SRI at the World Economic Forum & EPA Intern Speaks Truth to Power


What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, ……and what you hear
whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Matthew 10:27

Anyone who likes the quote above, may have also wanted a public conversation between Tim Mohen and  Larry Fink at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos

Mr. Mohen is the CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which promotes verifiable annual corporate sustainability reports. Mr. Fink is CEO of Blackrock, the investment firm which manages $6T of investments.  As many will recall, Mr. Fink recently published what I call the #TheBlackRockProclamation which warns companies looking for investment capital to have a societal purpose and not just to pursue profits.

It was an important letter from a man with great influence over corporate behavior. But how would Blackrock encourage greater corporate sustainability? That was not answered in his letter. Blackrock does not have a GRI report that I could find. Nor does it provide information on the nature, scope, or scale of its portfolio’s sustainability impacts, hence my interest in seeing Mr. Fink sitting awhile with Mr. Mohen.  Imagine Blackrock demanding an annual sustainability report from all its investee companies and their supply chains!

Mr. Fink said little publicly at Davos that made me think there much power behind his proclamation. Indeed, his remarks on The Remaking of Global Finance panel defined financial inclusion as participation in the stock market.  With over half the world’s population living on around $2.50 day, this was exceptionally disappointing. (Write me for a transcript of his comments, or you can listen to his panel recording at this link).

I will have a conversation later this week with Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit, Jennifer Boynton, on this and other topics . You won’t want to miss what she has to say. (Look for the podcast soon).

By contrast, I was pleasantly surprised to see two articles pop up together coincidentally in my bookmark tagging app. (See photo) The only way this juxtaposition could have been better was if an Exxon Valdez article also popped.  The images made think of New York City’s leadership on clean energy. The city has a two pronged clean energy strategy of divesting from fossil fuels and suing the oil companies. This approach will ‘fuel’ a growing a community non-federal government support for clean energy, while putting capitalism efficiently to work for change.

(Note: The anniversary of the Exxon Valdez is coming up on March 24th. It will be the 28th anniversary of the spill, a truly defining environmental moment for Gen Xer’s. Check out an earlier blog of mine examining Gen X and Millennial sustainability investment outlooks, research I did for my book Invest Like You Give a Damn.)

Now to prove I am not always a cynic…. I read a most incredible article last week. It was written by Katie Miller, an intern at the US Environmental Protection Agency last summer.  In it, she tells us how she spoke truth to power. Incredible in ordinary times, set in the context of disgraceful political disregard for scientific truth and rampant use of political power, her story gives us hope and resolve.

Finally, Fred Bentler, a tweet friend, caught me out for being loose with facts. A tweet of mine inferred too much climate concern at Davos focused on risk, and not change per se.  I implied that wealthy, asset-at-risk owners feared asset devaluation. Not that this is entirely bad, my point was they care because they have something to loose now. Such motivation would speak ill of their leadership, and, more importantly, to supporting change on the broad range of other pressing sustainability issues (e.g., see my article on Walmart which is good on environment not so good on labor). Fred sent me the graph (beside), which reminded me that people did care about climate for peoples and habitats sake, and not just about risk.

The poll does shows legitimate and credible climate concern. But if you look at who was polled, you find world “leaders” were greatly out-numbered by advocates, (e.g., NGO, government, and community leaders etc.). So, whose opinion are being represented? Is it the leaders?  And as I said in a retweet to Fred: it’s not the opinions reported in the graphic that I doubt.


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