Today's guest is Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of Ceres. Ceres is a non-profit advocacy organization that works to push companies and capital markets to integrate climate change risks and other world-changing crises into their strategy and planning. Mindy leads an all-women executive leadership team and 125 employees, working to mobilize the most influential investors and companies to tackle the world's biggest sustainability challenges. This not only includes climate change, but also the problems of water scarcity, pollution and workplace inequities. She's been at Ceres’ helm since 2003 and, under her leadership, the organization and its powerful network have grown significantly in size and influence. I've had a couple of other Ceres people on the show: Alicia Seiger, who's on the board, and Barney Schauble, the Chair of the board. Both of them have raved to me about the work that Mindy and the organization does. I was also excited for this episode because Mindy is very plugged in with the sustainability movement as well as with what is on the minds of the companies and institutional investors, who are instrumental in this transition. Enjoy the show! You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
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Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Today's guest is Mindy Luber, CEO, and President of the sustainability nonprofit organization Ceres. Mindy leads an all-women executive leadership team and 125 employees working to mobilize the most influential investors and companies to tackle the world's biggest sustainability challenges, including climate change, water scarcity, and pollution and inequitable workplaces.
She's been at the helm since 2003 and under her leadership, the organization and its powerful networks have grown significantly in size and influence. I've had a couple of other Ceres people on the show so far. Alicia Seiger who's on the board and Barney Schauble. Who's the chair of the board. And both of them have raved to me about the work that Mindy does and that Ceres does. I was also excited for this episode because Mindy is very plugged in, not just with the sustainability movement and how things have tracked over time, where we sit today and where we're going, but also specifically. What is on the minds of the CEOs and the C-suite of the biggest companies in the world and the big institutional investors who are so important in helping this transition to happen.
Mindy Luber, welcome to the show.
Mindy Lubber: Fun to be here. Thanks, Jason.
Jason Jacobs: I'm really excited for this one. I have already, as you know, had on the show, Alicia Saiger and Barney Schauble, both of whom are on the Ceres board, but it's such an honor to have the head honcho come on the show. And, and both of those episodes were focused more on their, their core work and not as much Ceres.
So to, to do a whole episode on Ceres directly is exciting and long overdue.
Mindy Lubber: Well, ready to jump in.
Jason Jacobs: Well, maybe for starters, we'll just, we should just take things from the top for any listeners that don't know what is Ceres?
Mindy Lubber: Ceres is a national sustainability organization. Our unique mission is to integrate sustainability into the capital markets, meaning into what companies do into what the investors do and into the policy sphere, where we look at issues like climate change, water shortages not only is compelling and life changing environmental issues, which they are, and we need to address them for that reason in and of themselves. But they also matter to the economy and businesses need to factor in the impacts of climate, of water, of natural resource depletion into all their business decisions. So our mission is to make sure those facts are correct.
And that integration is happening. We work with over a hundred businesses, 185 investors from the boardroom all the way through to their supply chain to make sure they're integrating the impacts of things like climate change, both for the risks and the opportunities. So, as an example, if you're an insurance company, we want to make sure that you're factoring in the hundreds of billions of dollars of cost to the economy.
From climate related problems, whether it's tsunamis or whether it's the fires in California, but how do you consider that as part of every decision making or if you're the Gap or Levi Strauss, how you're planning around the fact that there will be water shortages and how to bring the incentives to help stop the water shortages.
So their businesses could go on as normal.
Jason Jacobs: And when you say work with, are these member organizations or what's the nature of that working relationship?
Mindy Lubber: You know, that's a great question because we are an advocacy organization. Our job is to set standards and make sure they're high standards and set goals and push hard for those goals.
But generally we don't stand on street corners with placards. So that's a fine set of tactics and strategies for some, we do work directly. We've got, as I said, over a hundred members and the business community over 185 investor members. And we work with them, we train their boards. We work with the staff to set goals around sustainability, ambitious goals, and we work with them to help them find the tools to meet those goals.
But our job is to push and to push hard. We're not a trade association. We're not a business association. We're an advocacy organization that has audacious goals. And our job is to push capital market players, businesses, investors, to change what they're doing on climate, on water, on other sustainability issues and to join us in the policy fight.
When we go up to Capitol Hill, we want to be joined by dozens and dozens of business and financial leaders. So no one can say this is only about tree-huggers or the environment. This is about the future of our world. And it's about the future of our economy and bringing some of those voices into the Capitol Hill debate into our fights and state legislature is an important component of what we do. We've got to change the message, change the messengers. This is about rebuilding and rethinking how we move forward in order to preserve the world for our kids, the planet, but in order to preserve our economy as well.
Jason Jacobs: And I have a bunch of questions about the work that Ceres does as an organization, but before we go there, what is the origin story of the organization? How did it come about and why did it come about?
