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Recap: The 2017 Ceres Conference on Sustainability

From April 26th-28th, San Francisco hosted the 2017 Ceres Conference. Ceres is a non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership. The annual conference brings together more than 600 investor and company leaders and advocates who are catalyzing the biggest breakthroughs on sustainability.

This year’s jam-packed agenda spanned a variety of topics surrounding the energy industry, but two key themes emerged: (1) that there is a growing need for standardized data to measure the impact of investments made in energy, and (2) that sustainable energy is playing an increasingly central role in the investment decisions for stakeholders across sectors and across the political landscape – in other words, the push for clean energy isn’t going anywhere.

First, institutional investors are seeking standardized data that accurately captures and compares the effects of investments in different types of energy ventures. In order for new energy sources to be successful in the long term, investors need to understand their viability not only in terms of environmental sustainability but also in overall returns on investment. Clean energy is, after all, a business.

The conference focused on companies that are bringing innovative ideas and low-carbon strategies into traditionally carbon-heavy industries and the utility sector; however even as they do, it is difficult to measure their impact.  No common metric currently exists by which we can compare sustainability strategies across different industries and companies to determine which policies are the most effective. A similar, growing demand exists for ‘decision-useful’ climate risk reporting. With individual entities all implementing their own internal metrics to measure progress, the reality of carbon asset risk across sectors becomes obscured by incomparable, inconclusive data.

The second major theme of this year’s conference highlighted sustainability as a central, permanent policy issue that will continue to influence investment decisions and the overall American energy economy moving forward. Historically, terms like “sustainability” and “clean energy” have been treated as overwhelmingly politicized ideas. Now more than ever, it is up to the private sector to shape the clean-energy policy landscape and reinforce the economic, environmental, and job-creation benefits of low-carbon policies and solutions.

You can watch a video recap of the 2017 Ceres Conference here, and be sure to save the date for next year’s conference, April 24-26, 2018, taking place right here in Boston!

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Hannah Coman