A woman credited with pioneering green investments and shifting billions of pounds away from destructive industries is to have a memorial in the City of London – a first for an environmental campaigner.
Tessa Tennant, who died two years ago of cancer, aged 63, started green financial funds in 1988 to show that investing in the industries of the future not only helped the planet: it could also be both successful and consistently profitable.
By the time of her death she was known across the world in stock exchanges and boardrooms as a successful green campaigner who had converted many of the world’s largest investment funds to the principles of sustainable development.
Such was the affection and esteem in which she had been held by the financial community that a competition was held to design a public artwork to celebrate her life.
The winning design was by two well-known Scottish artists, Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion. It takes the form of an amulet intended to represent the powerful symbolic union of people and environment that is at the heart of sustainable finance and green investments.
“There has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric”
Once the design had been settled, a search began for a site suitable for the two-tonne amulet. The City and the Church of England have now agreed it should be erected at Christ Church Greyfriars graveyard in the heart of the City.
Because the amulet, together with its foundation of eight tonnes, will be sitting on top of an important archaeological site, the site permission is currently for five years.
James Cameron, a lawyer who chairs the Sustainable Finance Sculpture Project, says the site is perfect: “Greyfriars was an important and highly respected seat of learning in the 14-15th century, rivalling only Oxford University in status.
“Interestingly, their extensive library was funded by the Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington.
“The Franciscans advocated a different type of lifestyle where knowledge and integrity were valued over wealth and property, and we believe these ideals closely mirror the contemporary objectives of our project.”
The project is now raising the £300,000 (US$396,000) needed to commission the memorial, which Cameron hopes will be unveiled in time for the next annual UN climate conference, to be held in 2021 in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
The impact that Tessa Tennant had already had was apparent two decades ago when she gave a lecture entitled Business Alarm Call on 4 December 2000 at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, and his wife Cherie.
It helped to launch CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. It now has more than 10,000 company and city members.
The lecture, reproduced here, describes how this was going to be the solar century, and how the world of business must change to embrace that new reality in order to save the planet from climate change.
A great number of the advances in renewables that Tennant predicted seemed far-fetched at the time but have since happened. Green investments were only one part of her concerns, and many of her other environmental ideas for improving sustainability have been adopted.
Many other more advanced proposals are still under consideration. Tessa was still campaigning to speed up the scale of change that was needed to address the perils of climate change when she died.
Cameron said: “Twenty years on (from that speech), there has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing, and its resilience has been exceptional during this difficult year of the global pandemic.
“It is also fitting that the amulet will be sited first in the City of London – a leading innovator of change and a global leader in green finance. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric and fully harness its innate ingenuity and creativity to fully deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
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