Show me the money!

TBLI has worked for the last 20 years to educate asset owners and managers about ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) and Impact Investing. Through our conferences, seminars, salons, private dinners, lectures, MBA programs, we have been able to build capacity and get “buy in” around sustainable investment. This capacity building is essential but thankless. There is no great ribbon cutting ceremony. It is about digging holes and not cutting ribbons. The process is farming not hunting. It takes time.

Throughout the 20 years of capacity building, I have always been asked for more research about ESG and Impact  by the financial industry. I often wonder will more research unlock more money flows towards ESG and Impact. I am not that convinced that that is the main bottleneck. The financial sector is quite predictable. If they see self interest, opportunity and money flows, they will invest. Does more research achieve that? On its own, I don’t believe so. It helps, but many investors use this as excuse for not investing.

Take a look at the financial crisis of 2007-2008. There were many reasons for the collapse. One particular product that triggered the melt down; namely, subprime collateralized debt obligations backed by financially unsound mortgages. How much research was done on that product as a risk? I couldn’t find very much. That didn’t stop the massive tsunami of money that went into it.

Research is important and it needs to be continued. However, we need to strengthen its impact by aligning with the drivers of the financial sector; self interests, opportunities and money flows. This can be achieved through continued efforts on research, seminars, editorials, investor salons, conferences, retreats, learning journeys, inspirational talks, private dinners, and other forms of capacity building. TBLI will continue these capacity building efforts on ESG and Impact  Investing.

Nearly all phone calls I receive from mega banks or institutional investors is not about the latest research, but “what is my competitor doing”. To paraphrase Rod from Jerry Maguire “SHOW ME THE MONEY”.

Help us increase our capacity building by making a donation to TBLI Foundation.

Day off to Reflect

Every year on Feb. 9th, my birthday, I take a day off to reflect on the past year and the coming year and just chill.  I will be doing that tomorrow. Thanks to those who have already sent me birthday wishes. 2016 will be a year of great transition. Looking forward to each moment.

If you want to do something special for my birthday, give a donation to TBLI Foundation

I hope you enjoy this speech I recently gave in Stockholm. My dear friend Karl-Henrik (Kalle) Robert of The Natural Step organised the StepWise Conference-The Future of Leadership is Now. It was particularly special because King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden was in attendance. What was even more surprising is that he stayed to hear my talk, and enjoyed it. Thank you Kalle for the kind invitation and wonderful experience.


New Year. New Beginnings

Best wishes for New Year. Let’s keep the momentum in ESG and Impact Investing going. I am very optimistic of significant breakthroughs on many fronts, which will ultimately lead to more money flows.

Singapore Bankers Association announced a major leap forward this past year with the guidelines on Responsible Financing. In addition, SGX (Singapore Exchange) announced plans to increase the transparency of governance with sustainability reporting on a “comply or explain” basis”. These initiatives are important and we applaud these actions, as well as all the social entrepreneurs showing that one can achieve a financial return as well as a social and environmental added value.

Impact Investors Meeting

BiD Network’s Women in Business competition

On january 14 the finalists will take part in ‘Bridge the Gap’ and investor meetings will also be organised.

Yellow Star Food Products Ltd (Uganda)

Yellow Star was founded in 1997 and registered in 2014, and produces nutritive cassava flour, soya bean flour for children and adults, soya paste and ground nuts. The company sources all its inputs from contracted women and farmer groups from the North of Uganda. Women are supported and trained in various ways and cooperatives are founded and made bankable. Here is a video to get an impression of Florence Okoth, the founder of Yellow Star

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) (Rwanda)

SHE is a social for-profit entity in Rwanda that produces affordable menstrual pads while at the same time providing health education and advocacy for girls and women. Currently 18% of the women and girls in Rwanda miss out on over 50 days of school or work due to a lack of menstrual pads. SHE uses a US patented production process to transform fibres from banana trees into the “fluff” needed for menstrual pads. From sourcing banana fibers, to factory employment and distribution of the pads mainly women are involved. The price of a pack of 10 pads is Rwf 500, Rwf 100 cheaper that the cheapest benchmark and half the price of imported pads.They are developing a new production line together with Johnson & Johnson, with which they have a partnership agreement. To meet the demand, an investment is necessary to purchase more machines to create an extra 150 pads per day per machine. Please have a look at this video to get an impression of SHE.

Impact Entrepreneur

Check out this inspiring Israeli company addressing the waste and energy problem

New Year Paradigm Shift and TBLI Super Heroes

Well we made it. 2015 is nearly over and a climate deal was signed in December. Very historic and potentially the paradigm shift that we all wanted. It was not the deal that many fought so hard to achieve, but it is a major signal to the financial sector and thus the economy. Carbon will be a cost. Those in the carbon intensive industry will face major challenges to their business models, that they might not be able to handle. Those involved in zero to low carbon industries should find a great deal of interest for investment. At least long term.

What I missed most in Paris on the podium is all the faces of all the thousands of carbon warriors, or as my wife pronounces “carbon worriers” from the non-profit, for profit and not for loss who worked for years to make this agreement a reality. There were many photo ops with billionaires, and vips, during the Paris talks,  who had not been investing their money into low carbon industries, but they had a big announcement so the cameras were working overtime. To all those thousands and tens of thousands who were not part of the photo op and should have been, I salute your determination, to push this through.  You all know who you are, as I do. Thank you.

For the cynics who want to focus on what was not achieved please read this editorial, Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments in the Guardian by George Monbiot

TBLI Super Heroes

I regularly write about people who I felt were TBLI Heros because they worked in creating an economy based upon well being. Two TBLI Heroes who should be classified as TBLI Super Heroes are Iris Bune and Stephanie Gerteiser. There is no one who has worked harder, with fewer resources, and achieved more than Iris and Stephanie. In case you don’t know them, Iris and Stephanie both work at TBLI. Iris has been head of operations  and Stephanie has been  conference curator.

If you have ever tried to organise an international conference you know how challenging that can be. Now try to organise an international conference in Chicago, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Singapore and Zurich in 12 months, when you are only two people working part time. Through it all Iris and Stephanie maintain a great sense of humour and passion for the mission.

Iris and Stephanie don’t get much attention or praise, other than from me, but they make TBLI Conference seem effortless and running like a Swiss Watch. When I go and make my opening remarks and everything is running perfectly, people look at me in awe. They should be admiring  Iris and Stephanie. Thank you very much for making my job seem so easy and being such brilliant, authentic human beings. We all benefit from your tireless commitment. Enjoy your holidays. Well deserved.

Holiday Thoughts post Paris

“ The gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and, jails for the people who break them. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads…And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not account for the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our love for each other, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning. The gross national product measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and itcan tell us everything about us– except whether we are a good people. . . .“

Robert F. Kennedy, May 1968, Chicago

Maybe Paris Climate Agreement will be the start of measuring what matters most. I hope so.

For all of you I wish you a peaceful holiday, and an exciting 2016. Let us hope that all of our dreams come true. Maybe even some nightmares (President Trump?)