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Home > Spotlight
 
Investing in sustainability

8 January 2013

Building on its success in 2012, the Zayed Future Energy Prize, launched in 2008 and managed by Masdar, will award five distinct categories during its 2013 awards ceremony.

The initiative represents the vision of the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE, who championed environmental stewardship and sustainability as a fundamental aspect of the UAE’s heritage. The annual award celebrates achievements that reflect impact, innovation, long-term vision and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize has recognised some of the most innovative, visionary leaders in global sustainability. Winners, finalists, and other entrants have made a significant positive impact on the world’s environment with their path-breaking solutions.

In a six-part series, we profile organisations that have shown leadership and long-term vision in championing the cause of renewable energy and sustainability. The fourth organisation we profile is Ceres, which has been nominated in the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) category.

Founded 23 years ago, Ceres, a non-profit organisation, mobilises investors and business leaders to foster a thriving, sustainable global economy that meets the current needs of the world without compromising on the prosperity of future generations. It founded the Investor Network on Climate Risk in 2003, which now comprises 101 investors with US$10.7 trillion in combined assets. Ceres uses investor influence to pressure companies, industries and regulators to reduce carbon emissions and expand clean energy.

In an interview, Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, talks about her organisation’s achievements, future plans and the biggest issues facing renewable energy adoption.

What are your achievements 
to date?

On its founding, Ceres introduced a bold vision for the business community: a world in which business and capital markets promote the well-being of the society and protection of the earth’s environment. For nearly a quarter of a century, Ceres has driven sustainability into the core DNA of key economic institutions including major corporations, institutional investors, stock exchanges and credit rating agencies, promoting them to act as catalysts for the fundamental change needed if humankind is to continue thriving on this planet.

Identifying the capital markets as a vital – and a previously unengaged – lever for change, Ceres was the world’s first NGO to make the case that pension funds – in their fiduciary duty to maximise the long-term value of their assets – need to address climate and clean energy-related risks and opportunities in their portfolios.

Ceres pioneered harnessing the influence of investors to spur companies and policymakers to take bold climate action. In 2003, Ceres founded the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR).

In addition, Ceres had recently partnered with investor networks in Europe, Australia, and Asia to mobilise investors with US$20 trillion in assets to call on the world’s governments to enact bold climate and energy policies.

The Ceres’ 21st Century Roadmap, leveraging Ceres’ INCR, calls on companies including 1,000 of the world’s largest organisations to set sustainability goals at the board level, tie compensation to sustainability goals, and integrate those goals in the design of R&D and strategic planning, products, facilities and throughout the enterprise. Companies are beginning to adopt the Roadmap and working with Ceres to implement comprehensive sustainability programmes throughout their enterprises.

Ceres has developed a unique portfolio of tools and relationships with investors and businesses that can help build a sustainable future – our mission has never been more urgent. Ceres is motivated by the severity of the challenges we face and the opportunities our 23 years of action have developed.

Should you take home the prize, what do you plan to do with the prize fund?

Engage major corporations and their global supply chains in the implementation of new business strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, source renewable energy and preserve water and other resources

Decarbonise the electric power and transportation sectors by advancing low and no-carbon electricity generation infrastructure including clean transportation choices that create jobs and stimulate sustainable economic development

Mobilise the insurance industry to encourage broad, aggressive action on climate change and clean energy

Expand coalitions of companies and investors advocating bold public policies to steeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand efficiency and renewable energy

Expand international investor collaboration and leadership on renewable energy, through a new global investor coalition on climate change representing US$20 trillion in assets

Work with companies to integrate sustainable practices in their operations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and source renewable energy.

What would you say are the biggest areas of expansion and/or growth markets for your organisation?

Investors: Ceres will expand international investor collaboration on renewable energy. Specific activities will include collaboration with investor organisations working on climate change including the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). We will also encourage the development of low-carbon investment products and strategies suitable for institutional investors.

Ceres had recently formalised an agreement with our international counterparts and created a global investor coalition on climate change representing US$20 trillion in assets. Ceres will leverage the force of its international partners to mobilise companies, steer investment into climate solutions, and spur investors to take greater leadership. Ceres will continue to grow this international community of investors that supports sustainable energy innovation.

Insurance Industry: Ceres is the only NGO in the US working with insurance regulators on climate issues. In February 2012, after a five-year advocacy effort by Ceres, US state insurance regulators mandated insurers to assess and disclose climate risk impacts – lighting a fire under the world’s largest industry that, with $5 trillion of annual revenues, influences virtually all economic activity. Building upon its nearly decade-long track record of engagement with the sector on this issue, Ceres is now uniquely positioned to influence the industry to take meaningful action and accelerate our insurance industry initiatives.

Companies: Ceres will mobilise leading businesses to purchase renewable energy and support policies that incentivise clean energy. Businesses have an enormous role to play in addressing the threats of climate change, through their products, operations, as well as social and political influence. Thus, Ceres will continue to recruit companies to join our Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) network.

We also encourage companies in the Ceres network to develop climate strategies and set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency in line with the 21st Century Corporation: Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, which is now being used by hundreds of companies to accelerate the uptake of sustainable business practices.

Ceres Network companies are well ahead of their industry peers on key sustainability metrics such as lower greenhouse gas emissions, investment in renewable energy, and strong water stewardship. Nearly half of our major companies have time-bound greenhouse gas targets closely aligned with the reductions that climate scientists say are needed.

What, in your opinion, are the three biggest issues facing renewable energy adoption?

Reduced government investment in renewable energy

Barriers to deployment of private capital

Outdated business models

What do you think of the newly launched Global High School Prize category?

The newly launched Global High School Prize will inspire and reward youth leadership and bring their fresh thinking into the dialogue. Additionally, this generation, which has grown up in today’s globalised and digitalised world, is well suited to work out of any part of the world and address such challenges. Bringing together young leaders from across continents, the Global High School Prize highlights the need for international activity and leverages this generation’s strengths.

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