A very dear friend of mine passed away this past weekend. Tessa Tennant has often been called the godmother of Sustainable Investing. She created so many organisations that helped build the infrastructure that we have now. Carbon Disclosure Project, UKSIF, Asian Social Responsible Investing, ICE (not Trump’s storm troopers) and countless others. She co-founded the UK’s first green investment fund in 1988, called the Merlin Ecology Fund. What were you doing in 1988? Now everything seems so much easier with respect to Values Based Investing.
Most of us stood on her shoulders, at one time, to get to where we are now. People forget that. It is easy to ride the wave of money flows going into ESG and Impact Investing, occurring now. That was not the case in the 1980’s. We should never forget that. Tessa was the polite, civilised, passionate, determined, terrier that just would not let go once she got her teeth into something. I admired her immensely for that, because it was easy to give up as the forces against ESG and Impact were monumental.
My wife used to call Tessa an eco-warrior, but the way she pronounced it, it sounded like “eco-worrier”. My family has known Tessa for a very long time, close to a quarter century. What I loved about Tessa is she knew how to laugh and have fun. She invited my son (Sam) and myself to her home (Glen House) near Edinburgh. It snowed the night, we arrived and the next day, she organized some make shift sleds (boxes, and garbage lids to slide down the hill. Sam and I loved it. Tessa loved to play games. She was great at scrabble, we never had a chance.
When she decided to quit her job and go to Asia to start the Asian Social Responsible Investing Association, I was happy that she had an important project. What most don’t know about Tessa, is that she is frugal (understatement). Lives simply and travels so light that she could fit her carry one in the back of the seat in front of her, where you normally can put your phone or papers. Never understood how she did that. I visited her in Hong Kong at her “home” which was a shack on the rooftop of apartment. Few realise how simply she lived and how little she took for herself to achieve her goal of changing the mindset of the financial sector in Asia. Totally self-sacrificing.
In November of last year, she invited Rieki (my wife) and I, along with a few other friends to Glen House to be together. No agenda, just taking the time to be together and take the time for reflection. In contrast to most who respond when you say I am in town, “ok lets grab a quick coffee at Starbucks and walk for 5 minutes to catch up,” Tessa and Bill (her husband) created a welcoming environment for us to reflect, enjoy, chat, walk, eat, drink and just live in that moment together and be there for each other. From that weekend, the seeds were sown for TBLI Impact Retreat which we will hold at Glen House in Sept, this year. The response was so overwhelming, that we are sold out and plan to hold it regularly at Glen. At least, until Bill gets tired of my jokes.
Tessa was always a great guest, as she blended in, and participated fully. The laugh was infectious and she thoroughly enjoyed my Curb Your Enthusiasm, George Carlin humour. She kept prodding me to finish my book using all the funny stories and quotes, and I will. Most important. She made a lasting impression on me and everyone who took the time to know her. She was the ultimate mensch. A person of great honour and value, that left the world in a far better place than how she found it.
Tessa, I am sending you one of my best and warmest hugs. I will miss our chats and walks. I can promise you that the Retreats will continue and we are all in your debt. Many are cutting the ribbons for the photo ops, but it was you that dug the holes.
Your physical being is gone but your spirit will always be there and it will manifest itself often, when we least expect it. Keep laughing. Big hug.