Veris CEO Stephanie Cohn Rupp Interviewed About Sustainable Investing on Fintech TV

Remy Blaire interviewed Veris’ CEO Stephanie Cohn Rupp about sustainable investing for Fintech TV in March of 2024. 

Transcript of the Interview

Remy Blaire: Welcome to Impact TV, I’m Remy Blaire. Investing can achieve social and environmental benefits all while generating financial returns. Joining me today is Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of Veris Wealth Partners, a Certified B Corp. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me today. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Thank you for having me. 

Remy Blaire: 2024 is well underway and…there are areas of opportunities that may be supportive of sustainability efforts and are also aligned with impact. What are the important themes that you’re paying attention to this year?

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Two big themes are climate solutions and what we call DEIB: diversity equity, inclusion, and belonging. The overlap of these two themes is what we call climate justice. We believe there are plenty of opportunities out there. There are great new technologies and innovative funds (including) interesting funds that are focused on inclusion. Because we believe that investors are not impartial and it’s important to understand inherent biases to make optimal investment solutions. And so, one of our themes is inclusion, which doesn’t mean quotas, doesn’t mean excluding anybody. It means providing more opportunity and investing more broadly into entrepreneurs throughout the United States. 

Remy Blaire: Adaptation, resilience, and response to climate and weather events is very real for many regions and communities around the globe. In terms of what you’re hearing from your clients about their commitments to sustainable investing. Can you give us a little bit of insight?

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Our approach is truly across asset classes; we don’t believe there’s a golden bullet or silver bullet that will give you a single solution. We look throughout the portfolio and see how we can advance the values of our clients. And not all clients agree. You can use exclusion in public equities. You can divest from certain companies; you can invest with certain technology companies on the clean tech side and transition side. You can invest in certain companies that are in oil and gas and engage with them. There’s no need to look at these sectors as demonic — they have to be part of this solution. 

And then we go, from asset class to asset class, into ESG integrated funds where there are certain theories of change that are held by the fund manager. And then on the alternative side – whether it’s private equity, venture, or private debt – looking at solutions where you’re investing directly into regenerative agriculture, sustainable forestry, or in clean tech funds et cetera — it really runs the gamut. We think these solutions need to be integral to the portfolio in all asset classes. There is no single solution. The other thing is there are a lot of disagreements. Some clients believe in nuclear energy, some believe it’s the devil. The how is very specific to the values and the identity of the asset owner. 

Remy Blaire: And Stephanie, the great wealth transfer is something we will all be paying attention to as trillions of dollars transfer hands. So tell me what you see when it comes to millennials and Gen Z, in terms of wealth management and impact orientation. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: I am a little counter to the mainstream thinking on this. I think it’s a gender issue and not a generational issue. We have clients who are values driven, who are phenomenal and knowledgeable about all these solutions and they’re 72 years old. And then we have clients in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, who really care about values investing. So, I don’t find it to be a generational thing. 

I think everyone is getting into the sector and understanding climate change is an existential threat to humanity. And so, whether you are grandparents or are just graduating from college, the issue is salient. What I have found though, and this is much more anecdotal, but in the client base, the women are often the most passionate about poverty alleviation, economic development, and fighting climate change.  

I wrote an article a few months ago (ESG Critics Are On The Wrong Side of History) after looking at whether high net worth women, both Democratic and Republican, care about climate issues. And (polling data indicates that) Republican women care about climate as much as Democratic women care about climate.1 So I do think there’s much more consciousness and I would say an eagerness to act from women than from men, from the experiences that I have had at Veris Wealth Partners. 

Remy Blaire: And private markets represent opportunities to drive impact while also adding diversification portfolios. It does go without saying that it’s vital to consider investments in the portfolio context — diversifying across different approaches and asset classes. So, what does it mean to invest for impact across asset classes?

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: We have different methods for each of the different asset classes and sub-asset classes. We don’t invest in commodities, and we also don’t invest in crypto. I can quickly go through the asset classes. On the public side, you can negatively screen – take out the companies you don’t like – maybe it’s pornography, maybe it’s guns – it really depends on the values of the individual. Otherwise, you can positively tilt for the companies and industry you really believe in you can go overweight on. Then you can choose active strategies in the public equity side, where the manager actively engages with companies – there’s a certain degree of change. And then there’s private debt – investing in (for example) loan funds that invest in entrepreneurs in inner cities, who invest in entrepreneurs who are Indigenous, who invest in entrepreneurs who have been forgotten by the financial system as we know it. On the private equity side, we have all sorts of interesting strategies as well. These could be focused on climate, on wealth building, on women as entrepreneurs and beneficiaries, or generally about inclusion. And then the final piece is on the venture capital side so those are the longer lockups and higher risk investments into funds that do incredible work backing social entrepreneurs who really care about changing the world as we know it. (For example) a very interesting strategy around wealth building using ESOPs… So, it really runs the gamut. You can really use all the levels within a portfolio for it to be values aligned. 

Remy Blaire: And Stephanie, last but not least, before we let you go, we are seeing plenty of turbulence in geopolitics. Then we’re also seeing plenty of stress in the post pandemic global landscape. We’ve also been seeing upheaval when it comes to ESG, as well as DEI practices. What is your view in terms of DEI and the wealth management industry, and what do you think of the rule for wealth managers out there? 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding, both in the world of ESG and the world (in general) about DEI. ESG truly is about values aligned investing. I have met pro-life values aligned investors and pro-choice values aligned investors. ESG is really not only a certain monolithic view of the world. What it is, truly, is aligning your investments with your values.

