Jean Rogers talks moon suits, SASB, and Terra Alpha.
Moon suits are iconic images, representing man’s desire (and capability!) to explore the universe, seek signs of extra-terrestrial life, and to venture farther than anyone ever has. Fully self-contained, their puffy white cladding, bloated booties and mirrored bubble helmets are designed to protect and serve the brave explorers inside, if awkwardly. We’ve seen many images of moon suits this year—2019 being the 50th anniversary of the magnificent Apollo 11 mission. Moon suits enabled these migratory astronauts to defy gravity, orbit the moon, gain a new perspective on earth, and return home again.
My own experience wearing a moon suit was not so idyllic. The gravity I experienced was the grave situation created when humankind doesn’t manage its natural resources with care and respect. The new perspective that I gained was that companies routinely externalized their hazardous waste off-balance sheet and off-property, somehow believing that dilution was the solution to pollution. It was the late eighties, and my first job out of college was cleaning up Superfund sites. I sported a moon suit in 100 degree weather while literally measuring, via hundreds of soil, groundwater, and air samples, the impacts of externalities on our natural environment. I saw the earth as brown sludge, not a blue marble. It was then that I vowed that no one should have to wear a moon suit to work, unless of course you are an astronaut.
Here on terra firma, since then, I’ve tried in my own career to seek ways to internalize these corporate “externalities” and to create more beneficial environmental outcomes. In fact, the idea for SASB, came to me when I was first learning to invest for my own retirement. Informed by my prior experiences, I sought comparable corporate data on resource efficiency and waste management practices, because I saw first hand how economically devastating a lack of care could be. I believed that comparable environmental data could not only inform investment decisions, but create a race to the top.
Unfortunately, since I last put on that moon suit, our environmental challenges have only mounted. Climate change, barely discussed in my college days except for a lone atmospheric chemistry class I took in grad school, is now the defining issue of our time. If we don’t deal with it urgently, all of the other challenges we face as a society are moot. It’s as simple as that. It will take a lot of financial capital, technical know- how, and high conviction investment strategies. Not just divestment from oil and gas companies, but investment in solutions— in companies that are making a positive contribution to the restoration of the environment. That’s why I joined the Advisory Board of Terra Alpha. Tim Dunn and the excellent team at Terra Alpha are the closest thing to superheroes for the planet that I’ve come across. They don’t don moon suits to go to work, but they wield powerful research and analytics to determine the eco-efficiency and resiliency of public corporations. They invest in those companies that are making a positive difference, and they do it in a way that can scale, because most investors still have the majority of their investments in public equities as an asset class. Terra Alpha is finance for good, for the good of all.
I’m proud to be working with this talented investment team that is grounded in evidence, informed by science, and has such a unique and caring perspective on our planet – this fragile, unique, blue planet that we call home. It’s probably no coincidence that many of my fellow advisory board members are actual rocket scientists. There’s something about donning a moon suit that makes you appreciate your connection to this earth- or at least not take it for granted.
 The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, the non-profit standards setting organization that I founded in 2011. SASB seeks to standardize environmental information such that investors can direct capital to more sustainable outcomes.