"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:
- 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.