When you think of an activist, what image comes to mind? We have been hearing from students, world leaders and royalty alike. Last week we watched scientists in a desperate plea to bring awareness to the IPCC report findings that we are on a fast track to a climate disaster. A group of climate scientists locked themselves to an entrance of the JP Morgan Chase building in Los Angeles. “I feel like the climate scientists have kind of done our job,” said Dr. Kalmus, the Los Angeles-based scientist. “We’ve laid it out pretty clearly, but nobody’s doing anything.” JP Morgan Chase became a target because it funds the most new fossil fuel projects.
In a different sector, we are seeing an advocacy for government regulation from investors. Tariq Fancy, former global chief investment officer for sustainable investing at BlackRock, decries that ESG investing is nothing but “marketing hype” and “disingenuous promises”. Fancy’s stance is that government, not corporates, must take the lead to solve critical systemic challenges. Simply because corporates are not structured nor have the democratic legitimacy required to lead effectively.
Sustainable investing is attracting a lot of interest in the last few years. The Institute of International Finance is projecting US$7 trillion annually by 2025. However, an independent report discovered that 71% of ESG equity funds assessed were misaligned from global climate targets. Words like “sustainable” and “ethical” are used liberally to brand funds with little legal scrutiny. It allows asset managers to approach sustainability-conscious investors and justify the added fees for creating a portfolio of ESG-themed products. However, new legislation from the European Union (EU) will require investment funds to justify their labelling of a product as ‘sustainable’ with direct reference to EU standards.
You don’t have to wear a white coat or pin-striped suit to yield influence. The power remains with ordinary people. Employees are increasingly aware of social inequality and climate change and are holding employers to accountability. Marc Benioff, Founder & CEO of Salesforce considers activism as a modern — and an evolving — expectation. “CEOs have to realize that Millennials are coming into the organization and expecting the CEO to represent the values of that organization, he said.”
It takes a voice to be that catalytic force for change. What’s yours?
For examples of brands using their voices for good check out our blog from last year