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Ecolab Foundation has committed $5 million to the University of Minnesota to support sustainability research and education, including a new conference series.

“Our gift is designed to support sustainability thought leadership for years to come,” said Ecolab CEO Doug Baker in a statement. “Ecolab operates at the nexus of business and sustainability, and this investment from the Ecolab Foundation will encourage collaboration between the university and the business community to ensure a secure, sustainable future for everyone.”

The gift will fund $2.25 million in scholarships, a $2 million fund for an endowed chair of the Institute on the Environment and underwriting of a new conference series focusing on major environmental challenges. The Institute on the Environment will host three biennial conferences that are expected to start in 2020.

“Public-private partnerships are essential to making real progress on sustainability and addressing the impacts of climate change,” said Jessica Hellmann, director of the U’s Institute on the Environment who will be the first Ecolab Chair for Environmental Leadership.

St. Paul-based Ecolab generates about $14 billion a year in sales selling cleaning, sanitizing and fluid separation chemicals and services to the hospitality industry, hospitals and oil companies.

After federal reforms that cut the tax rate, Ecolab committed $25 million contribution to its corporate foundation.

The foundation made grants worth $6.5 million to $8.2 million in the last several years, according to tax filings. In 2016, it made $7.1 million in grants, most of it to civic and community causes, and $628,000 in environmental and conservation grants.

The $5 million gift to the U will be a one-time grant that will be paid over several years and will be on top of the foundation’s usual grant-making programs.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926