Ceres Launches New Center to Accelerate Efforts to Transform Capital Markets and Drive Wholesale Action on Climate Crisis

Oct 21, 2019 8:45 PM ET
Campaign: Climate Change

October 21, 2019 /3BL Media/ - The nonprofit organization Ceres announced today it is launching a new multi-million dollar center to ramp up efforts to transform the practices and policies that govern capital markets in order to accelerate wholesale action on reducing the worst financial impacts of the global climate crisis and other sustainability threats. The new center, named the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets (the “Ceres Accelerator”) will build on the organization’s three decades of leadership in making and strengthening the business case for integrating sustainability into capital markets.

“Private and public sector progress is not happening fast enough or with the right level of ambition to tackle the financial impacts of not only the climate crisis, but the growing threats around deforestation, and water scarcity and pollution,” said Ceres CEO and President Mindy Lubber. “We need to change our capital market systems in order to move faster and more boldly than ever before at the speed and scale required to avoid catastrophe. The Ceres Accelerator will deliver on this ambition and drive the urgent systems and policy changes we need to power a net-zero carbon, sustainable economy.”

The Ceres Accelerator will first focus on two flagship initiatives that aim to exponentially activate capital market influencers to tackle systemic financial risks and drive the large-scale behavior and systems change needed to influence capital allocation across the broader economy. It also will seek to build thought leadership and develop new solutions by incubating novel strategies, strengthening partnerships with allied organizations and institutions, as well as exploring other opportunities to innovate.  The initial efforts include: 

  • Moving financial regulators and other quasi-regulatory and legislative bodies, such as the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by demonstrating that climate change is a systemic financial risk which regulators must address to preserve the stability of the financial system.
  • Work with the world’s most influential asset owners to transition their investment portfolios to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and advocate for a price on carbon at the national and global levels.

Ceres is pursuing these new initiatives to drive the large-scale transformation we need to stave off the worsening financial impacts of the climate crisis on our economy and planet. Studies show the crisis could cost the U.S. up to 10.5 percent of its gross domestic product by 2100.  Heat waves, wildfires, and other extreme weather events, and rising sea levels could cost hundreds of billions of dollars in lost labor, reduced crop yields, health problems and crumbling infrastructure.

Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time high and continue to rise, warming the planet at a rapid rate. Scientists warn that we have to work urgently to limit average global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. This means cutting emissions nearly in half by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050, significantly increasing the level of new investment in low-carbon technologies, resilient infrastructure, energy efficiency, and pricing carbon.

“We have to undertake a multi-faceted approach to address climate and sustainability-related risks in our investment portfolios,” said Tony Davis, CEO and CIO of Inherent Group, and a member of Ceres board of directors. “Investors now will be supported by the Ceres Accelerator through new thought leadership tools and a variety of new strategic approaches. Only by working with other capital market influencers will we be able to reduce systemic financial risks across every asset class.”

“We need to act with the urgency our climate emergency demands – and that means reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a scale that reaches across the entire economy,” said Scott Stringer, New York City Comptroller, and a member of Ceres board of directors. “The Ceres Accelerator is a landmark step in our climate efforts and will help us find the market levers and policies we need to make real change.”

“The Ceres Accelerator will provide a necessary lever for investors to address systemic financial climate risks more quickly and collaboratively,” said Betty T. Yee, California State Comptroller, and a member of the board of directors at two of the largest pension funds, CalPRS and CalSTRS, and Ceres. “If we are to transition to net- zero-carbon economy with the urgency required, then we can’t do it alone. We are counting on Ceres as a partner and thought leader to help drive forward this coordinated effort and effectively take on the challenge head on.” 

This announcement comes as Ceres celebrates its 30th anniversary. The past three decades, Ceres has had tremendous success in moving individual investors, companies, policymakers, and even some key regulators to integrate sustainability into capital markets. 

  • Launched the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in 1997, the standard for corporate sustainability reporting now used by nearly 14,000 companies
  • Framed climate change and water scarcity and pollution as financial and material risks and helped establish “climate risk” and “water risk” as global investment concepts
  • Co-organized the first Investor Summit on Climate Risk at the United Nations in 2003
  • Mobilized investors to successfully petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2010 to issue guidance on corporate reporting of material climate risks
  • Coordinated an unprecedented global investor engagement collaboration, Climate Action 100+, to move some of the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters on climate change
  • Worked with corporate boards to fully integrate sustainability risks and opportunities into governance structures

Ceres achievements have led to a dramatic expansion of corporate sustainability practices, including improved climate-related disclosure and reporting, a rapid growth in responsible investing, wider recognition of climate and water-related risks, a significant increase in investor engagement on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and a range of commitments to align strategies with what scientists say is necessary to limit global warming. 

“Ceres has a proven history, working alongside private and public sector leaders to confront global sustainability threats with robust action,” said Barney Schauble of Nephila Capital, and chair of the Ceres board of directors. The Schauble family donated the seed funding to launch the Ceres Accelerator. “But we can’t reduce or eliminate these threats without changing the practices and policies that govern our capital markets. This donation represents my family's full faith in Ceres to drive change at the pace and scale needed to revitalize our capital market systems.” 

“Current efforts are falling short -- and the financial regulators and policymakers that govern our capital markets need to address climate change as a systemic financial risk,” said Jack Ehnes, CEO of California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), and a member of the Ceres board of directors. “The Ceres Accelerator will reshape the systems and call for stronger policies, including a price on carbon to create the market signals needed to drive clean energy investments and strengthen capital markets.”

In addition to the seed funding, Ceres is looking to secure $5 million to grow the Ceres Accelerator. For more information, go to: www.ceres.org/accelerator.  

About Ceres
Ceres is a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Through powerful networks and advocacy, Ceres tackles the world’s biggest sustainability challenges, including climate change, water scarcity and pollution, and inequitable workplaces.

About Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets 
The Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets (the “Ceres Accelerator”) aims to transform the practices and policies that govern capital markets in order to accelerate action on reducing the worst financial impacts of the global climate crisis and other sustainability threats. The Ceres Accelerator will spur capital market influencers to act on these systemic financial risks and drive the large-scale behavior and systems change needed to achieve a net-zero carbon economy and a just and sustainable future. For more information visit: ceres.org/accelerator.