Investing in Nature Is Gaining Traction. Will It Be Enough?
Kanebridge News
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Investing in Nature Is Gaining Traction. Will It Be Enough?

By ABBY SCHULTZ
Wed, Jan 10, 2024 9:34amGrey Clock 4 min

Investing in nature to address climate change, support biodiversity, and protect ocean health—and more—is expected to reach record levels this year in response to more regulation and market demand, according to Cambridge Associates, a global investment firm.

Still, the amount of private capital invested to support natural systems will fall far short of what’s needed, according to the annual “State of Finance for Nature” report published in December from the United Nations Environment Programme.

A big reason is that nearly US$7 trillion in public and private finance was directed to companies and economic activities in 2022 that caused direct harm to nature, while only US$200 billion was directed to so-called nature-based solutions, or NbS—investments that protect, conserve, restore, or engage in the sustainable management of land and water ecosystems, as defined by the United National Environment Assembly 5, or UNEA5, the report said.

“Without a big turnaround on nature-negative finance flows, increased finance for NbS will have limited impact,” it said.

But the report also said that the misalignment “represents a massive opportunity to turn around private and public finance flows” to meet targets set by the United Nations Rio Conventions on climate change, desertification, and biodiversity loss.

The conventions aim to limit climate change to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, protect 30% of the earth’s land and seas by 2030, and to reach “land degradation neutrality” by 2030. Reaching those goals will require more than double the amount of current levels of nature-based investing by 2025, to US$436 billion, and nearly triple today’s levels to US$542 billion by 2030, the report said.

Most of the US$200 billion invested in NbS today is by governments, but private investors contributed US$35 billion—including US$4.6 billion via impact investing funds and US$3.9 billion via philanthropy. The largest source of private finance was in the form of biodiversity offsets and credits. [An offset is designed to compensate for biodiversity loss, while a credit is the asset created to restore it].

Many wealthy individuals and families concerned about climate change and the environment so far have focused their investment dollars on climate solutions and innovations in technology and infrastructure, or in technologies supporting food and water efficiency, says Liqian Ma, head of sustainable investment at Cambridge Associates.

But “increasingly there is growing awareness that nature provides a lot of gifts and solutions if we prudently and responsibly manage nature-based assets,” Ma says.

Investments can be made, for instance, in sustainable forestry and sustainable agriculture—which can help sequester carbon—in addition to wetland mitigation, conservation, and ecosystem services.

“Those areas are not in the mainstream, but they are additional tools for investors,” Ma says.

Finance Earth, a London-based social enterprise, is among the organizations working to make these tools more mainstream by creating a wider array of nature-based solutions in addition to related investment vehicles.

Finance Earth groups nature-based solutions into six themes: agriculture, forestry, freshwater, marine/coastal, peatland, and species protection. Supporting many of these areas are an array of so-called ecosystem services, or benefits that nature provides such as absorbing carbon dioxide, boosting biodiversity, and providing nutrients, says Rich Fitton, director of Finance Earth.

Each of these ecosystem services are behind existing and emerging markets. Carbon-related disclosure requirements (at various stages of approval in the U.S. and elsewhere) have long spurred demand for carbon markets, the most mature of these markets.

Cambridge Associates, for instance, works with dedicated asset managers who have been approved by the California Air Resources Board to buy carbon credits, Ma says.

In its annual investment outlook, the firm said California’s carbon credits should outperform global stocks this year as the board is expected to reduce the supply of available credits to meet the state’s emission reduction targets. The value of these credits is expected to rise as the supply drops.

In September, the G20 Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures released recommendations (similar to those put forward several years ago by the Task Force for Carbon-related Financial Disclosure) that provide guidance for how companies can look across their supply chains to assess their impact on nature, water, and biodiversity “and then start to understand what the nature-related risks are for their business,” Fitton says.

The recommendations will continue to spur already thriving biodiversity markets, which exist in more than 100 countries including the U.S. In the U.K., a new rule called “Biodiversity Net Gain” went into effect this month requiring developers to produce a 10% net gain in biodiversity for every project they create.

Though developers can plant trees on land they’ve developed for housing, for example, they also will likely need to buy biodiversity credits from an environmental nonprofit or wildlife trust to replace and add to the biodiversity that was lost, Fitton says.

This new compliance market for biodiversity offsets could reach about £300 million (US$382 million) in size, he says.

Finance Earth and Federated Hermes are currently raising funds for a U.K. Nature Impact Fund that is likely to invest in those offsets in addition to other nature-based solutions, including voluntary offset markets for biodiverse woodlands and for peatlands restoration.

The fund was seeded with £30 million from the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—money that is designed to absorb first losses, should that be needed. The government investment gives mainstream investors more security to step into a relatively new sector, Fitton says.

“We need the public sector and philanthropy to take a bit more downside risk,” he says. That way Finance Earth can tell mainstream investors “look, I know you haven’t invested in nature directly before, but we are pretty confident we’ve got commercial-level returns we can generate, and we’ve got this public sector [entity] who’s endorsing the fund and taking more risk,” Fitton says.

Since December 2022, when 188 government representatives attending the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal agreed to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, and protect indigenous rights, several asset managers began “creating new strategies or refining strategies to be more nature or biodiversity focused,” Ma says.

He cautioned, however, that some asset managers are more authentic about it than others.

“Some have taken it seriously to hire scientists to do this properly and make sure that it’s not just a greenwashing or impact-washing exercise,” Ma says. “We’re starting to see some of those strategies come to market and, in terms of actual decisions and deployments, that’s why we think this year we’ll see a boost.”

Fitton has noticed, too, that institutional investors are hiring experts in natural capital, recognising that it’s a separate asset class that requires expertise.

“When that starts happening across the board then meaningful amounts of money will move,” he says. “There’s lots of projects there, there’s lots of things to invest in and there’ll be more and more projects to invest in as more of these markets become more and more mature.”



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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