What is the economic potential of removing the carbon needed from the atmosphere to achieve the goals set by 2016’s Paris Agreement? It’s a question Andrew McLean recently posed to his colleague Tahreem Kampton.
“This is trillions of dollars in value of carbon that’s needed to be removed out of the atmosphere,” responded Kampton, the former treasurer and chief investment officer at Microsoft.
The men are part of a prestigious team working to motivate investment in sustainable projects, all from a virtual company, Invest.Green, started in Camas during the height of the pandemic.
“We’re passionate about accelerating investment in the sector as a great economic opportunity,” said McLean. “You don’t need to look further than Elon Musk to know that there is vast wealth to be made in this sector.”
When McLean, a Washington native, decided to start Invest.Green, he wanted to create a platform to communicate to investors that there’s money to be made in the “green” space. McLean spent years hosting “The Eco-Capitalist” show on CNBC.
So McLean and Invest.Green co-founder Matthew Kiernan, who has been a pioneer in green investing since the late 1980s, started recruiting their team of senior advisers and principals.
They now include Kampton, Harris Komishane, the former head of finance for Fidelity Investments; Eric Luo, the former chairman and chief executive of GCL System Integration, one of China’s largest Cleantech conglomerates; Vicky Sharpe, another pioneer in clean tech commercialization and venture capital since the early 1990s; Donald MacDonald, the first chair of the Principles for Responsible Investment; Heather Langsner, former managing director of research for one of the world’s top-rated sustainable investment research firms; Alan Rice, former senior executive and chief legal officer at two companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange; and John Wiebe, founder and chief executive of the Globe Group of Companies and Globe Foundation. Kevin Fox, a 32-year veteran in television production, signed up as chief media strategist and principal.
“We have this amazing team with all of this knowledge,” said McLean. “And Invest.Green is where we’re building a platform for sharing insights, market intelligence content and stories about companies that you might not typically think would be green, like Toyota.”
Consumer, investor attitudes evolving
“You don’t need to look far or hard to see where our society or customers are going when it comes to environmental issues and sustainability,” said Tom Stricker, vice president of sustainability and regulatory affairs at Toyota North America Group, during a recent podcast hosted by McLean and Kiernan. “It’s top of mind and companies that fail to act and fail to plan for where things are headed and don’t deliver products that meet customers’ expectations, they will struggle.”
“As you skew generationally downward, millennials are much higher in their interest in this sector,” McLean said. “And Gen Z is through the roof and they are expecting some action to happen.”
A 2021 survey by FirstInsight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that Generation Z was not only demanding sustainable products but was also influencing older generations to do the same.
The survey also showed that every generation — baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z — placed sustainability over brand name when purchasing things. Not only that, but 68 percent of respondents reported being willing to pay more for sustainable products. This was a 17 percent increase from when the same data was collected in 2019.
“Consumers and shareholders are ultimately the ones — more than any governmental agreement — who are going to drive action on the part of this economy,” McLean said.
“The bottom line is that this sector is growing, no matter what.”
‘The Motley Fool’ of green investing
That’s where Invest.Green comes in. McLean hopes the company will be akin to The Motley Fool of the green sector.
Investors will be able to come to Invest.Green to get information on companies through easy-to-understand research and videos, giving them the knowledge to make better investments.
Invest.Green will also feature the sustainable work of legacy companies including Toyota, which will bring in new audiences and encourage the legacy companies to further invest in such projects.
“It’s sort of a virtuous circle of promotion of the industry,” said McLean.
The vetting behind companies will be based in part on their sustainability efforts, but not that alone.
“What we definitely are going to do is make sure that there’s a business case behind these companies,” McLean said.
Invest.Green won’t encourage investors to support a company just because it calls itself “green.”
“It’s going to be a matter of that overall strategy that is moving toward sustainability, but one that is achievable, as opposed to some of these business models that are not feasible,” McLean added.
“It’s a combination of qualitative and quantitative and knowing the company,” Kampton said.
“Who are the companies that care about this stuff? Who are the companies that are really doing a good job in this space? That’s what we want to expose to each individual,” he added.
Tech firms see a future in sustainability
Kampton spent 22 years working for Microsoft — a company with a multibillion-dollar portfolio invested in a myriad of areas. During his time in the company’s investment arm, Kampton helped launch a $1 billion climate innovation fund. The fund supported technologies that would have an impact on the economy and help solve some of the issues around climate change.
When Kampton retired, he heard about McLean’s project and wanted to be involved.
“I liked the space,” Kampton said.
The longtime Microsoft executive pointed out that many of the major tech companies are heavily investing in sustainable endeavors.
“They all agree that this is no one person or company can solve it, we all have to work together to solve this issue,” Kampton said.
McLean plans on Invest.Green not only being a company to help retail investors find a good investment, but also to bring together folks like Kampton from different companies to work together on sustainability.
“We want people to put more money into the sector and also get worthy technologies and people and ideas connected with funding,” said McLean.
“The financial institutions are very big players in this topic,” said Kampton.
“There are a lot of companies who recognize the need to do this and the impact of doing this and they’re doing it,” Kampton added. “But again, if you look at the magnitude, the world needs to do significantly more.”