance beyond Fossil Fuels.” The Sunrise Project. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://sunriseproject.org/project/shifting-global-finance/.
  7. “Vanguard’s Efforts to Navigate Climate Activism Get Messy.” Investment News, April 6, 2023. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://www.investmentnews.com/vanguards-efforts-to-navigate-climate-activism-get-messy-235999.
  8. “Transforming Australia from Climate Laggard to Leader.” The Sunrise Project. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://sunriseproject.org/project/moving-australia-beyond-coal/.
  9. Bloomberg Professional Services. Accessed May 11, 2023. https://assets.bbhub.io/dotorg/sites/65/2021/02/AnnualReport2020.pdf.
  10. The Sunrise Project. “2021 Annual Report.” Accessed May 10, 2023. https://sunriseproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/The-Sunrise-Project-2021-Annual-Report.pdf.
  11. “List of Grants 2022.” KR Foundation. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://krfnd.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/List-of-grants_2022_Dec2022_final.pdf.
  12. “List of Grants 2021.” KR Foundation. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://krfnd.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/List-of-grants_2021_final.pdf.
  13. “List of Grants 2020.” KR Foundation. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://krfnd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/List-of-grants_2020_Final.pdf.
  14. “Environment Group Named in WikiLeaks Email Release Responds to Attacks.” The Guardian, October 24, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/24/australian-environment-group-wikileaks-democrat-email-release-responds-attacks.
  15. “Environment Group Named in WikiLeaks Email Release Responds to Attacks.” The Guardian, October 24, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/24/australian-environment-group-wikileaks-democrat-email-release-responds-attacks.
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