You care about how you vote, what car you drive, how you eat – people express their identity through a whole host of things. What we’re saying in my industry is you should also own what you own from a financial perspective because there are real world impacts. This is not “woke finance.” I think that is a great misunderstanding. It is values alignment. The Koch brothers are conservative, but they are also values-aligned investors. It is agnostic in a lot of ways, but I think there’s a misnomer that it’s only extremely left because you have a lot of actions against the traditional extractive industries like oil and gas. 

On the DEI side, I also think what’s important to understand is that there are historical wrongs. Currently 7.7% of the population of the United States is comprised of African-American women and only 0.3% of all the venture capital funds – including billions of dollars invested in venture capital – only 0.3% goes to African-American women. The movement is not saying, “Let’s not invest in men, let’s not invest in Caucasian women,” It’s just saying, if you believe that talent is equally distributed, you should be investing in a way that is equally distributed. And so, it’s much more about inclusion than exclusion. And I think there’s a lot of fear and a mentality of scarcity thinking if we invest in certain minorities or certain populations we’re divesting, we’re giving less to others. And actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everybody benefits in the United States when the economy is booming, when there’s greater investment, therefore greater consumption. I think we really have to get away from that zero-sum game mentality. Diversity is not about that. It’s not about zero-sum games. It’s really about raising all boats and trying to ensure that everybody’s included in the economy, so everybody wins. That is fundamentally at the heart of the movement. 

Remy Blaire: Well, Stephanie, I think it’s really important to make that distinction. So thank you so much for clarifying that. Thank you so much for joining me today. 

Stephanie Cohn Rupp: Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure.

Note: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity and length. 

A photo of Andrew Boyd, author of a book about strategies for navigating the climate crisis, and the cover of his book I Want a Better Catastrophe.

Navigating the Climate Crisis: A Conversation with Andrew Boyd, Author of I Want a Better Catastrophe

“The climate crisis is not a problem we know how to ‘fix’ in some simple linear way. Rather, it is a complex predicament we must learn to navigate as we attempt remedies. Because many opposite things about it are true at the same time: Yes, it’s probably too late to stay under 1.5°C, but it’s also never too late – no matter how hot it gets – to act in defense of people and the planet.” – Andrew Boyd 

Andrew Boyd, author and co-creator of the Climate Clock and the Climate Ribbon projects, has been a social and environmental activist for over four decades. His latest book is I Want a Better Catastrophe: Navigating the Climate Crisis with Grief, Hope and Gallows Humor. Veris’ Partner and Senior Wealth Manager Nicole Davis sat down with Boyd for a conversation about the realities of climate change, and his perspective on how we can process our feelings of climate grief and do more to fight for the best possible future for all of humanity.

Nicole Davis: For those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the book, what does it mean to “want a better catastrophe”?

Andrew Boyd: We have missed many of our key targets to keep warming below 1.5°C. Carbon Action Tracker projects that we are currently on track for 2.7℃. All the terrible impacts we’re living through in this hellish summer of 2023 are happening when we are “only” at 1.2°C of warming. Imagine what the world will be in for at 2.7°C. The book lays out the basic science, follows me on my own journey as I reckon with our situation, and offers tools to help us navigate our climate grieving process and take the kind of action that still matters.

The first step in choosing to live in climate reality is to accept that we are in for some kind of catastrophe. It’s a very difficult step. I think a lot of people are either in a ‘we can still fix this – and keep the world we know’ mode or they’re in doom mode. People switch from one to the other. The book invites you into a mindset of ‘we’re in for catastrophe – so what is the best catastrophe that is still available to us?’ And then guides readers towards ways we can train ourselves philosophically, morally, and spiritually to work towards that better catastrophe.

I interviewed a lot of amazing people for the book who all acknowledge that we’re in for a rough ride, and shared what they think is “better” about the catastrophe they are working towards. 

Gopal Dayaneni, a leading voice of the climate justice movement, told me that the question we should be focused on is, how do we distribute the coming suffering most equitably? For him, a better catastrophe will be achieved by looking at our situation through a lens of justice and paying attention to how these impacts are going to roll unequally across our extremely unjust society. He encourages us to design solutions with the most impacted people foremost in mind and approach each moment in the crisis as a contest of power between people- and Earth-friendly solutions vs. “solutions” that favor extractive capital.

Another interviewee, healer and community organizer adrienne maree brown, acknowledges that we’re in for a hard fall and asks us to consider the question: how can we fall in a way that protects the most vulnerable people and places we love. She offers this beautiful image, suggesting we fall as though we are cradling a child on our chest.

The book is a rough awakening, but takes an oddly positive, hopeful, and resilient approach, asking us to do all that we can to achieve the best catastrophe that’s still available to us.

Nicole Davis: What has been the lasting impact – on either your perspective or behavior – of these meetings? How did those conversations change you?

Andrew Boyd: I tracked down eight leading climate thinkers, asking them questions like: How do you hope? What is still worth doing? How can we prepare ourselves — spiritually, emotionally, and strategically — for what is to come?

Celebrated climate activist Tim DeChristopher helped me understand how hope can still work even though we already know things are going to get worse. Hope, he said, is not the likelihood of getting a good outcome, but rather “the will to hold onto our values in the face of difficulty.” That more resilient kind of hope seems a better fit for our challenging 21st Century. This kind of hope is not a mood or lottery ticket; this is hope as a verb, hope as an ethic.

I had a beautiful conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer by a fire in a cabin in Adirondack State Park. She is the botanist, professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, who authored the bestselling novel Braiding Sweetgrass, which twins scientific knowledge and Indigenous wisdom. She thinks of plants as our elders and our teachers, making the half joke/half truth that plant life figured out how to have a solar powered economy half a billion years ago – and there’s much we can learn from them. She noted how Indigenous worldviews tend to imbue the natural world with soul, or ‘animacy’, while the Western, scientific worldview strips that away, philosophically setting up capitalism to reduce everything to numbers, property, and commodities, and extract what it wants from a natural world shorn of its magic, presence, and agency.

