Earth Day 2024: A Journey From Capital Markets To Sustainable Solutions

Recognizing Earth Day 2024, a personal blog from our CEO.

Picture of Chris Ito

Chris Ito

CEO, FFI Holdings

On this Earth Day 2024, I’d like to talk about a special trip I’m making to attend a screening of the documentary film “Canary” on the campus of The Ohio State University. This thought-provoking documentary chronicles the life and work of Dr. Lonnie Thompson, a renowned paleoclimatologist who has dedicated his career to studying glaciers and ice cores, providing crucial insights into our planet’s climate history.

While there, I’ll have the privilege of moderating a panel discussion with Lonnie, Alex Rivest, the film’s co-producer, and Dr. Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Lonnie’s wife and a world-renowned paleoclimatologist in her own right.

A Pivotal Journey

This trip was planned over the last two months but was years in the making. For the most part, my professional career has been centered on capital markets and financial risk. However, over the last decade plus, I have focused my attention on the intersection of climate change and financial markets. Two specific events caused me to change course.

The first was in 2008 when I got invited to be a speaker at a sustainability-focused conference hosted by the Miami University Farmer School of Business. That conference was my first exposure to the emerging field of sustainable finance, and it was eye-opening at the time to think about the capital markets as anything other than a vehicle to make money.

After this experience, in my then role with a fund of hedge funds, I made it a point to identify managers that were considering climate impacts. We found exactly one, and happened to visit their offices in 2009 at a time that coincided with the conclusion of COP 15 (Copenhagen). The thing I’ll always remember about that visit was a profound statement that a young analyst said to us as he commented on the disappointing outcome of COP15: “We’re all screwed”.

Awakening to Climate Science

At that point, I undertook my own self-study of climate change, started to engage with the Sustainability Institute at OSU, and joined FFI Solutions, where I could combine consulting and asset management experience with my newfound interest.

About six years ago, I was asked to join the advisory board for the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, the main unit for coordinating climate research across my alma mater. During this time, I’ve been fortunate to engage with faculty and researchers, including the Thompsons, who have studied the science and are involved in developing solutions.

The Power of Storytelling

As I reflect on my journey to a more climate friendly form of the capital markets, I am increasingly aware of the pivotal role that science plays in shaping our world. It’s especially important to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of the scientific community, particularly those working in the field of climate science. Their unwavering pursuit of knowledge and understanding is not just about academic curiosity; it forms the foundation of effective policymaking and economic planning, providing a lens through which we can foresee the potential future that awaits us.

The importance of climate science needs to extend beyond the reliability of forecasts and models. Effective communication is key, particularly in efforts to engage with society at large. Therein lies the profound value of documentary films like Canary that focus on the scientists themselves. These films do more than just inform; they connect. They tell the human stories behind the data and charts, making the complex and often abstract nature of climate science accessible and relatable.

Appreciation and Inspiration

No film epitomizes this more than Canary, highlighting the passion and perseverance of a scientist who not only dedicated his life, but literally risked his life to help us better understand the world. By bringing these stories to the forefront, documentaries help demystify science and make it more approachable, encouraging a broader dialogue about its implications on our future.

“Science can only advance when you do things that other people think can’t be done”
Dr. Lonnie Thompson
School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University

This Earth Day, as we reflect on what we have accomplished and what is yet to be done, let us also take a moment to appreciate the scientists like Lonnie and Ellen who illuminate our understanding and the communicators like Alex, and his co-producer Danny O’Malley, who broaden the impact through powerful storytelling. Their work is indispensable, not only in educating us about what is happening but also in inspiring action towards a sustainable future.