With the risks from climate change requiring an all-hands-on-deck approach, officials at AllianceBernstein LP decided not to wait for others to find solutions. Instead, the asset manager with $697 billion under management went back to school.
AB became the founding member of Columbia University's new Columbia Climate School, where researchers are focusing exclusively on tackling climate change.
"The collaboration between science and finance is critical to developing and identifying solutions to the climate crisis," said Alex Halliday, founding dean of the Columbia Climate School and director of the university's Earth Institute. He believes that effecting real change will require engaging the business community, and AB can provide scientists valuable insight into how their work and research impacts sectors, industries and countries, he said.
As the asset manager began collecting data on climate change, "we started to realize it is incredibly difficult, and we needed to partner with experts," said Michelle Dunstan, global head of responsible investing at AllianceBernstein in New York.
The alliance really began in fall 2019, when AllianceBernstein and Columbia developed an unusual curriculum to integrate climate science into portfolio construction and management. That gave more than 250 of the firm's larger investors and directors insight into climate science and implications for investment decisions. It also gave Columbia scientists insight into the investing process to help them deliver practical information.
Another joint effort with Columbia, the Climate Change and Investment Academy, has trained and certified more than 1,000 asset owners and consultants on key climate- related finance issues, and AB hopes to grow those numbers. "We were incredibly surprised by the response," Ms. Dunstan said.
AB also has plans for a series of workshops with researchers on specific topics like hydrogen and sea level rise.
Co-research on several upcoming projects "will inject that lens of commercial viability," she said. The next assignment is finding ways to advance their clients' climate change knowledge, said Sara Rosner, director of environmental research and engagement on AB's responsible investment team.