I met with Joanna Macy, the beloved eco-philosopher and Buddhist practitioner in her Berkeley apartment over tea and cucumbers. She was 90 at the time, and I think she’s as close to a saint as anyone I’ve met. We don’t get to know, she said, whether we are hospice workers of a dying world or midwives helping to birth a new one, but even without knowing, we must still act in service, with loving kindness to ourselves, to our fellow humans, and to all living things.

“Yes, we’re all in this together, but also, no, we’re not. Because a lot of the folks who are suffering the worst climate impacts have done the least to cause the problem. We might all be in the same storm, but we’re in very different boats. So, rather than avoiding these contradictions…the book helps us face them, and find our own path through them. And do that without falling into despair on the one hand, or some kind of false hyper-optimism on the other.”

Nicole Davis: What is one major lesson that you hope readers take away from the book? 

Andrew Boyd: A professor of climate science and communication told me that what she most loves about this book is that it allows her to feel all the feelings she has around climate change both good and bad. The book says to readers: it’s okay to have hope one day and hopelessness the next. It’s okay to be working on solutions while knowing that simply living in this civilization makes you part of the problem. It’s all part of the fabric of our situation. So, instead of being paralyzed by these seeming hypocrisies, the book says, embrace the paradoxes, laugh darkly about it, and keep doing all the good you can still do.

Because the climate crisis is not a problem we know how to “fix” in some simple linear way. Rather, it is a complex predicament we must learn to navigate as we attempt remedies. Because many opposite things about it are true at the same time: Yes, it’s probably too late to stay under 1.5°C, but it’s also never too late – no matter how hot it gets – to act in defense of people and the planet. Yes, we’re all in this together, but also, no, we’re not. Because a lot of the folks who are suffering the worst climate impacts have done the least to cause the problem. We might all be in the same storm, but we’re in very different boats.

So, rather than avoiding these contradictions – just because they sometimes feel overwhelming, and complex, and painful, and heartbreaking – the book helps us face them, and find our own path through them. And do that without falling into despair on the one hand, or some kind of false hyper-optimism on the other. To straddle this in-between, the book offers up some mini-philosophies like “tragic optimism” and “can-do pessimism,” giving you permission to, say, have a sour take on how things are gonna play out while still doing all the good that you can. Just don’t become a misanthrope. Stay compassionate. We all need to find our own way of not giving up.

Nicole Davis: What is an action that you hope readers will take after reading?

Andrew Boyd: Despite our dire circumstances, there’s so much good that can still be done, and that must be done.

First, let’s distinguish between individual actions and systemic actions. Even though the very notion of a personal “carbon footprint” was invented in 2004 by PR firm Oglivy & Mather hired by British Petroleum to find ways to shift the onus off of Big Oil and onto individuals, I still think taking individual action is necessary and important. We should recycle and bike more. We should fly less. We should try to switch towards a plant-based diet. We should do everything we can as individuals, but given the scale of the crisis, individual actions alone are woefully insufficient.

So, we must also find a way to use the tools of democracy to tackle the systemic causes of our climate crisis. The book recommends a number of such approaches including an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure and — noting how over $400B tax dollars are given to the global fossil fuel industry every year, underwriting everything from coal plants to new highways — an end to subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

While we have to be careful of the many false solutions — “clean” coal, carbon offsets, etc. — out there, we are witnessing a flourishing of real ones that we need to get to scale. The solutions page on the book’s website lists a host of things you can do and efforts to get involved in. Project Drawdown has a ranked list of the 100 most impactful solutions for surviving our climate crunch and achieving a just and livable world. Getting involved can also be good for your mental health. As one of my interviewees said, “taking action is my coping – and hoping – mechanism.”

If you’re in the responsible investment world, there’s much you can do: shareholder activism is on the rise, and the Fossil Fuel Divestment movement, having already racked up over $40T in divestment commitments, has a renewed focus on pension funds.

My current project, the Climate Clock is a global effort to get all climate stakeholders to #ActInTime on key solutions. Bill McKibben describes the climate crisis as a “timed test.” If we win later, we lose. Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate, in an open letter to global media on the eve of COP26, declared, “If your story does not include the notion of a ticking clock, you are not telling the full climate story.” The Climate Clock is that clock.

The clock counts down the time remaining to prevent global warming from rising above 1.5°C. It also tracks our real time progress on key climate solution pathways, including renewable energy adoption, fossil fuel divestment, Indigenous land sovereignty, gender parity, regenerative agriculture, and more. As we say, we have “one deadline, but many lifelines.”

One absolutely essential way the responsible investment community can help is with financial support. I like to joke that we’re an “Internet-of-Things start-up hiding inside a global climate justice campaign.” In any case, there’s nothing quite like Climate Clock out there, and it takes a lot to run the whole project, so if anyone out there feels moved to organize your networks to support this critical effort, I can’t tell you how happy (and less stressed) that would make me. And, honestly, it’s hard to imagine a better ROI for our planet and people.

For more information, contact Andrew Boyd at or visit where you can find his favorite highlights from the book or sign up for his email newsletter.

Nicole Davis is a Partner and Senior Wealth Manager at Veris Wealth Partners. 

The content provided herein is provided for informational purposes only, represents only a summary of topics discussed, and does not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice. The opinions of the speaker interviewed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Veris Wealth Partners. Information provided herein is derived from third parties and has not been independently verified by Veris Wealth Partners. 

