Taking an Optimistic Approach to Climate Action - Sarah Finnie Robinson

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In this video, Sarah Finnie Robinson, founding partner at WeSpire, discusses her role in sustainability investment and how she makes the business case for climate action.

Sarah explains how blogging for Huffington Post has helped her share positive climate solutions with the world and why making climate action social and fun is the way forward.



  • Business
  • Communities


Aryt Alasti's picture

Of course, the "big companies

Of course, the "big companies" which have been the focus of divestment campaigns are those which especially have culpability for producing products that have already done great and quite probably irreversible damage to climate normalcy, and which nonetheless persist for the most part with business as usual (except as constrained by economic factors), despite the many years' worth of effort by engaged investors and furthermore the acknowledgement by a number of those companies' leaders that we face a dire crisis.

The foreknowledge of consequences which fossil-fuel companies' own research provided from decades ago should require reparations to humanity from them at this point, as much so as is the case with (for instance) asbestos manufacturers.

Institutions such as MIT and Harvard (note: Harvard has divested itself of virtually all fossil-fuel holdings for financial reasons) - although their research, teaching and campus sustainability efforts are very impressive, still are not whatsoever responding to the threat of climate change to an extent which corresponds to the unprecedented enormity of that threat.

Both institutions face the certainty in the future of catastrophic campus floodings, and the likelihood of severe impacts to the lives of all in the extended university communities within not too many *decades*. Most alumni are not addressing this as among their foremost priorities - if they were, there would be vastly much more pressure in effect for strong stances to be taken on: causalities; a reality-based emphasis on consequences; the obligations of responsible parties; criticisms of grossly inadequate action; and, the necessity for global collaborative efforts by educational institutions at all levels to enlight n the citizenry so that humanity in fact rises to the challenge of defending itself.

As Revkin indicates, divestment campaigns are among the more potent means of making headway with such messaging. Increasingly, those campaigns have also been sounding the alarm about the financial inadvisability for long-term investors of continuing to be at all reliant upon returns from an industry which is pushing itself and the rest of us into very precarious circumstances.

Rick Shankman's picture

Curt, with regard to home

Curt, with regard to home-based solar programs in West Africa's Niger Delta region, I doubt the people and communities affected by the (developed - Western nations') horribly exploitative and environmentally destructive oil and gas activities there are having any of their relative positions blurred or moral stances "melted" by new electricity, considering these longstanding corruption realities... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuqLfH1SW98

Curt Newton's picture

Have you all read Bill

Have you all read Bill McKibben's recent New Yorker piece about small scale solar in Africa? http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/06/26/the-race-to-solar-power-africa

It's a fascinating window into the personal stories and motivations of the citizens, the local entrepreneurs, and the folks "from away" who've chosen to focus on these communities. Short of having our own firsthand direct experience, these stories highlight the complexities and contradictions that play out in any shifting situation -- like bringing microfinanced solar to communities that previously have had no electricity. To me it melts some of the hard distinctions and moral positioning I might be tempted to make between consumers and businesses, developed vs. developing, etc..

Rajesh Kasturirangan's picture

Thank you Sarah and Christine

Thank you Sarah and Christine for your comments. It's no surprise to me that this topic has sparked so many discussions, for it's about the real heart of the debate, i.e., how are we going to transform the way we live, work and play in response to the changing climate.

Christine Callihoo's picture

I really appreciate the final

I really appreciate the final assertions regarding our privileged roles in addressing climate change; we are not the ones scraping together our next meal. Our privilege provides responsibility to continue to work on behalf of the global community to make the change required for all to benefit. The articulation of benefits require significant, meaningful guidance from each community/country as the benefits will manifest in accordance to unique cultural influences.

Sarah Robinson's picture

Great discussion here.

Great discussion here.
We need all weapons and tools at our disposal: bludgeons, screwdrivers, velvet hammers, etc. But at the end of the day, for business people and financial markets, *price* is the most effective driver, as Bloomberg New Energy Finance points out. “This is economics, pure and simple economics,” BNEF’s Colin McKerracher says. “Lithium-ion battery prices are going to come down sooner and faster than most other people expect.”
More here:

Rick Shankman's picture

Rajesh, with regard to the

Rajesh, with regard to the "speak softly" approach, consider the recent example (near and dear to our hearts) with MIT and FFMIT....

After 116 days of sit-in protest, MIT still refused to divest from coal and tar sands companies. Yes, we have a lovely new "Climate Action Advisory Committee" and such, but (arguably) the world's leading scientific institute is still invested in some of the most polluting business endeavors on the planet. This continued investment reportedly due to "shareholder responsibility" and desires to continue MIT's long history of working with industry to "[grow] the western world economy."

With divided loyalties like this at our own MIT, I fear the only way to stop the madness will be to swing the bludgeon.

Rajesh Kasturirangan's picture

Sarah and Rick, just from

Sarah and Rick, just from this exchange alone, it's clear how polarized the debate is - and I don't think that's a bad thing, for the topic is of such urgent importance. Where I am with Sarah is that I don't think the (required) transformation of our economies and societies will happen without business support but where I am with Rick is that we will have to speak softly but carry a big bludgeon.

Rick Shankman's picture

Sorry Sarah, I still like the

Sorry Sarah, I still like the bludgeon idea.

When dealing with for-profit corporations/institutions and their limited "preservation/growth of assets" mentality, they seldom respond to anything less.

Sarah Robinson's picture

Rajesh, on the subject of

Rajesh, on the subject of bludgeons for
Corporate change, you might be interested in this comment from climate reporter Andy Revkin:
"It’s utterly human to have varied responses to change and challenges—in this case, humanity’s intertwined energy and climate challenges. I see great value, for example, in the work of students and academic colleagues pursuing divestment from fossil fuel companies. To me, there’s particular merit in examining investments and divestment as a path to putting ossified terms and norms under fresh scrutiny. Is a school’s endowment more than its financial investments? Is fiduciary responsibility limited to preserving those assets measured only in dollars and cents? Are trustees of a company, university, or planet responsible only for sustaining values measured that way?
"But I also see the value in engaging with—dare I say it, even working for or investing in—big companies as a way to test the possibility of building a different culture from the inside out."

Rajesh Kasturirangan's picture

I got to say, I am one of

I got to say, I am one of those people who go after corporations with a bludgeon but it's great to see someone as thoughtful and articulate as Sarah taking a more collaborative approach. I would love to see Larry (Susskind) and Sarah host a negotiation-dialog between the bludgeons and businesses.....