Two former Investment Fund Managers with a unique climate idea to transform fossil fuel ownership and support people. They are on a mission to implement a new definition of sustainability that discards financial motivations and prioritizes dignity for both humans and the environment.
David and Richard are co-authors of “The Unsustainable Truth – How Investing for the Future is Destroying the Planet and What to Do about It.
They explain how the world is trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle. To escape everyone must embrace a new context, where resources are no longer plentiful but running out. Using clear and plain language alongside stories to illustrate the issue’s intricate connections, The Unsustainable Truth compels readers to choose meaning and purpose over comfort and security in the battle for sustainability.
The term ‘sustainability’ is kicked about on a daily basis. Whether it is being debated in parliament, used in the latest marketing ploy or mentioned at school. As a theme, it has penetrated every area of society but there is still a long way to go, and most global patterns continue to actively hinder efforts for a more sustainable future.
David started as a physicist in the 80s, with the last position in academia as a lecturer at Oxford University. In 1994 he joined LTCM, a rising star hedge fund at the time which ignominiously collapsed in 1998 and threatened the global financial system. David was a partner in the ensuing fund and in 2007 he took a sabbatical from finance ahead of the Global Financial Crisis to spend two years delivering science workshops to schools around London. In 2010, he re-engaged professionally partnering with a friend to launch successfully a fund under the Henderson Global Investors platform and later joined Horizon – an Asian focused equity fund. Before working in investment, David was a lecturer at the University of Oxford and Physics research fellow at the University of Tokyo. He is a native speaker of Cantonese.
Richard also started his career in the 1980s. He more traditionally worked initially as a market maker transiting into proprietary investing for some of the largest companies in the world. He later managed significant investment capital for Bank of America over the 2007 – 2011 crisis period and moved to Millennium before starting an independent fund in 2013.
Richard entered finance after studying macro-economics with a lifetime of know-how managing investment risk.
He is a native Swedish/Italian speaker and fluent in French (as well as Danish and Norwegian
David and Richard met in Horizon when Richard joined as a special advisor. As senior employees, they both had responsibilities across the fund’s investment and operation activities. They wrote extensively on investments and markets for investors, focusing on deeper insight through a blend of historical perspectives, economic and scientific analysis, and investment savvy opinions.
In response to the changing environment, they started to look in detail at sustainability from the investment angle and led the fund in soul searching exercises about what its proper role should be.
This became the seed of their current thinking as the catch-22 nature of the problem became apparent. We need investments to retire, but the returns necessary are too high and damage the planet, making investments as it is incompatible with achieving a future we would like to retire in. The questions became given the returns focus of pension mandates and the fiduciary duties to ensure best financial performance, what should investment managers do?
The book’s chapters cover various topics, from challenging how individuals should think about their pensions to introducing natural diversity as an essential part of sustainability. Stressing the role of people, how to live life with purpose and why individuals are the chief agents in instigating sustainable change, David and Richard provide a transformative perspective on how people should consider the relationship between finance and the environment, and how the act of investing can be made less critical to the planet.
Dissecting the patterns that rule much of current society, The Unsustainable Truth is the perfect read for anyone looking to reassess both their approach to sustainability and their desire for constant financial growth. It will leave even leaders, business people, investment and financial professionals questioning everything they thought they knew about the world of investment and finance.
Testimonial: “A well-executed and engaging presentation. David and Richard’s ideas triggered a very lively debate, both during and after their session. Perfect for taking the ESG debate to the next level. “ – Institutional Investor London
‘Rarely have I read a book that has so troubled me and yet holds out the hand of hope.’
Sir Tim Smit, Founder of the Eden Project
How investments demand too much from our planet, and what we can do about it. In The Unsustainable Truth, David Ko and Richard Busellato examine how everything in the world is linked through investments and economics, and why as people increasingly rely on these processes to provide for their futures, the required profits demand too much of the planet. It is an inevitably unsustainable system.