Veris Wealth Partners Signs Onto The SME Climate Commitment to Achieve Net-Zero Emissions

Veris Wealth Partners is pleased to announce that we have formalized our longstanding goal to achieve Net-Zero carbon emissions by signing onto The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Climate Commitment. By making this commitment, Veris has pledged to:

  • Reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% before 2030*
  • Achieve Net Zero Emissions before 2040
  • Disclose our progress on a yearly basis

Reducing our carbon footprint has been important to Veris since our firm’s inception. Long before we took this pledge, we made an internal commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and offset 100% of carbon used in our operations. We currently offset 100% of carbon emissions through fellow B Corp NativeEnergy, which uses high quality offsets certified by third parties such as the Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Registry. By signing onto the SME Climate Commitment, Veris publicly reconfirms our belief that climate change poses grave threats to the natural world, humanity, and the global economy and our conviction that all businesses have a responsibility to be part of the solution.

Net-Zero Action Steps

In accordance with our Climate Commitment, Veris will take the following action steps: Measurement – Veris will continue to measure our firm’s carbon footprint on an annual basis. Reduction – Veris will continue to seek innovative ways to reduce our emissions firmwide and adopt new practices to make progress towards our goal of net zero. Reporting – We have historically included data about our firm’s annual carbon footprint in our annual Impact Report and we will continue to do so to mark our progress.

Join the Effort to Achieve Net-Zero & Fight Climate Change

The SME Climate Commitment was designed to spur more small and medium sized organizations to take bigger steps to achieve our shared goal of emitting Net-Zero carbon emissions and is part of the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign. We believe that public accountability is a powerful tool to drive behavior change and we encourage more business leaders to join us in signing onto a Net-Zero commitment.

*Veris uses 2019 GHG emissions as the baseline year for GHG emissions to reduce by 2030.

How Can We Efficiently Mobilize Impact Capital for Climate Action and Justice?

By Nicole Davis, Partner and Senior Advisor

Veris recently partnered with the Shift event series to bring together a variety of impact leaders for a Shift Conversations event focused on climate action and climate justice. 

As moderator of the session I asked each of our panelists – Alex Amouyel, the Executive Director of MIT Solve; Christian Okoye, a Partner in Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners; Geoff Eisenberg, a Partner at Ecosystem Integrity Fund; and Melissa Weigel, Senior Director of Investment at NatureVest – to tell us about the climate solutions they are most excited about currently and examples of how they are bringing a climate justice lens into their own decision-making processes. A video and transcript of the session are available here, but I thought I would share a few of the key insights that I took away from our conversation.  

1. Nature-based solutions can be both more affordable and more effective than human-made solutions. 

Nature-based climate solutions include efforts to conserve and restore existing ecosystems. This approach removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while also increasing resilience to climate change in many cases. By restoring coastal wetlands that act as a carbon sink, we can help with climate mitigation while also helping front-line communities adapt to new challenges caused by our changing climate. Melissa Weigel shared about the innovative sustainable debt swap program that NatureVest developed to support nature-based solutions in communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. 

Melissa Weigel: “The Nature Conservancy has designed this debt swap mechanism so we’re able to renegotiate a portion of (small island developing states’) debt in exchange for the country achieving certain conservation outcomes primarily related to coastal resiliency – protecting their coral reefs and mangroves. Not just because it’s good for the environment, but because that actually protects their country from future storm events. Coral reefs can attenuate 97% of the wave energy that might come during a storm, and that’s protecting that coastline from future damage. So it’s actually making the community more resilient, and we’re able to reduce their debt burden.” 

This nature-based approach is reducing carbon while protecting the lives, property, and livelihoods of the people who live in front-line communities and doing so in a way that is significantly lower cost than developing and installing a human-designed solution like a seawall. 

2. Rethinking our existing energy grid will be a critical part of the solution to climate change. 

Developing and scaling renewable energy solutions is critical, but that is only one piece of the solution to climate change. There is tremendous opportunity to address climate change by rethinking our existing energy grid. Christian Okoye, of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, talked about the exciting possibilities of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). 

Christian Okoye: “With more people deciding to put solar on their roofs or get an EV charger, we think there’s going to be increased numbers of prosumers to the grid. The grid will increasingly become bi-directional, where we can all participate in the grid. You won’t necessarily have to figure out how you trade and get value out of the grid. A lot of that will be automated through Tesla and other aggregators who will get all of the load at the consumer or prosumer level and be able to speak with the grid and participate in those marketplaces and give you value for your participation and for your load flexibility. This will effectively become a virtual power plant.”

In the future we won’t just be buying power from our utility, we’ll also be selling it back. That will be a big part of the solution moving us away from large scale utility plants that emit greenhouse gases. In addition to that, DER solutions aimed at expanding access to renewable energy to low and moderate income communities that have historically suffered the most from the negative environmental impacts of large scale utility plants. Expanding access to more affordable renewable energy solutions within these communities will reduce carbon while helping low and middle income communities become more resilient financially.

3. We must develop and scale climate solutions that serve people with low incomes, the rising middle class, and emerging markets globally.

If we are to solve climate change we must develop and scale solutions for all markets. Using micromobility solutions as an example, Geoff Eisenberg, of Ecosystem Integrity Partners, made a point that really drove home why we must focus on developing solutions that serve emerging markets, domestically and in developing countries, that have high populations of low-income and poverty level citizens as well as a rising middle-class.

Geoff Eisenberg: “Enabling new markets outside the U.S. to leapfrog the mistakes that we made around hydrocarbon energy generation and hydrocarbon-based transportation is not a nice-to-have, – it’s a must-have. If the two billion people who are rising up into the middle-class go through the same processes that we went through, it’s over. We’ll be at 6℃ by the end of the century. So we’ve invested in solar battery mini-grid developers in Africa and electric motor scooter operators in Africa where we think there’s an opportunity to leapfrog past some of the mistakes that we’ve made.”  

Spreading the use of affordable electric bikes and scooters and other micromobility solutions can also help reduce pollution that causes asthma and other health challenges that primarily impact low and middle income communities.  