Mindy Lubber: That's actually an easy enough question to answer 30 years ago. And really, it was just about 30 years ago on the follow-up to the Exxon Valdez oil spill Ceres came about. Two visionary people and environmental leader, Dennis Haze. A financial leader, Joan Bavaria, came together and said, you need to integrate sustainability into capital markets, into everything companies do. And if that were happening, it may well have been that the Exxon Valdez would have had double hold or would have dealt with their ships differently. And we may never have had that disaster. So the problem created the solution set. The solutions set was Ceres 30 years ago. And interestingly enough, and I've been involved with many organizations that morph and change Ceres is doing what we said we were going to do now, which is integrate sustainability into all of that businesses and financial leaders and financial market players do. Were bigger. We're more effective than we were 30 years ago. We were one person then, and we're 120 now. And we've got hundreds of members and businesses and investors who agree that we need to look at a different form of stakeholder capitalism, but mission was the same as it was 30 years ago.
Jason Jacobs: And what about the, the Mindy Luber origin story?
How did you come to be doing this work? And at what point did you enter the field and what motivated you to do so at the time?
Mindy Lubber: Well, I entered the fields a long time ago, probably the late seventies and even well before when I was in high school.
Jason Jacobs: So a lot longer than a year and a half ago, like me.
Mindy Lubber: And without going through decades as an advocate wanting to change laws at the state and federal level. I spent time a little bit of time in politics. I spent time as a lawyer. I spent time starting and running an environmental investment firm. And the job that I had before I came to Ceres was as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, running the six New England states.
And when I left the EPA, I had a moment in time to think about. What is the best way to take on some of these world changing crises that we're facing. I could go back and spend my time suing a company. And one case may take years to get a resolution to, or I could stay in, be a regulator, perhaps in the state level, instead of the federal level or I could go back to lobbying or running grassroots advocacy organizations.
And after really, probably for the first time in my career, some careful thought because so many of my prior positions have rolled from one thing into the next opportunities that just came about. It really became clear to me that if we don't move the capital markets, the biggest players, the Walmarts, or the Targets or the Cokes, if we don't move the biggest players in finance, And in the corporate field, we can't get to a climate safe world.
And 1.5 degree world aligned with the Paris Agreement. We just can't get there in the timeline we have. We've got about 10 years to start changing. We can't do that unless we change the big players within the capital markets. And so rather than say, when I left the EPA as a regulator, I wanted to go sue companies or be a lawyer and do something else.
It was clear that advocating in the world of the capital markets was the most effective way for me to help get us to that 1.5 degree world. Let me just say one thing. Having said that, I've learned over the last 30 plus years you can't solve a problem with one set of tactics and strategies. You've gotta be doing it all.
You've got to be doing grassroots organizing and education and litigation, and all of those pieces come together to change the system. You never know what is, what's going to crack the system. You gotta be doing everything. But for me, I decided the place where I could have the most impact was changing the world of large companies and investors and the systems that regulate them.
Jason Jacobs: And looking back when you first entered the field versus today, how has your thinking on the problem of climate change evolved and how has the problem itself evolved during that time? If at all?
Mindy Lubber: Well, I'll answer that as well as how the landscape has evolved. When I got to Ceres, I wanted to figure out how to use the leverage of the world's largest players companies and investors to change the debate and to change the results.
And when we started talking about climate risk as a financial matter in the early two thousands, 2003, 2004, I think financial players thought we were just using the wrong terms or confused somehow climate change to them was an environmental issue, but it was not a financial markets issue. And I think over the last 15 years or so, that has radically changed.
Nobody's questioning us whether or not climate change is a matter for financial markets. When we ran our first investor summit on climate change, or we called it the investor seminar on climate risks. All of the big investment firms wanted to send their environmental interns. We said that wasn't good enough.
We were looking for senior leaders and that's where we moved from then. So it really was how to make an issue. We're taking an issue from some perceived notion of the citizen. From the environmental groups to worry about to, this is a crisis that's going to come upon us sooner than we like, and that we need all forces to go after it.
And that it impacts directly not only environmental organizations and our members, but it impacts the economy and everything we do. If you're an apparel company, and there's not enough water for your cotton crop or in some cases too much water. You're not a very successful apparel company. If you're in the agricultural field with the drought in California, brought upon them, they lost half their business for two years and laid off workers and it changed everything about our food systems I could go on and on every sector is impacted.
15 years ago, those sectors and the business leaders in them didn't agree. The world has changed in 2020. There is a growing consensus that addressing climate is a crucial financial issue. As much as it is an environmental and sustainability issue.
Jason Jacobs: And so if you look at kind of the bathtub and the carbon budget and where we need to go, I mean, it sounds like getting these big players to move is very important, which makes a lot of sense to me. How much of getting them to move needs to come from them versus the government versus somewhere else, like put aside Ceres for a moment, but just how do we get them to move?
And then maybe we can come back around and talk about which piece of that Ceres is taking on and how.
Mindy Lubber: Yep. Sure. So look, the first thing is we do need to change the policy framework because even if we, or a hundred other groups like Ceres change companies, one by one by one, and we get to a hundred companies, 200 companies, we have to change 200,000 companies.
