Over three years ago, I co-launched a programme to encourage the solar (PV) photovoltaic industry to address the social and environmental impacts of the manufacture and deployment of the technology. In late March 2012 this initiative took a critical step forward when the US industry formally launched their commitment to sustainability.
In mid-March we were lucky enough to hear Jeremy Grantham speak in London. For those unfamiliar with his work, Grantham is something of a living legend in the investment community. He is the founder of GMO, a global asset management company which now has nearly $100bn under management. The success his investment skills brought him with GMO has allowed his foundation to sponsor two of the UK’s leading climate change research organizations: the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, and the Grantham Research Institute at the LSE.
As an undergraduate studying environmental science in the 1990s, one of the first tasks I was asked to consider was why the authors of the seminal 1972 report The Limits to Growth1 were wrong. This report, produced by the influential think-tank The Club of Rome, had confidently asserted that increases in human population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and the depletion of natural resources would ultimately lead to the collapse of critical ecosystems. At the time, several commentators retorted that the authors had not properly accounted for technological responses to these trends, and this was the critique adopted by our university lecturers.
The Governator created the R20 in 2011 having seen during his tenure as Governor of California the power of regional Governments to effect action on climate change ‘from the bottom up’, irrespective of the pace of action ‘top down’ from national Governments and internationally. In 2006 Schwarzenegger signed into law California’s ground-breaking ‘Assembly Bill 32’ which mandated a raft of state-wide programmes to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Schwarzenegger reminded us that today California, the world’s 8th largest economy, achieves every unit of GDP using 40% less energy than the rest of the United States. He also commented that State Governors, the mayors of major cities, council or borough chiefs and other regional authorities across the World have the ability to effect significant change on their patch. Working together the effectiveness of that ‘grassroots’ activity can be magnified.
For this first blog I wanted to set out the qualities and cultural values that we have at WHEB Asset Management. When the two teams (the original WAM team and the ex-Henderson SRI team members) first started speaking to each other this is the framework that we set out for us to strive towards. This is not a business strategy, but a vision of some of the cultural qualities that we would like to see this business embody: