Climate x Capital: Bringing Leaders Together to Reimagine a More Sustainable Tomorrow

With each passing year, the urgency to address climate change grows. The global temperature is rising, the number of natural disasters — from droughts and cyclones to fires and earthquakes — is increasing, and as a result, the economic cost of climate change is climbing. 

In the United States, the cost of climate and weather disasters in 2022 totaled more than $165 billion, the third most costly year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As of Sept. 11, 2023, there have been 23 confirmed climate disaster events in the U.S. this year with losses exceeding $1 billion each. And yet, these figures fail to represent the devastation from lives lost and the effects on families and communities upended and displaced by climate crises.

In recognition that climate change will continue to have far-reaching effects on the economy and society and to help kick off NYC Climate Week 2023, Nasdaq hosted “Climate x Capital,” a half-day summit that convened key leaders from across the climate ecosystem — including investors, founders, experts, advocates and diplomats — to discuss how we can most effectively connect climate solutions to capital.

At the summit’s opening fireside chat, Nasdaq Global Head of Listings Karen Snow sat down with former United States Vice President Al Gore, who shared that when he began his political career as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, conversations around global warming and climate were just beginning. Now, we’re seeing real change in the public and private sectors and, as a result, consumer behavior — pointing specifically to the growth in the electric vehicle industry, the rise of LED lights and expansion in even newer industries like green steel.

Karen Snow, Nasdaq Global Head of Listings Karen Snow with Al Gore, Former United States Vice President and Co-founder and Chairman of Generation Investment Management

Nasdaq Global Head of Listings Karen Snow with Al Gore, former United States Vice President and Co-founder and Chairman of Generation Investment Management  

“We’re in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that’s powered in part by the new information technologies,” said Gore, who is the co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. “The sustainability revolution is likely to have the scale of the industrial revolution, coupled with the speed of the digital revolution."

However, all speakers acknowledged this isn’t just about the work of “climate companies;” this is about all companies joining the conversation.

In a session on how organizations can maximize impact, Climate Cardinals Founder Sophia Kianni emphasized the need for cross-industry collaboration. Kianni specifically highlighted the need for companies to share expertise, resources and technology.

Climate Cardinals Founder Sophia Kianni (middle) speaks alongside fellow climate leaders.

Nasdaq Chief Digital Officer Sehr Thadhani, Ascend Elements CEO Mike O' Kronley, Climate Cardinals Founder Sophia Kianni, Nature's Fynd CEO Thomas Jonas and Brookings Institute Center for Sustainable Development Director and Senior Fellow John McArthur

Chief Commercialization Officer of The Department of Energy (DOE) Dr. Vanessa Chan also echoed the importance of collaborating in the fight against climate change, speaking about how the private sector can best partner with the DOE.

She emphasized that while the DOE is utilizing resources from the Inflation Reduction Act to buy down risk, in the end, it’s the $23 trillion in the private sector that is going to be able to commercialize things.

“[The DOE is trying] to use the IRA money in a way that gets us to the point that the risk has gotten down and we can actually get the private sector to engage,” Dr. Chan said.  “We’ll need the private sector to move towards us. We need you guys to be less risk averse and to actually think about ways in which you’re going to maybe not get the ROI you want, not hit the hurdle rate you want, but have the impact that we need.”

Dr. Vanessa Chan, Chief Commercialization Officer of The Department of Energy (DOE), speaks with Elsa Givan, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Nasdaq


Nasdaq Strategic Initiatives Director Elsa Givan with The Department of Energy Chief Commercialization Officer Dr. Vanessa Chan

During the summit, we heard from industry leaders across the e-commerce, carbon removal and food industry space about how they are driving impact, the role they are playing in the climate revolution and some of the struggles they are currently facing.

Although being a green company isn’t in their mission statement, when Shopify began its journey as a public company, the management team immediately began looking at the changes they would have to make to their company to ensure they would be around for the long run — starting with their environmental footprint, said Shopify Head of Sustainability Stacy Kauk. Shopify joined forces with companies such as Climeworks to work to reduce the amount of carbon in the air. Climeworks CFO Andreas Aepli acknowledged that in order to grow Climeworks, they must be able to scale the carbon removal process even further while educating the public on the difference between carbon removal and carbon reduction. 

Impossible Foods CEO Peter McGuinness shared the early struggles his climate-friendly company has faced as it has scaled. When Impossible Foods first launched, its marketing strategy revolved around teaching people about the environmental benefits of the product; however, McGuinness quickly learned what people cared about was taste. He learned that to effectively scale, his marketing strategy had to focus on how the product would benefit the consumer directly. Lowercarbon General Partner Clay Dumas echoed this sentiment, adding that consumers aren’t going to purchase something because of guilt. Instead, sustainable products need to be better, stronger, faster and cheaper, he said.

Shopify Head of Sustainability Stacy Kauk, Climeworks CFO Andreas Aepli, Impossible Foods CEO Peter McGuinness

Fast Company Senior Editor Amy Farley, Climeworks CFO Andreas Aepli, Impossible Foods CEO Peter McGuinness, Shopify Head of Sustainability Stacy Kauk and Crux Climate CEO Alfred Johnson

The climate issue is not a problem for any one specific industry, nor is it a problem for only the public or private sector — it’s everyone’s problem.

“This is the defining challenge of our time,” Gore said. “What a privilege it is to be alive at a time when the generation of those of us alive on earth in this decade have an opportunity to really make history that counts. Future generations will look back, and they will either curse us... or they will say ‘thank God they stepped up.’”

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