The Unsustainable Truth is a deep-dive into the forces that drive investments and why accruing capital for future uncertainties simply exacerbates the depletion of resources in the current moment. Leading with the idea that sustainability is now a major commercial industry, David and Richard introduce readers to a definition of sustainability that discards financial motivations and prioritizes dignity for both humans and the environment.
David and Richard are sustainability advocates with extensive experience in the investment industry working at premier hedge funds and major financial institutions, guiding both businesses and communities alike. During their time working in the world of finance, they realised that the constant pursuit of financial growth is the fundamental driver of the pressures damaging the planet. Now they are dedicated to reframing investment and profit in relation to its impact on people and the environment and emphasize that the future depends on leaving resources for others, not on how much wealth individuals can accumulate.
They now operate as Rethinking Choices with a tag line of sustainability through dignity for the person and the environment. Sustainability requires us to put the dignity of those affected ahead of the desire for sustainability itself. Only in that way would we keep in mind that the key lies in leaving something on the table.
From this starting point, they have a unique climate proposal – the ownership of fossil fuel companies.
Good intentions do not resolve our climate situation; they paradoxically create more activities and drive up our energy demands. This ultimately ends up with us finding ourselves in the crazy situation of using 20 million more barrels of oil per day now than we did twenty years ago. This is the source of the confusion we all face regarding greenwashing. We want to do the right thing, but doing the right thing has left us using more oil. As more fossil fuel gets used, more people are dependent on it, turning cutting production into a complex moral dilemma.
Their proposal of transformation ownership of fossil fuel companies is unique in resolving this moral dilemma and actually prevents greenwashing. It is also unique in using well understood capital market and regulatory mechanisms so that it may be implemented without delay. What is more, it is unique in providing new money to support people. The proposal brings about clear roles for individuals, businesses, and governments to enable systemwide transformation.
Proposal for the Transformational Ownership Fund
Transformational Ownership is the real thing to let everyone sleep well at night knowing we are all looking after the planet. A Transformational Ownership Fund is a conduit to the stories for our grandchildren’s grandchildren; when they sing songs of heroes, they will be singing songs of you.
Background: Our lives are in a crisis: the planet our home is suffering and our future is bleak. We want to do better but we also need to live. The planet cannot cope with how much we use, and even when we cut back, others use them up instead. Governments cannot help; they, like us, are stuck.
Transformational Ownership protects our planet and our home. Owners look after our resources so they are not overused and provide support for the things we care about. We can all be transformational owners and transform fossil fuels to make the planet better and help each other.
How it works: First create a Transformational Ownership Fund as a conduit. Invite money to come from businesses with public recognition as contributions to the common good; this is used to buy shares in fossil fuel companies. As soon as contributions are made and shares are purchased, shareholder profits are distributed to projects we nominate from around the world. When enough shares are purchased the companies are transformed. Transformed companies are publicly recognised as good; non-transformed companies are sanctioned as evil.
Everyone has a place: People nominate projects they care about and want to support. Businesses make contributions to demonstrate their commitment, and investors supporting the companies demonstrate they care. Policymakers in their roles favour transformed companies and punish others. Scientists will explain how much fossil fuels to reduce is safe. Everyone doing a little bit together to look after the big picture lets us all sleep well at night.
Numbers: Companies pay out about $1.2 trillion a year to their shareholders. Ten percent of this is $120 billion a year. With this money, we can acquire the fossil fuel producers over time.
Big Oil’s 2022 dividend is about $80 billion and as transformational owners we can distribute this money to support our projects. Fossil fuels make up about 3% of the world’s market.
The transformation path as it happens: Oil, gas and coal prices will increase and stimulate ideas and innovate change. As fossil fuels are reduced, we will do things differently; we will be looking after our planet as well as ourselves. All our many efforts from planting trees to simplifying our lives, from using less to creating new jobs will be supported and support the transformation.
Transformational Ownership expresses how capital markets have a place in the world.