We have got to be changing the market. And the only way to do that is changing the rules of the game, creating a level playing field, making sure that we change policies. And with those changes mean everybody has to play by the same rules, the same set of guidelines. And I would start with a price on carbon.
Right now carbon pollution costs society, billions and billions of dollars a year, literally billions and tens of billions of dollars. But somehow we call it an externality. We don't put a real price on it or a tax on it or a fee on it. And so look, when things are free, you get more of them. Pricing in most parts of the world, not everywhere, carbon pollution at zero, and we're getting a lot more of it that can keep going.
So we've got to change the policies globally at a national level and the state level. But in the meantime, we've got to be pushing everybody, the largest players in the world to bring their carbon footprint down. And that is happening. It's happening because employees care. Every company in the world wants to find the best and the brightest and to retain their employees.
And we're finding that employees want to work for companies that have a values driven mentality and that whether you're a present employee, or a future employee, the young people are looking at that and that's helping to change companies and customers care. They want to shop places that have a vision that's similar with their's.
So I would definitely start with the fact that we've got to change public policy at all levels of government.
Jason Jacobs: And do you think that that's actually going to happen in any reasonable timeframe?
Mindy Lubber: You ask a good question and politics do matter. I regret that the present administration in the United States is not supportive of the Paris Agreement.
And I hope that changes whether it's with him or with a new, different person in the White House. We've got a global responsibility to join with hundreds of other countries to really meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to get aligned and to bring our carbon footprint down. And I think of the country-level we've got a mixed bag right now in Congress, but what I will say is there is a growing movement within the United States congress should build a bipartisan caucus. A caucus not only of Democrats, but Republicans who are looking at policy seriously. By the nature of the crisis, we will get there. I hope it's not too late. I hope it's sooner rather than later. You know, one other point as we go through the COVID-19 crisis, we're learning what it looks like when the world turns upside down due to a systemic risk to our economy and to our public health systems. Climate is a systemic risk. It will create maybe over slightly longer period of time an equal if not greater risk and shake up to our world economy and to our world existence. And if we learn nothing else, it's that being better prepared sooner rather than later, puts you in a better position to deal with a crisis.
Jason Jacobs: If the price on carbon is going to get enacted is the presidential election, the most important lever? And I guess, alongside of that in the interim, do you think that getting things done at the state level can add up? I mean, I know it's the best we've got, but you know, how important is, is the federal government leading the way?
Mindy Lubber: Yep. The federal government should be leading the way, but regrettably, they're not right now. Politics does matter. Ceres is a nonpartisan organization. Whether we have a Republican or Democrat, we want to ask for and demand that that administration pays attention to climate and to the environmental issues affecting it.
I mean, watching environmental rules and laws get rolled back every single day is a travesty and it will just lead us to more problems than we can possibly deal with. So the elections matter and the positions of the White House matter a good deal since they control all the regulated agencies, but the states matter an enormous amount.
We're seeing, as it relates to the COVID crisis, the states are really running the show. They're figuring out what the policies are. Should they shut down the state? Shouldn't they shut down the state how to make sure the hospitals in their state get the resources they need. And they are equally as important in the climate debate. I mean, think about it. There are probably half the states now that have renewable portfolio standards that are calling on everybody in that state, the companies in particular to go to a hundred percent renewables by each state's different 2022, 2025, but that's happening and states are setting their own goals on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and that's happening.
And some states who are part of some of the regional initiative. There's something called RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, are putting a price on carbon. So they're doing it themselves. They're showing that the models can work and they're having an impact. And I would never underestimate what the states can do. It's quite important.
Jason Jacobs: And coming back around to Ceres' work. When you mentioned member organizations, is it the way you describe your role it's to push them. And so I'm curious, what is the incentive that motivates these companies to become members of an organization where the function of that organization, as stated by its leader is to push them?
Mindy Lubber: You know, it's the perfect question. And it's a question that we ask and answer every single day and we've got it. Deal with every day, what we try and do with the companies are give them a roadmap. You know, this is what an ambitious goal looks like. How can we help you get there? If there are roadblocks at your board level CEO level or any other level, we're good at stepping in and helping unjam roadblocks.
So we'll do training of corporate boards. We'll ask boards to tie CEO's compensation to sustainability, but that doesn't mean that everybody wants to hear it. It really doesn't. So you're asking the right question. Look, our job is to hopefully, respectfully and collegially push those companies or investors to change what they're doing in their practices to give them a roadmap for what leadership looks like to provide the tools to make sure it can be done, to talk about setting best practice and what leadership looks like to benchmark.
I mean, we compare companies to each other in their sector every day and we put out reports every year, so we cajole, we push, we rate them against each other. I think what the companies believe. And I hope that it is fact-based, it's respectful. They wouldn't have gotten involved with Ceres that they weren't willing to embark on a sustainability journey.