4. Proximate entrepreneurs develop innovative solutions that address the unique needs of their communities. 

The most creative and effective solutions often come from entrepreneurs who represent or have deep ties to the communities that are being affected by the challenge. To solve challenges in low and moderate income communities and communities of color, we need to invest in entrepreneurs from these communities. Alex Amouyel noted that MIT Solve seeks to invest in proximate solutions. She gave an example of an innovative proximate solution called ISeeChange which is based out of New Orleans and developed by an entrepreneur with deep ties to the Gulf.

Alex Amouyel: “It is a citizen journalism platform that is mobilizing communities to share microdata about climate impacts in their streets and their cities and their communities. Through that, they are rebuilding data, bottom-up, that can be used by cities and climate scientists to really understand how the climate is changing in a city like New Orleans.”

Later Alex noted that it is equally important that entrepreneurs working on these kinds of solutions are able to tap into supplies of capital aligned investors who prioritize impact. She said, “the patience of the capital and the impact alignment of the capital are really important for impact-aligned entrepreneurs to succeed. That makes the difference between where they can spend their time.”

That kind of impact capital is needed at every stage, from getting something up off the ground and throughout each later stage as the solution achieves scale. 

5. Funders must consider the social impact – in addition to the environmental impact – of a climate solution.  

There are powerful ways to change your screening process to seek out solutions that solve for both social and environmental challenges. Geoff Eisenberg offered this example of how their screens evolved over time to incorporate a climate justice lens:

Geoff Eisenberg: “We’re looking at an electric truck company that electrified a diesel truck. It’s great that you cut carbon emissions, but most ports and distribution centers are also in low to moderate-income communities and those people suffer massively higher rates of asthma and other health problems due to PM (particulate matter) 2.5 pollution. Let’s focus on getting the diesel out of those communities and have this wonderful impact of having these great trucks that solve a bunch of problems all at once.”

It is essential that the folks solving for climate include a justice component. We don’t want the solutions to climate change to make existing social inequalities significantly worse.  


In our conversation we covered a variety of approaches, but we only scratched the surface of many promising solutions for climate change. Though we did not have enough time to cover all the possibilities, we hope that this session inspires effective climate action – whether that action is around how you allocate your capital or philanthropic dollars, how you turn your entrepreneurial ideas into action, or simply how you use your voice and votes.

To learn about other opportunities to drive impact on climate change, watch the video or read the full transcript of our Shift Conversation, How Can We Effectively Mobilize Impact Capital for Climate Action and Climate Justice?

To watch the full interview, click here

Nicole Davis is a Partner and Senior Advisor at Veris Wealth Partners. Nicole specializes in creating highly impactful private investment portfolios, tailored to clients’ thematic interests. She also serves as a consultant to the Envestnet Impact Investing Solutions Platform and is a member of the Veris Investment Committee. Prior to joining Veris, Nicole was Portfolio Manager and Assistant Vice President with Bank of Hawaii’s Private Client Asset Management Team, where she constructed portfolios, performed equity research, and directly managed over $300 million in client assets.

PG&E, Climate Change and the Sustainable Path Forward

By Anders Ferguson

The failure of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to provide power safely to Northern California has been a human and economic nightmare, while highlighting the ineffective regulatory oversight of the investor-owned utility.

But as tragic as this has been, the fallout has created new momentum for a safer, greener era of power generation and distribution in the Golden State and potentially elsewhere.

The Path Forward

In our view, the path forward is predicated on two key ideas inspired by innovation and technology:

  • Adopting new models of ownership and governance for regulated electric utilities that move away from monopolies like PG&E and embrace community-owned utilities;
  • Rapid deployment of renewable energy and utility-scale storage technology to reduce reliance on the grid and promote the widespread adoption of solar energy.

The good news is that both ideas can be committed to today. They can be implemented step by step over the next 20 years – not sometime in the distant future. Thanks to progressive thinking and the billions of private and public dollars ready to be deployed, we can create our own future and not be condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.

For impact investors, there will be new opportunities to put capital to work in solutions that will re-engineer the paradigm that has defined energy production and distribution for more than a century.

Read the full research brief here: PG&E, Climate Change, and the Sustainable Path Forward

Hills behind lake

Reason for Climate Change Optimism

By Anders Ferguson, Partner

Over the past few years, it feels like “climate change deniers” have won the day – or at least were gaining the upper hand. But then weird weather produced billions of dollars of damage, large ice flows melted and raised the seas, and a growing number of businesses and governments said enough was enough.

At the same time, ordinary people are continuing to suffer from the negative effects of climate change, while still others are seeing the positive effects of the rapid growth in the renewable energy economy.

Change is never easy. It requires a faith in the future and the willingness to change our mind. But when we do, we produce the energy and power we each need for both optimism and action. Lately, there has been a lot of reason for faith and reasonable optimism. Let’s take a look.

Europe and China Lead the Way
That the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord 2016 wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was the groundswell of global support for climate change solutions.

The response from hundreds of cities and other entities that signed onto protocol agreements to uphold the Paris Accords’ goals was both catalytic and encouraging. Side by side, American and global businesses are marching ahead in decarbonizing. Lacking American presidential leadership, Europe and China are leading the way. The U.S federal government has surrendered moral and policy leadership, but that has empowered the private sector to lead the decarbonization of the economy. American people are taking action.

