Then: Junior Fellow, Managing Global Issues Project (2000-2001)
Now: Executive Director, Investor Services, New Forests
As a Junior Fellow for the Managing Global Issues project, I helped edit a book about how business, governments, and NGOs have worked together to solve problems like health, refugees, and the environment. As I thought about what to do after the fellowship, having learned so much from the experts contributing to the book and from my Senior Associate PJ Simmons, a committed environmentalist, I realized what I cared about most was our living planet. I wanted to fight climate change. I developed a core conviction that successfully changing energy systems and protecting ecosystems requires harnessing the power of capital markets for conservation and pollution reduction.
One day, as I was sitting in my cubicle, Carlos Lozada, who was then an editor at Foreign Policy, strolled by and stopped for a chat. Carlos asked me what I wanted to do next, and I explained to him that I was interested in carbon trading, a new approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To my amazement, Carlos told me he had a friend who had recently joined a firm in Washington called Natsource. Natsource traded carbon credits and advised companies on using emissions markets to develop new business models. Carlos put me in touch with his friend, and just like that, I stepped through sliding doors into the rest of my life. I got the job with Natsource, and in 2001, at the age of 23, started my journey on becoming an expert on a new type of market-based approach to tackling climate change.
Fast forward 15 years from that cubicle conservation with Carlos, and I am now the Executive Director of Investor Services at New Forests (www.newforests.com.au). I have been with New Forests for 11 years, since it was a start-up. Managing nearly AU$4 billion, we are an investment management firm specializing in sustainable forestry investment. Our mission is to manage landscapes for production and conservation. Not only are we generating great returns for our institutional investment clients (e.g. pension funds and insurance companies), but we are also at the top of our industry in thinking about landscape level management, sustainability, and the integration of shared value with communities into our performance metrics. We invest in timberland plantations, processing infrastructure, bio-energy plants, forest carbon projects, and biodiversity banks across Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and the United States.
It’s been a lot of fun to build a business from the ground up. Success in the investment management industry means that we have scale, and scale means that you can start to have an impact. For example, we are working with Native American tribes across the continental United States and Alaska to sell carbon credits from their lands to large emitters regulated in California. In some instances, this is leading to a social justice outcome, where the tribe uses carbon finance to buy back its ancestral lands. We help our clients, some of the largest investors in the world, to meet their multi-billion dollar responsible investment goals. Institutional investors heavily championed the Paris Accord and are seeking to develop portfolios that will generate positive social and environmental impacts.
When I look back, it seems almost prescient that I committed to business and the environment at such an early age, as responsible investing, social entrepreneurship, and environmental finance are only now coming into their own as industries. But I think it was my openness to all the ideas I was exposed to at Carnegie and my willingness to develop a career that aligned with my values that has led me to be at the forefront of a new way of doing business.