Many of the companies we work with are a very long way from anything we would consider best practice. Our job is to help them get there. And so you'll find every one of the companies we work with they're complicated. They're not Ben and Jerry's or Patagonia who we work with every day, but who really they're there.
It doesn't mean they're perfect, but they have set goals, audacious goals, for decades. It's the multiple of other large companies with a huge impact, whether it's Coke or the Gap, or Levi whether it's Citibank, or B of A, none of whom are perfect. All of whom have issues that we don't agree with, but all of them have the capability and the capacity.
And I believe the interest to move this issue forward in a way that's impactful. So we're going to keep pushing. If we get results using this form of advocacy, we will stay at it. If in fact, we meet too many roadblocks, we can always think about other ways. I mean, our investor members are another way to cajole the companies we work with.
We might meet with them. We might push them, but their owners, the very owners of each of those companies are the members of our investor network and they join us in every negotiation. They use their clout and ownership of companies to give companies yet one more incentive to act and act sooner rather than later.
Jason Jacobs: And so, is it only the biggest companies in the world that you work with or what's the key profile of the member companies?
Mindy Lubber: You know, we work generally with large companies. I'd like to, at some point, get to the next rung, you know, what does large companies mean? There's not an exact number, but if you look across the market at the Russell 1000, the top 1000 companies, they're generally in that sphere.
And again, I want to find the ability to grow and work with the next rung of the economy. But when we look out, just think about one particular project of ours Climate Action 100 Plus. We have 400 global investors who have joined us with assets of $40 trillion under management who have come together with us and said, we want to engage with companies to change what they're doing related to climate.
We think climate is risks to the companies. We think those companies are in our portfolios and we want them to change. And that's, that's a huge lever, but how do you then choose what companies matter? We did the research with many of our investors and found out that a hundred companies produce 70% or 71% of the greenhouse gas emissions.
So it's a perfect place to start huge impact, huge footprint. If we could change those hundred companies, we're off to a good start. So we're engaging, we're taking the power and leverage of those $40 trillion in assets under management and the 400 investors who've managed those assets, bringing them together with the largest emitters and trying to have that conversation to push for change and change sooner rather than later.
Jason Jacobs: Do these organizations pay?
Mindy Lubber: Yes, they pay a modest fee. So the bottom line is because Ceres is an advocacy organization it's important for those fees to be low enough to not have an impact on our strategy, tactics or choices of who we work with our overall, if you look at a hundred percent of our budget, the fees, the membership fees are about 16 to 18% in a given year. The rest of it are philanthropic dollars that allow us to do anything and everything we want. So if there's a company that absolutely is not serious about their sustainability journey. They're not taking steps. They're not sending goals. They're not meeting goals. It's probably a company that we want to not be part of our membership and that's okay.
We've got to move forward without any constraints as to who we work with. Our goal is to take some of the largest players who have the biggest footprint and help them change. And if they don't want to change, they're probably not a good company for us to be working with.
Jason Jacobs: Have you fired members?
Mindy Lubber: We've invited some agreement with them to leave the network and that's okay.
It's not okay in that putting their foot on the brake rather than on the gas. I mean, we don't suggest where it change. We're working with the purest players. I think they know what they're doing and we're in touch and we show the extraordinary work of Seven Generations, and Patagonia, Ben and Jerry's that what leadership looks like, but we've got to move the biggest players in the world.
And that's who we want to move. And we try and do it in the most serious oriented way, which means if other people are campaigning against them, that's, that's part of the process and that's good. It's not what we do, but we campaign in our own ways, pushing them, working with them, and frankly, bringing their owners into the discussions, which is an extraordinarily powerful lever.
Not one large company wants to say to their five biggest owners, the world's largest institutional investors, pension funds, that they're not interested in acting on one of the greatest financial risks to their portfolio.
Jason Jacobs: And when you look at the kinds of things you're getting them to move on or, or trying to, is it one size fits all?
Is it the same things that apply across all of these organizations and all of these different sectors? Or is it fully customized or like, I guess what percentage of it carries over and what percentage of it depends on the company and the sector.
Mindy Lubber: Well, our broad vision of what leadership looks like is consistent.
We expect boards of directors to be involved in these issues. We want to see CEO compensation tied to these issues because people do what they're paid to do. That's the way markets work, whether we like it or not. We want to see systems set, not just a small environmental part of the corporation working on these.
We want them integrated into the financial part of the firm and for the strategic planning part. So there's some broad guidelines that apply to everybody. When you get into the granular detail of what the apparel company needs to do versus what a bank should do or what an insurance company should do versus what a agricultural company could do.
It's completely different. We work with them in a way. Look, if you're a large user of water, how do you literally change your practices to use less water? If you're a large consumer of energy, how do you literally shift the company to using renewable energy? So we've got some standard stuff move to a hundred percent renewables.
That's what best practice is, and it's completely doable, but how they do it, where they do it. Really depends on the kind of company. Some of them are spread out over 80 countries and every continent and some of them are situated differently.
