My girlfriend Sarah just got an awesome new job at Ceres, a startlingly effective environmental action organization with a big emphasis on global warming. I hadn’t heard of them before, and at first their outsized influence, leading at least a half-dozen coalitions of major corporations and investors, made me very suspicious. For a global business organization that Coordinates the bi-annual United Nations Investor Summit on Climate Risk, their run rate of $7 million a year seems modest even before comparing it to the giants in their company network, or their investors group totaling $10 trillion. Were they blackmailing all these businesspeople with secrets gleaned from college roommates? Were they just greenwashing the usual corporate ecological catastrophes? I spent some time reading their publications and trying to work out what they really are, at the core.
Their master plan, near as I can figure it, is to identify players who actually stand to profit from taking positive environmental action, and then clear a path for the invisible hand to apply the needed pressure. It stands to reason that this might often mean working with the very largest firms in the world, the businesses so big that they’ve engulfed their own externalities. That might mean coordinating investors owning $650 million in oil company stocks to demand an end to natural gas flaring (because it wastes their money … and also accelerates global warming), or it might mean acting like a management consulting company to help Dell and Best Buy to optimize their electronics recycling programs (which bring customers back in contact with the vendor right when they’re ready to buy new … and also reduce toxic pollution).
It seems like a brilliant model to me. Incremental, to be sure, but cumulatively also tremendously powerful. I hope it’s a great place to work.