Ceres Global 2023 is the annual gathering of the Boston-based non-profit that partners with leaders in the capital markets industry to promote sustainability.
While Covid forced postponement of the organisation’s main event the past couple of years, 500+ attendees in New York City this week illustrated the depth of the educational, networking, policy-making and collaboration relationships Ceres has fostered with private sector companies, investors, and non-government organisation (NGO) leaders.
Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and recipient of the United Nations Champions of the Earth award for her leadership on climate change and sustainability, voiced a theme in her opening address that was repeated by many other speakers during the day’s educational sessions. Her message was clear: “We need to protect our freedom to invest,” reminding political leaders of the fiduciary duty of any investor to consider all material risks - including those posed by environmental and social factors - when deciding where to put their investment dollars.
Lubber shared that more than 270 investors and companies have already signed a statement Ceres prepared to counter recent attacks from some local, state, and national figures against the use of sustainability-based criteria in investment decisions. In addition, leaders from several prominent companies used the Ceres platform to voice their views on the importance of their own firms’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs. They also spoke of the opportunities sustainability and social awareness initiatives offered for financial growth.
Learning sessions during Ceres Global’s first full day (following internal meetings as well as events conducted in concert with United Nations Water Conference and World Water Day earlier this week) ranged literally and figuratively all across the map.
They covered issues from clean energy investments in marginalized or industrially devastated communities in the US, to building stronger partnerships with cross-border suppliers, partners, and customers of household names in the food industry, to several meetings on the importance of water protection, including its responsible use, and replenishment everywhere around the globe..
Large group and breakout seminars featured news on recent industry and legislative developments. National leaders like senior advisor to President Biden for clean energy innovation and implementation John Podesta and Ali Zaidi, national climate advisor and leader of the White House Climate Policy Office spoke on initiatives and future plans from Washington. In a sensible, practical address, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, outlined why historically mistreated and low wealth communities should logically be considered first in line for new Inflation Reduction Act climate change action funding.
Former Vice President Al Gore highlighted the afternoon schedule with a folksy, yet hard-hitting fireside chat analysis with Ceres’s Lubber of the present state of sustainability and climate protection efforts. Gore proudly emphasised that wind and solar generation are now so inexpensive that “99 out of 100 coal-burning electrical generating plants in this country can be shut down more profitably” than left to operate vs. the lower cost of clean alternatives.
The voluble Tennessean shared details on several of his environmental/business partnership initiatives while highlighting other key energy production developments. One surprising fact?
“90% of all new electricity generating plants installed worldwide in 2022 use renewable energy”. He and Lubber - given frequent applause and standing ovations from the crowd at Gore’s entrance and exit - trumpeted the accomplishments of the sustainability movement over the past twenty years. They also acknowledged the hurdles to continued environmental and social progress still looming ahead. But with his characteristic optimism the former VP concluded, “We’re gaining momentum and soon I think we’ll be gaining momentum on the crisis itself."