The Good News
There is plenty of reason for optimism. Around the world, the private and public sectors are taking meaningful steps to address climate change. The following are just a few recent examples:
Renewable energy sectors are transforming transportation, buildings and electric power generation. By some estimates 90% of decarbonization is likely to unfold in renewable energy, and all three of these sectors are changing because of it. International Renewable Energy Agency

The Administration wants to reduce CAFE mileage standards for cars, but even auto companies are not asking for this. California and other states currently have high CAFE and environmental standards. They push the entire country in continually raising the bar. They are initiating numerous lawsuits to stop the Trump administration. Automotive News, 2/4/19

Electric vehicles in the U.S. represent less than 4% of total auto sales in 2019. By 2030, they are estimated to reach 30% to 40% of sales. The major global auto companies like VW are retooling for a future centered on electric vehicles. China is currently the largest market of total numbers of EV’s. It’s widely accepted that the coming boom in self-driving cars is dependent on fleets of electric vehicles for operational and engineering fundamentals. International Energy Agency, Global EV 2018 Outlook

In Calgary, our northern neighbor’s oil capital, oil company offices are being converted to apartments due to the exodus of oil companies and job losses. In part, this is attributed to failure to get new pipelines built south through the U.S. and east through Canada. Bloomberg, 6/10/2019

The sunset of the oil age is actually occurring. One notable example is Shell Oil’s decision to spend down its oil reserves and prepare the company for a “lower carbon future.” This shift includes Shell’s increased commitments to the Paris Accords. Shell is the fourth-largest petroleum company in the world.
CNBC, 6/4/2019

The New Green Deal is motivating political candidates and activists to think bigger. Apparently, some oil companies are doing the same. Four major global oil companies, including Shell and BP, announced their active support for a carbon tax. LittleSis, 5/28/2019

The nuclear era is winding down and renewables are taking its place. Connecticut, over the next 10 years, will replace a 2000MW nuclear plant with 2000MW off-shore wind farm integrated with energy storage. The wind farm operators expect to significantly increase system efficiency via the rapidly expanding energy storage systems emerging. CleanTechnica, 6/6/2019

Carbon Sequestration. We know that plants and trees remove carbon from the air. U.S. estimates for forests is 10-20% of total carbon emissions sequestered. Soil is less clear on a national level, but getting increasing attention in Regenerative Agriculture. Forest Service, USDA

The Big Picture
What does this all mean?

Driven by innovation and change, we are moving rapidly to a whole new decarbonizing economy. This is the beginning of an enormous economic and societal transformation. Business and the marketplace are the change agents.

This realignment of the world’s power infrastructure is inspiring entrepreneurs, business and governments to dream and build a new future without fossil fuels. Just as importantly, it is inspiring average people to take positive actions, which in this case only reinforce themselves. Home insulation to PV on the roof to an electric vehicle. “I am inspired and my risk taking is encouraging my neighbor. Critical mass sprouts.”

For success, we need greater government support in building a low-carbon economy. Only governments can mandate these rapid changes, which must be implemented to make a difference in climate change on our world and all its beings.

Anders Ferguson, Partner and Co-founder of Veris Wealth Partners, is a long-time champion of climate change solutions.

Agricultural items

The Regenerative Agriculture Revolution

By Patricia Farrar-Rivas and Nicole Davis

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with clients is the opportunity to share ground-breaking ideas that benefit people and society.

We believe that Regenerative Agriculture is one of them – like gender lens investing – that has the potential to redefine climate change solutions. The concept has been around for decades, but it has gained momentum in the past few years. The reason is that Regenerative Agriculture is likely a better way to grow crops and raise livestock, but is also emerging as one of the most effective ways to reduce atmospheric carbon.

We wanted to share our enthusiasm for Regenerative Agriculture, along with the latest research and thinking about the topic. Our hope is to promote a broader dialogue with investors who want to align their wealth with their values.

Regenerative Agriculture – The Magic of Photosynthesis
What is Regenerative Agriculture?

One insightful definition is from Regenerative International, “Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.

Regenerative Agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter.” Such practices include no till farming, rotational grazing, use of cover crops, and the application of compost.

In its recent white paper, the organization notes that Regenerative Agriculture increases soil biodiversity and health, while increasing biodiversity both above and below the soil surface. In turn, that increases the water holding capacity of the soil and captures carbon. The anticipated result: harmful carbon is sequestered, soil structure is improved and human-caused topsoil loss is reversed.

Rodale Institute has been another thoughtful proponent of Regenerative Agriculture. In its white paper, the organization highlights the potential for controlling carbon emissions through Regenerative Agriculture.

“Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture.’ These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect.”

A Better Way
In essence, Regenerative Agriculture practices can prevent the release of soil carbon, and vacuums up environmental carbon, depositing it into the soil. In addition to the carbon sink benefits, Regenerative Agriculture can play an important role in the resiliency of our food system. The healthier soil created by Regenerative Agriculture is better able to reduce crop loss from climate change including flooding-rains and drought.

Experts say transitioning to Regenerative Agriculture will take time. Or will it? Maybe the answer is rethinking the current allocation of capital to climate change solutions.

Today, approximately 80% of investment in climate change solutions is for wind and solar. Just 20% goes for soil health and biodiversity. Perhaps these percentages should be switched, or at least balanced through the allocation of additional investment in soil health.

In order to create widespread adoption, it’s important that capital is used to create economic incentives for regenerative practices. While many such mechanisms are utilized only on a small scale, the results are promising.

Pay for regenerative practices programs have been rolled out for cover cropping, but more practices need to be included. The reason is that the benefits of a holistic system go far beyond the sum of its parts. On a recent tour with Dirt Capital of regenerative farms in the Hudson Valley, a number of Verisians learned about the Hudson Carbon Project. We visited the Churchtown Dairy, the location of one of Hudson Carbon’s monitoring sites, which seeks to measure and verify some of the ecological benefits of regenerative practices.

The work of Hudson Carbon and their partners at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, lay important groundwork for the establishment of a soil carbon protocol that could be used by farmers to sell carbon credits, and reap monetary benefits for their role as carbon farmers and ranchers.

