In March, I did an extensive road show in Asia, visiting Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. It was quite intense. Some days I had nearly 8 meetings, but definitely worth it.
What struck me the most is that Asia has gotten the Values Investing bug, big time. Nearly all the presentations that I gave, and the people I met, and executive briefings I had, were not about why, but all about how. It seems a tipping point had been reached, at least by the people I was meeting. They all were curious as to why there was so much interest and what had happened to spark this interest. What were the drivers?
The presentations I made were about how Values (ESG and Impact) Investing had become mainstream and what has happened in the last 25 years to change the mindset of investors. The list below were very influential , as well as the efforts of many building the ecosystem of ESG and Impact, including TBLi.
25 year Milestones
- Carbon Tracker
- Freshfields I & II
- Equator Principles-50m – 10m
- Carbon Disclosure Project
- Montreal Pledge
The Asians all felt that the Europeans were way ahead of the curve and very keen on Values Investing, from the beginning. I had to correct that perception. When TBLI started, there was little to no infrastructure to lay the ground work for ESG and Impact. The notion that the entire financial sector jumped up and gave TBLI a big hug, and embraced us, is a myth. It was a long hard slog.
I remember this experience vividly.
When I started (late 1990’s), I was invited to speak to the Dutch Insurance Association about Climate Risk and Sustainability. I started my talk explaining that a country below sea level should start to be concerned about the risks that rising sea levels would cause. The response from the large insurance Companies present was, “It’s not a problem for us if sea level rises, we don’t cover salt water damage.”. One could be come angry at the low level of understanding of that response, or translate in their language. I chose the later, by saying, “That is true, but you sell mortgages, and if 200.000 homes are submerged in water due to seal level rise, which become worthless, you have a big problem.”
Speaking in the language of the person who you are trying to convince has always been key to TBLI’s approach. The moral imperative doesn’t work unless you show the financial risk and opportunity. Don’t shout loudly in German to someone who speaks Chinese.
“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
We are all an overnight success after 25 years