Jason Jacobs: One question, which is more of a big picture question then Ceres specific, but that I struggle with a little bit is if you look at the word sustainability and you look at the term decarbonisation, are they synonyms?
Are they different? How much overlap is there between them is one, a subset of another? Are they, are they separate and distinct?
Mindy Lubber: You know, I wish that were straightforward and I could send you the one pager on that sustainability, generally, presumes a broader lens than climate it's how do we build a sustainable future and maybe best defined by the sustainable development goals of the United Nations?
They look out abroad what really it takes to sustain people and the planet and everything from hunger and poverty and human rights. So sustainability in many ways is broader than environmental or climate net zero. You know how to get to a Paris aligned world or a net zero. I think that's a subset of the climate discussion.
But it is about best practices and where we go with the climate debate. So I would say, you know, we've morphed from corporate responsibility to the term ESG, environmental, social, and governance issues. They're all over the place. We tend to use sustainability because it's broader. And I think it has a generally accepted terminology, not perfectly accepted.
And then within it, there are certainly subsets of where people put their energy and efforts all in the spirit of getting to a world that's sustainable, where there's enough food for 9 billion people as we go there. And if we don't change our practices radically, there won't be that we need to make sure there's enough water.
We need to make sure that climate doesn't change in so many ways that it makes our planet uninhabitable or at least our kids' future much more difficult.
Jason Jacobs: And related to that question. I've heard you talk before, and you mentioned earlier in this discussion as well, that early on these companies, if you had an event would want to send the intern or maybe somebody from the sustainability organization, but that really, this needs to live, not exclusively, but it needs to start in the boardroom and at the at the CEO level, which I think makes perfect sense when it comes to decarbonizing our global economy and going sector by sector and doing so when you look at the biggest companies in the world, does it help or hurt to have a dedicated sustainability function? If it really does need to start with a CEO and go business unit by business unit, by business unit across the organization.
And what is the role of that sustainability function or what should it be?
Mindy Lubber: No good question. You need a driver. So a CEO does need to be setting the standard and the commitment that this matters and it matters to the entire enterprise. I mean, I remember working with the Indra Nooyi when she was still the CEO and chair of PepsiCo. Huge company, every country in the world almost has their product. We worked with them on something called performance with purpose, where we help them set goals around water, around human rights, around diversity, around climate change, around waste, and worked with them to implement goals on that. But none of that would have been possible unless at a leadership level.
The word went out loud and clear that this was a priority for the company. It also wouldn't have been possible without a strong sustainability team. A team that had access to the CEO's office. It wasn't removed off in a corner, down at a middle management level, but had enough seniority that it had a direct line to the CEO, but you need a division of people, one person or 200 people that depends on the size of the company who are setting up the goals, laying out the plan, talking about how to get there for their enterprise, but certainly without the CEO.
And the CEO having the board support, saying this is important to you, chief financial officer, or you strategic enterprise officer within our company, need to figure out how to integrate it, need to figure out how to adopt it and need to be part of helping us meet those goals. And in that case, every single office.
Every division of the company had a sustainability goals that rolled up into the largest goals. So you need both, you definitely need a team to lay out the plan, do the details. No CEO has time to think about that level, but that sustainability team needs access to the leadership of the company. Needs to chart a plan for adoption by the CEO of a company.
And the CEO needs to send out a message loud and clear that every part of the enterprise is going to be involved, that they have goals that they want to meet and be accountable for. And that they're going to be transparent with those goals. So every one of those goals should be public. Should be published in their sustainability report and their annual reports and what kind of success they have in meeting those goals on an annual basis.
Jason Jacobs: I'm going to make an assumption and feel free to tell me if this is an incorrect assumption, but the assumption is that these big companies still have a lot of work to do. And I guess my, my question, so, and correct me if that's an improper assumption, but my question is you mentioned a price on carbon is a key lever to get this to happen faster.
But other than that, if you're just looking at, within these organizations, what do you think the biggest barriers are that have been holding them back to date?
Mindy Lubber: You know, almost every company was built and brought up on a fossil fuel economy. That's what we know. That's what has been out there. So to really transform.
Energy systems and transportation systems and to transform products and what kind of resources are used in the products and to transform food systems. Because if we keep going with a highly meat-based food system, we use too much of our environment and resources. I mean, the kinds of changes we're talking about can be done.
They've been outlined, but they're not easy. They're systemic changes. So it will take some time. We don't have a lot of time to waste. The world's greatest scientists tell us that we need to be well on our way to that zero carbon future or the 1.5 degree goals of the Paris Agreement over the next 10 years.
And it's, it's an audacious commitment and it's really hard to get there, but if we don't start now, And if we don't plan and start changing our systems, we frankly may get to a point where we really can't get to those goals. So what's stopping people. Look, it's lot easier to do what you've always done rather than to change your systems.