As impact investors, we have learned many times that innovation and education can overcome vestigial thinking and entrenched interests. The impetus for that change is often individual investors. The unimaginable growth of impact and sustainable investing in the past decade wasn’t initiated by institutional investors. It was championed from the bottom up by individuals who believed another way was possible.

We believe that now is the time for all of us to think about Regenerative Agriculture. It’s a rare twofer: An opportunity to feed the world more intelligently and possibly stop climate change in its tracks.

We recently attended one of the regenerative learning sessions at Paicines Ranch in California. Sallie Calhoun, also known as the Queen of Soil, created the No Regrets Initiative whose goal is to encourage the expansion of regenerative agriculture through education, impact investing and on the “ranch” experimentation.

As Sallie would say “at the ranch we are creating balance, by regenerating ecosystems while growing healthy food.” For more information about Regenerative Agriculture, please visit this very informative site, the No Regrets Initiative, which is a compendium of research and perspective on the topic.

Patricia Farrar-Rivas is Co-Founder and CEO of Veris Wealth Partners. Nicole Davis is Partner and Senior Wealth Manager at Veris Wealth Partners.

Water Ripple

Don’t Fall Behind – Water Is A Great Opportunity For Investors

Veris Guest Blog: By David Richardson, CFA

The theme of the UN’s annual World Water Day last month was “leave no-one behind.” This sentiment is applicable to both emerging markets and the developed world, while offering opportunities for investors in water.

The sixth sustainable development goal (SDG) from the UN is clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. The UN celebrates this day each year to call attention to this global priority and to advocate for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

While the need to develop water infrastructure in the developing world is understood, access to clean water, as the ongoing 2014 Flint, Michigan water crisis illustrates, is an issue for the developed world too.

My firm, Impax Asset Management, has been researching and investing in listed water related companies since 1999, running a dedicated strategy since 2008. In recent years, we have seen the universe of investable companies increase and an acceleration in the growth of many of its constituent companies. Climate change, pollution and a growing, increasingly urban population all drive demand that innovation and technology can help fulfil.

Governments, public bodies and private industry are all investing in new and upgraded infrastructure, and the investment momentum keeps gaining pace.

Access and changing preferences
Leaving no one behind in emerging market regions, like China, India and Sub-Sahara, largely requires the development of water infrastructure where it previously did not exist.

It is a positive development driven in no small part by urbanization, growing populations and changes in consumption patterns that demand higher standards of living. This isn’t just about access to clean water and water treatment. Many items taken for granted by urban dwellers require a significant amount of water to produce. A hamburger, for instance, requires 460 gallons (2,090 liters) of water to make.1

Aging infrastructure
A great deal of the infrastructure in the developed world is outdated, inefficient and/or struggling to meet modern water demands. This was exemplified by the Flint’s water crisis, where cost-cutting led to insufficient water treatment and lead leaching into the water supply. The project to replace the lead pipes, which commenced in 2016, continues with costs running into hundreds of millions of dollars.2

Climate change
Climate change is impacting water security. In recent years there have been a number of severe periods of drought and water shortages that have impacted farming yields, industrial productivity and meant loss of revenue for workers, such as the 2012–16 California and the 2014-2017 Brazil droughts.

Most recently, South Africa’s second largest city Cape Town, with a population of about 4 million people, suffered its own water crisis. Rainfall well below historical levels meant the City’s main reservoir was close to empty in March 2018. Cape Town residential water use was cut from about 120 liters per person per day in 2015 to 50 liters at the start of 2018.

For officials and residents in these regions, the long-term impact of climate change on water supply requires investment in a range of measures, including conservation and leak detection. Examples of other extreme weather events, like storms, represent a different priority, where protection and clean-up can be more pressing.3

An abundance of opportunities
The investment opportunities in water are surprisingly diverse and resilient. Risk characteristics are comparable to equity markets, and water runs through the global economy, across markets, sectors and regions. Water also provides attractive opportunities through the economic cycle, encompassing both defensive and cyclical businesses.

Technology and innovation play key roles in reducing water consumption. Smart meters, for example, can help utilities manage the supporting infrastructure more efficiently, and provide an early warning sign of and location of leaks. Public entities and private industry globally are investing in upgrading their infrastructure and this investment momentum looks set to continue.

Friends of the Earth and Impax Asset Management ‘Investing in water: tapping into a source of resilient growth’
3The Financial Times

David Richardson, CFA®, is Executive Director of Impax Asset Management, which has more than $16 billion in assets under management.

How Climate Change Caused PG&E’s Bankruptcy

Veris Guest Blog: By Timothy P. Dunn, CFA

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Corporation, California’s largest investor-owned utility, which serves roughly 5.2 million households in central and northern California, filed for bankruptcy and is facing an estimated $30 billion of potential liabilities stemming from its equipment’s role in the historic 2017 and 2018 wildfires.

PG&E’s bankruptcy is indicative of how our changing climate presents real economic and financial risks for companies and investors. Prior to the wildfires that burned over 240,000 acres, PG&E included warnings that weather-related disasters could weigh on or disrupt its operations in its regulatory filings. In a statement, the company noted that the state’s most recent climate assessment “found the average area burned statewide would increase 77 percent if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise,” and that “prolonged drought and higher temperatures will triple the frequency of wildfires.” Further, PG&E performed extensive water risk assessments, water management was integrated into its business strategy, and the company spent hundreds of millions of dollars every year in fire prevention, including pruning or removing thousands of trees. This awareness and action, though necessary and important, was not enough.

In an environment that continues to be challenged by climate change, PG&E’s situation could be a harbinger of the economic toll of spatially-related climate risk. “California is now a riskier place to do business,” said the Environmental Defense Fund’s Michael Colvin, a former adviser to the California Public Utilities Commission. “This is a statewide problem.”

