Sustainability & ESG

"What a long strange trip it's been"   — Jerry Garcia (Songwriter)

Sustainability is imperative and energy is vital to the equation

As the product of a feminist social worker mother and Republican energy economist father (I’m still trying to figure that one out) I was likely predisposed to a career toward the business end of sustainability.

“Predisposed” being the operative word. I definitely took the scenic route.

I started in “Big Energy” finance. Nuclear, coal, that sort of thing. The types of deals that drove league tables, oiled the investment banking machine, and greased year-end bonus pools. This was my introduction to ESG.

  • Environmental: Learned about the environment contending with pipeline leaks, refinery explosions, oil spills, coal fires, and dam breaks and writing CYA legalese under headings like “Environmental Risks” and “Environmental Litigation.”
  • Social: Figured out that “social” means more than exclusive black-tie soirées as hydroelectric projects displaced people and submerged historical cultural sites, and as military coups and asset seizures highlighted socio-political risk.
  • Governance: Received an up-close-and-personal schooling in corporate governance, transparency, and ethics (not to mention accounting wizardry and off-balance sheet magic) from Enron and a few other corporate miscreants.

At some point the voice of responsibility grew louder than clinking glasses at closing dinners and I set out to align my work and values. I made a categorical commitment to sustainability a decade ago and there’s no looking back.

“Some point” might have been the absurdity of simultaneously marketing a wind energy deal and IPO of a nuclear fuel company run by a contractor in the ballistic missiles and toxic chemicals trade, and supplied (Uranium) by a country known to “disappear” dissenters.

That defining career threshold came when I co-founded — with my father and mentor — Target Rock Advisors, an energy- and environment-focused sustainability research firm. I’ve since made contributions in several areas:

Investment Research

  • Designed/coded fully-integrated ESG and financial/valuation model
  • Identified links between ESG and risk, credit quality, equity returns
  • Created a family of sustainability indexes with S&P and Bloomberg

Reporting & Accounting

  • Collaborated with GRI and SASB on energy metrics and materiality
  • Liaised with industry NGOs (i.e., EEI, EPRI, and EUISSCA) re: above
  • Assisted GRI in mapping GRI standards to other reporting systems

Messaging & Engagement

  • Advised energy executives on CSR stakeholder engagement strategy
  • Helped Investor Relations with financial community ESG messaging
  • Consulted on sustainability-related marketing and advertising copy

Education & Awareness

  • Contributed to the Kellogg School's curriculum ("Impact Investing")
  • Served as guest lecturer (on SRI/ESG investing) at other universities
  • Presented at sustainability conferences (Wall Street Green Summit)

I wouldn’t trade those early years for anything, however. I worked for a progressive firm where I also covered wind and solar, helped create a Corporate Diversity program, and participated in philanthropy and community service.

They were also the ultimate education in investing and finance.