We need new technology. We need new incentives to jumpstart technology. We need companies to push and push hard. The auto companies need to be looking at what point do we end the combustion engine vehicle and only have electric vehicles? That's getting closer in Europe, not as much here, but I would say to you by 2030 or 2032 or so at the latest we need no more combustion vehicles coming off our or manufacturing lines.
We have to morph that. And in doing so, we've got to build a system around electric vehicle charging stations. We can't ask everybody to go by an EV if there's no place to charge them on our highways. So, we need to put systems into place. We need a government that's working hand in hand and I don't mean to suggest it's easy, but it's doable.
We've seen companies doing it and it's time to be setting those goals and they should be audacious or ambitious. And they won't all be done in the next six months. But if we don't know where we're going, they'll never be done. So it is about new policy that sets goals and it's about companies changing everything that they do.
Jason Jacobs: And one of the sayings that's been drilled into my head as an entrepreneur is that you don't improve what you don't measure. So I guess one question you've talked a lot about goals and pushing organizations to achieve these goals and helping them determine the right goals to set. Where are these organizations with just monitoring and understanding where they sit with this stuff to begin with?
Mindy Lubber: And you're right. Tools are crucial piece of this, you know, in the mid nineties. So Ceres was thinking about this, then we designed and launched something called the global reporting initiative. And it's a sustainability reporting platform. I think about 14,000 companies now use it. We launched it as its own independent standard setting body.
And it runs out of Europe right now. And there are other tools for sustainability reporting SASBI, the sustainable accounting standards board, and others, but you're right. What gets measured gets managed. You cannot manage your sustainability footprint. If you don't have a clue as to where your pollution limits are, where your using water where you might be able to limit the use of water, what your carbon emissions are. So for every institution, whether it's a simple and rudimentary report or for the larger institutions that we work with, it has to be more specific. It has to be more sophisticated. It has to be data driven. And most of them do with sustainability reports.
Some are good. And some aren't so good. Some look more like picture books rather than a really statistical view of what the company's doing and part of our work and our job with every company and investor is to make sure that information is pulled together. Using a good system of doing so. And that information is public.
You know, this all has to be transparent. This is not about some black box where a few people know what the data looks like. It has to be available for employees, for community members, for anybody who really wants to know what the metrics are. And I'd say we're getting better on that. And most are doing some kind of reporting, but we've got to keep pushing.
There's a climate reporting system that really was developed by financial leaders, the TCFD, the task force for climate financial disclosure. And a lot of folks are using that. You gotta use a system they'll just randomly put it out. Cause you can't possibly manage it. As you say, if you're not measuring it first.
And I would say I would go one more step forward. At this point, where a believer in mandatory reporting that if these issues are financial risks, then other financial risks are mandated to be disclosed through an SEC process, the securities and exchange commission. We work with the commission in 2010 to get mandatory disclosure of climate and water risks.
They issued guidance on that, but regrettably, they're not being enforced right now, but the information is important enough that we believe. We got to start with voluntary. And we have worked hard on that as have many, many others, but we're moving to a time where if this is a real financial risk, when you look at inflation risk or currency risk or trade risk, all of those things have to be disclosed in SEC filings. Our position as climate risk needs to be disclosed right along with the others.
Jason Jacobs: I'm embarrassed. I don't know this and have to ask because I really should. But given that you're working with a bunch of big multinationals to Ceres, have a global focus in your work or is it us centric?
Mindy Lubber: Well, the answer is about five years ago. We considered how it, how do we go global? There's not one of our companies or investors whose work stops at the border of the United States of America.
Mostly global there certainly maybe a few that are not. And we thought about opening offices in London or Beijing or elsewhere. And that seems not to be the way for us to go. What we did was on the business side. We formed a collaboration called "We Mean Business." We work with seven global organizations that work to change businesses on climate and other issues, whether it's businesses for social responsibility or the climate group, or the world business council for sustainable development.
There are seven or so organizations, the climate disclosure group that worked together with some share goals in moving companies. So that's our global collaboration and it works beautifully and we didn't have to set up offices in London and elsewhere. There are people in the NGO world that have a hard time working together.
We've got to all do more of that and do better at that in our work through, we mean, business has enabled that on the investor side. We've got global projects and collaborations under something called the investor agenda. We've got seven of the leading organizations that work on investor advocacy, changing what investors do, who work in a collaboration together with some really strong joint projects.
So collaboration has proven to be good. There's no way to look at these issues if you're not looking at them globally. And if you're not pushing on them globally, that's the way we've done it.
Jason Jacobs: It sounded from earlier in the discussion that you feel like a price on carbon is essential to get the transit, the clean energy transition to occur.
Is that a fair statement?
Mindy Lubber: Absolutely.
Jason Jacobs: So given where we are in the headwinds that that faces, what do you think are the most important things that need to happen and or that we can do to get that done?
Mindy Lubber: Well, if we start at the global level and there really are only so much you can do with the global level, all of our investor members are pushing the G7, the heads of the largest world countries and pushing the G20. Pushing means meeting with them, calling on them setting goals that they see as the most viable for dealing with the problem. So we're starting by looking at the global scope and playing field and pushing the leadership. We have a very strong presence at the COPs, the conference of the parties, where the Paris Agreement was adopted many years ago, but the meetings happen every year.