The bankruptcy not only points out the danger that warming poses for many companies, it also underscores how difficult it is for investors to analyze risks linked to climate change compared to conventional business challenges. It is becoming increasingly clear that economic damage from climate change will affect a variety of sectors, and even companies regarded as forward-thinking might not be able to directly prepare for all the externalities associated with this systemic global problem.

Veris Guest Blog
Source: Seeking Alpha

Terra Alpha first purchased PG&E in 2015 based on the fact that it was a leading US regulated power provider with solid fundamentals and a strong record of shifting to lower carbon power generation. Nearly 80% of the electricity that PG&E delivered in 2017 was a combination of renewable and GHG free. Accordingly, PG&E was well-positioned to benefit from increased regulatory action in California aimed at furthering the shift toward renewable energy.

We sold our shares of PG&E in mid-October of 2017, after PG&E’s equipment was linked to the start of several wildfires. We had determined that the risk profile for the stock had dramatically worsened and it was no longer prudent to own. We felt that its exposure to such enormous liability, coupled with CEO Geisha Williams’ concerns about the growing financial risk for PG&E from forest fires, intensified by a changing climate, and California’s unique inverse condemnation laws, represented material undiscounted financial risk.

While PG&E may represent the first climate change bankruptcy it likely won’t be the last. Investors need to learn how to account for long-tail climate risk in their portfolios.

Timothy P. Dunn, CFA, is Founder, Managing Member and Chief Investment Officer of Terra Alpha Investments, LLC, a global equities asset manager.

*The information presented by Mr. Dunn is not an endorsement of Terra Alpha Investments by Veris Wealth Partners.

What You Can Do To Address Climate Change

By Helene Marsh, Veris Client

Climate change can be an overwhelming topic for any individual or community. So how can anyone make a meaningful difference?

What You Can Do To Address Climate Change By Helene MarshThat’s the question my friend, Sarah Loughran, and I had been asking ourselves for several years. Today, supported by a concerted community effort, we’ve succeeded in helping eight Marin County municipalities reduce greenhouse emissions by purchasing 100% renewable energy for their government facilities.

At the same time, we’ve helped raise awareness about how individuals can support the renewable energy market in their community by purchasing energy from renewable providers for just a few dollars more a month.

As an impact investing client of Veris, I wanted to share my experience to hopefully inspire others to think boldly and creatively in addressing climate change.

Creating Impact
Sarah and I met while serving on the Marin County Civil Grand Jury in 2013. Fast forward four years, and we were together again taking the signature Master Class of Environmental Forum of Marin, a local leader in training environmental advocates for the last 45 years.

We soon learned that the passage of climate change legislation in California requires communities to meet specific greenhouse gas emission reductions over the next 30 years. That law requires each community to produce a climate action plan that details how these goals will be achieved.

When we looked at how Marin County municipalities were meeting the intent of the law, we were surprised by what we found: Each of the climate action plans, for the 12 Marin municipalities, included residents and municipalities purchasing 100% renewable electricity as options for reducing greenhouse gases. Only 4 municipalities made the switch to clean energy for their own operations.

With the support of 19 environmental groups and members of the community, Sarah and I launched a campaign to change this in 2017.

Working together, we convinced eight of the 12 Marin jurisdictions – Corte Madera, Larkspur, Novato, San Rafael, Ross, Mill Valley, Tiburon and the County of Marin – to make the switch to using 100% renewable electricity for government buildings, facilities and streetlights.

The four other Marin jurisdictions – Fairfax, Belvedere, San Anselmo and Sausalito – had already made the switch prior to the start of our campaign.

The upshot: Marin County leads the way in California and across the country in purchasing 100% renewable power for its municipal accounts.

The whole process took only ten months!

We met with every town or city manager and many council members to understand the challenges they faced. We wrote reports and talking points to make the case for 100% renewable energy. We gathered supporters in each jurisdiction to attend public hearings. We kept jurisdictions informed of progress across the country and sent follow-up correspondence. In total, we attended 17 council meetings.

The positive results speak volumes about the effectiveness of citizen power and democracy.

How You Can Buy 100% Renewable Energy
So how did Marin County source the renewable energy?

Through the local “Community Choice Aggregation,” MCE. The non-profit company is one of many Bay Area companies providing clean energy that can be purchased by households, businesses and government agencies. (See below for a list.)

While it’s true that 100% renewable energy is more expensive than non-renewable energy, the difference is minimal. On a $200 power bill, 100% renewable electricity is less than $10 a month more.

Many of the Community Choice Aggregation companies listed below provide comparisons of buying renewable vs. traditional power sources.

MCE: Marin, Napa, Solano and Contra Costa Counties. The 100% renewable option is called Deep Green.

Clean Power SF: San Francisco. The 100% renewable option is called Super Green. Peninsula Clean Energy: San Mateo County. The 100% renewable option is called Eco100.

Sonoma Clean Power: Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. The 100% renewable option is called Evergreen.

Silicon Valley Clean Energy: Santa Clara County. The 100% renewable option is called Green Prime.

East Bay Community Energy: Alameda County. The 100% renewable option is called Renewable 100.

Sarah and I are continuing to advocate for the purchase of clean energy to reduce our carbon footprint. Our work and experience demonstrate what can be done by those committed to having impact in their communities.

* * *

About Helene Marsh
Helene Marsh is a clean-energy advocate who lives in Tiburon, California. In addition to co-leading the effort to transition Marin County municipalities to 100% clean energy in government buildings, Helene built one of the first LEED certified homes in the country and sells power to the grid from solar panels on her house. She is also an MCE Deep Green customer and drives an all-electric vehicle to further reduce her carbon footprint. Helene earned a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Visual Arts from Harvard University and a Master’s degree in Environmental Science & Management from University of California, Santa Barbara.