Sustainability spotlight

Thinking Ahead Institute research and publications into the role of sustainability in the investment industry

There are no side effects – just effects… [Side effects] are just a sign that the boundaries of our mental models are too narrow, our time horizons too short

Professor John Sterman, Director of MIT System Dynamics Group

Sustainability is becoming an ever-more-important theme for the investment industry – indeed, the ‘slow but unstoppable’ sustainability train has now left the station, and is picking up speed. Sustainability is a subject close to the heart of the Thinking Ahead Institute and we have worked on a number of related initiatives since our beginnings in 2015. Much of our work focuses on equipping investment organisations to have a holistic and actionable understanding of sustainable investing and how they create value for wider stakeholders such as society and the planet. We do this through providing easy to navigate tools and guidelines, enabling better alignment of mission and broadening the focus of measurement.

Duty of ownership

Beliefs to action

A conversation with Lucy Thomas, Head of Investment Stewardship at TCorp and Leon Kamhi, Executive Director: Head of Responsibility at Hermes.

A conversation with John Green, Co-CEO of Investec Asset Management and Liza McDonald, Head of Responsible Investment for First State Super.

A conversation with Diandra Soobiah, Head of Responsible Investment at Nest, and Matt Christensen, Global Head of Impact and Responsible Investment at AXA IM.

A conversation with Jaap van Dam, Principal Director of Investment Strategy at PGGM.

Purpose and value

We hosted a webinar on 9 May 2019 which looked at purpose and value creation in the investment industry.

Marisa Hall shares an overview of research into purpose and value creation in the investment industry.

Sustainability summits

Sustainability and investments

Climate change

Research papers

1.5C working group papers

Our planet’s life supporting system is the ultimate complex system that matters to every one of us. In addressing the challenge of climate change, investors are facing immense levels of uncertainty, compounded by a long time horizon.
A set of strong investment beliefs acts as a long-term compass to guide investment decisions in such an environment.

Sustainability: understanding impact and value creation 

An investors guide to communicating value created

Featuring case studies from seven global investment organisations, this paper provides practical guidelines to help organisations define purpose and document beliefs; measure impact; and communicate the value created for stakeholders.

Connecting the dots: understanding purpose in the investment industry

Exploring the purpose of the investment industry and the agents within it, and how the industry’s value proposition to end savers can be developed and improved.

Mission critical: understanding value creation

We propose a vision of what the investment industry should be, and the duty it should take on, and call more stakeholders to the value creation boundary – in particular the planet, and ideally wider society too.

Sustainability beliefs: a new measurement tool

Aiming to help asset owners develop fully-rounded beliefs on sustainability, we include a survey to test benchmark the strength of their beliefs against peers to see if and where they can create an investment edge.

Sustainability portfolio construction

This paper focuses on sustainability risk management and portfolio construction, which are the parts investors tend to struggle to apply the most.

Sustainability portfolio construction case studies

A series of case studies from the sustainability portfolio construction working group.


Asset Owner 100 – 2019
The world’s largest fund managers – 2019
The world’s largest pension funds – 2019

Book reviews

There is no planet B
Doughnut Economics

Press releases

The net-zero challenge
Portfolio actions for a sustainable tomorrow
Largest asset owners are critical to aiding society’s biggest issues
ESG bucks the trend of declining growth among world’s largest asset managers

Forum posts (members only)

What’s love got to do with it?
The power of organisational culture to navigate climate change
Heart knowledge | what’s love got to do with it?
Sustainability and climate change | project guide The +1.5C portfolio
Sustainability disclosure – the need for a common language
If you want to see change, you can stop counting at ‘3’
The 4-3-2-1 PIN code for a more sustainable economyPast returns aren’t even a good guide to the past
Fiduciary duty and the impact of investment decisions
Climate change as framed by asset owners
Bathtubs, intergenerational fairness and the sustainability end game

We were proud to be a finalist at the Finance for the Futures 2019 awards, for the category of Driving change through education, training and academia.

Upcoming Event

We will be hosting a sustainability summit in December, where we will look at how the investment industry can do better for the planet, and how we can measure our progress.

Tuesday 7 December at 06:30-08:30 (BST), and Thursday 9 December at 15:00-17:00 (BST).

This event is primarily for members of the Thinking Ahead Institute, but you can register your interest if you would like to attend.