Not this year because of the COVID crisis, where the investors and companies are weighing in with the world leaders, working on how to keep the Paris agreement going forward, how to strengthen it. So that's a global playing field, but otherwise it's very hard to have a global price on carbon. There's not a mechanism for doing that necessarily.
So we work collaboratively. Europe often is leading we look at what they're doing, what works, what doesn't work. We transfer some of their successes to our advocacy in the United States, Congress here, where we're working with people on all sides of the political fence to make the case that we need a price on carbon.
And then when we go down to the state level, it obviously is completely U.S. focused, but the problem won't be solved in one country or another. Now that doesn't mean that the leadership of the United States is not crucial. When the last administration came together with China and set some bilateral goals of those two countries.
It sparked every country looking at it and trying to figure out how to get on board. Having the United States pull out of the global negotiations is anything but a good thing. It's quite tragic. And I want to see that change. And hopefully at some point it will change and I hope sooner rather than later.
Jason Jacobs: And given that we're sitting here in our homes, having this discussion in the midst of a global pandemic has COVID-19 caused you to rethink any of the work or priorities or timelines, or I guess how, how has this pandemic affected your organization and objectives, if at all?
Mindy Lubber: Well, it's hard to suggest that it hasn't affected all of us.
The world has slowed down. Our ability to focus with company by company and investor by investor has slowed down. I mean, there's no question. Our largest investor members are looking at. How do they transform their portfolios to preserve the pensions of the hundreds of thousands of people, depending upon them and other companies are trying to figure out how do they transition from a retail, bricks and mortar store to an online distribution center and how to sell their products.
Everybody is focused on the urgent need of the day that said, we have talked with many of our companies and investors. They've got teams dealing with sustainability, not all of their teams have been pulled off to deal with the crisis of the day. So they're moving forward. We expect it will be slower.
They expect it will be slower, but we can't take our eye off the ball. That climate crisis. The climate crisis is quite real. We don't see it or feel it or taste it and we're not living it the way we are the COVID-19 crisis, but it's a crisis that recreate the same level of havoc. So I think the one thing we need to know, and what we need to do is.
To make sure we learned some lessons from this. We know that if we were better prepared, we would have saved lives. If we got involved earlier, we meaning the United States government, we could have saved lives. We don't want to make that mistake again, as it relates to climate, we need to be more prepared.
We need to change our energy systems. We need to be pumping money and resources into technology that is technology of the future and not technology of the past and the fossil fuel industry. We can do it. And we need to learn from this, but to suggest that it's not impacting us day to day would not be realistic.
On the other hand, our workforces online at home, working, pushing, doing all that they can in a world that is quite different.
Jason Jacobs: I know it's probably too early to say, but the way I've been looking at things as whether we come out of this and have additional headwind and get setback in the climate fight by this pandemic and policies and initiatives, and you know, other things rising to the top of people's priority lists, or we get more tailwind from it because it opens people's eyes to the systemic risks that you were describing before and ignoring the collective good for too long, either way I agree that, I mean, the climate problem is not going away and is kind of an underlying irritant or accelerant to a lot of other problems. And so my work I'm just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other as it sounds like you are as well. I guess my question is if you had to guess, is it going to help or hurt these efforts?
You know, once we come out of this, into the new world, whatever that, that looks like.
Mindy Lubber: Well, I think short term, it's going to be hard because we're pushing companies to change their manufacturing systems. We're pushing auto companies to move to a EV world and they're going to come out of it first, having to just figure out how to restabilize, who they are.
Well, I think short term, it will hurt, I think, in a slightly longer term it might actually help. If we're investing billions and billions of dollars into stimulus packages for more infrastructure, it gives us a chance right now to say that infrastructure needs to be built with steel. That smart as high intensive for carbon emissions, we need to build more public transportation and that just highways out into the suburbs.
So if, if this problem causes us as we're rebuilding out our economy to think differently and to build an economy that will get us to a Paris aligned future versus an economy that gets us deeper dug in to the present fossil fuel economy. That will be a good thing. We've got to use the next stimulus package to make sure we're making decisions not only on making sure there are jobs, but they're jobs designed to build a future for us rather than jobs designed to exacerbate the problem. So now is the moment and we've got on some of these very big initiatives, make sure we're moving them in the right direction with the right standards that build a sustainable future and new technology and not just fall back to the old ways of doing business.
Jason Jacobs: And two final questions. One is just, it's a question I ask every guest, if, if you had a hundred billion dollars and you could allocate it towards anything to accelerate this transition, where would you put that money and how would you allocate it?
Mindy Lubber: Well, one is I would not forget some of the developing worlds that seem to be left out of this discussion.
