Tessa Tennant started ethical investment… (Jun18)

Last night I went to a celebration for Tessa Tennant’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  It was the first award of its kind, set up as part of the FT IFC suite of Transformational Business Awards – and hereafter it will be named after Tessa.  She was being recognised for 30 years of trailblazing in green investment.

What was striking about the stories from the panellists was how many people had been affected by Tessa and how effective she has been as a change agent in her field.  She doesn’t simply accept the status quo but determinedly uses her charm and experience to set up new initiatives and get other people motivated to play a part.

I’ve been working in the green sector since 1986 and Tessa started some time before me.  Her first job was working at the Green Alliance, alongside Tom Burke who was the chair at last night’s event.  He was co-author, with me and John Elkington of Green Pages, in 1986 – my first book.

Back to Tessa.  Possibly one of her greatest achievements was that she co-founded the UK’s first green investment fund, the Merlin Ecology Fund, now Jupiter, alongside Mark Campanale.  This established her at the centre of the ethical or green investment movement and in the 1990s she co founded the UK Social Investment Forum (UKSIF) and the UNEP Finance Initiative.

Some of her other numerous achievements include leading the creation of both the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASRiA, now part of PRI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project, as well as serving on numerous boards, such as the US Calvert Funds, Syntao Green Finance and the UK’s Green Investment Bank, now the Green Investment Group. Essentially, if there’s an ethical investment initiative going on, Tessa has probably been involved in some way.

Last night was an extraordinary event for me because I had not seen many of the participants for 20 years or more.  When I arrived, it seemed to be a group of strangers, but it didn’t take long to recognise lots of faces from the past.  The sad thing is that events like this there’s never enough time to find out what’s happened in the interim – just to glimpse and spike an appetite for re-connecting.

Even sadder, was that Tessa herself was too ill to come.  But she played a part in organising it and selecting speakers, who shared their experiences or working with her.  Apart from Tom Burke and Mark Capanale, who I’ve mentioned, these included Yolanda Chung (ASRIA), Paul Dickinson (Carbon Disclosure Project – CDP) and Steve Waygood from Aviva Investors

If anyone was wondering what might come out of the event, the answer was given – A world first sculpture celebrating the transformational power of green finance.  We were all urged to make a donation to get this idea off the ground.  The idea is to commission an iconic sculpture that will be erected in the City of London to represent the transformational force of ‘green’ finance.

My green career has all been about using market forces to push for environmental change.  Green investment is clearly a key part of that, so I love the idea of raising its profile and promoting its potential through a sculpture.  Anyone who is similarly inspired can make a pledge on the Lifetime Achievement website.  Lifetime Achievement website


Tessa died on July 7th 2018, shortly after the event to celebrate her achievements – I understand that she was able to see the videos we all filmed with messages for her. 

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