You know, the developing countries need renewable energy. They need new transportation systems. And so technology is part of the future and I'd be looking at technology and every front and I'd look, be looking at the full globe unless we change things in all parts of India, all parts of Africa, parts of countries that don't have resources. We don't get to the global collective goal of being a non-carbon future or a much lower carbon future. So I put money into technology and make sure that money was distributed around the world. I'd put money into changing the politics of what we're dealing with. And what does that mean?
I don't know. If it were a world of unlimited resources, I'd make sure that the right people are in office to pass the right policies. Cause we're not going to solve this problem without it. And I put more money into changing where we invest. I'd make sure that we're building an investment community, where all of our investments are going into sustainable companies that will help push companies to change.
And I put money into changing the largest polluters and make sure they get out of. The pollution business and into the sustainability business, all of which can be done. We're seeing electric utility companies that used to be 75% in coal. They're now down to 30% and most of the coal companies themselves are bad bets and investments today. We got to get out of that space. So let's use our money smartly. Let's look at the opportunity side to make sure there's technology. That's technology of the future, and we've got to look at how to bring down the risk and I'd spend money accordingly.
Jason Jacobs: And my last question is just, there's a bunch of listeners to the show that are kind of like me, where they maybe grew up professionally doing something different, but are really concerned about the problems of climate change and are trying to reorient themselves professionally into this area.
So speaking to them for a moment, what advice do you have for them on how to navigate, figuring out where to anchor and what to do to maximize their effectiveness?
Mindy Lubber: Right. So I'm going to start with individuals as individuals and then individuals thinking about how to deal with this professionally. But we often hear from individuals, what can they do?
And we know the obvious things we know turn down your heat. Don't have lights on when you don't need to. We don't all make three cars in our driveway. One car might be better. Think about when you're purchasing things. What's the low carbon option, hybrids and renewables. Think about what you eat. One of the most important things we can do as individuals is move away from a red meat diet, high levels of resources are used for cattle that don't allow us to absorb the carbon it's impacting our biodiversity.
So eat less meat, eat less red meat, go to a plant based diet. Think about everything you do. How much water you use? Do we need to sit in the shower for 15 minutes or stand in the shower for 15 minutes or for two minutes? There's a lot we can do as individuals to change our lives. Our neighbors lives, our communities lives, and that is all up for grabs there's nobody who can't do that and who can't make a very real difference in acting and acting as an individual advocate, as it relates to professional.
We're finding that just companies all over the world and investors and nonprofits are adding sustainability teams to everything they do. So the opportunities are only growing in this space. If they seem to be slowed down during the covert crisis, know that's short lived. We all hope. And I certainly don't know more than anyone else.
There are more and more opportunities every day. But if you're happened to be working in technology where your job is not about sustainability, help bring that to the management, you know, help bring new work opportunities into the workspaces you're in. Even if they have nothing to do with sustainability.
As I said, we're seeing utility companies change, we're seeing large companies change and they're changing cause people in the supply chain of those companies, you're saying, how do we source materials that are more sustainable? How do we work with farmers that are not wasting space and creating carbon pollution?
Every single industry has an opportunity. To look at their overall footprint. And I always advise people, whether they're on a sustainability team or a strategic planning team, or whether they're in the legal office or the financial office, there are ways to look at how to address climate, where they can make a material difference.
And I urge everyone to do that. And finally, as consumers or as investors, you know, we should shop in places where the stores and the mentality and goals of the companies, to the extent we know what they are, shop, where those companies are showing leadership on sustainability and don't shop where they're not.
And when you're investing your money, there are all sorts of social, environmental investment funds. Do some research online, put your money into the investment products that are about companies that are working for the future. And you'll find that the data shows, those are companies that are doing best financially.
So lots of opportunities at every level, we've all kind of focused on what we can do. Not everybody is trying to change the politics, but do call your Congress person and your state legislators to let them know. When you hear about a bill being passed, that you care about it. Think about yourself. If every one of us thinks about where advocates that can make a difference, we ought to do that and it will make a difference collectively.
Jason Jacobs: And is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have, or any parting words for listeners?
Mindy Lubber: We solve these problems, climate risks in particular. As a community, we can't solve them one by one, but every single person, every company, every nonprofit has a role to play. Every university has to be looking at how to change their systems as consumers of universities, meaning students or faculty, consumers of products, consumers of investment vehicles.
We've got to all get into this debate and all figure out what we can do. It is a global crisis. That will be upon us sooner than any of us. Like we've got to start now. It is about pace and it is about scale and it's about all of us. If we all take in, we'll get there.
Jason Jacobs: Well, what a great point to end on Mindy. I can't thank you enough for coming on the show and for all the work that you have done and continue to do in this space. So best of luck to you and stay safe.
Mindy Lubber: Same to you. Thanks so much for your good work.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone, Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on my climate journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at my climate journey dot C O. Note that is dot C O not dot com. Someday. we'll get the.com, but right now dot CO. You can also find me on Twitter @jjacobs22, where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests. You'd like to hear. And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that, thank you.