By Kevin Krajick
Leading global investment-management firm AllianceBernstein and Columbia University’s new Climate School have agreed to bring together investors and scientists to confront the challenges of climate change. As founding member of the school’s Corporate Affiliate Program, the firm will facilitate the engagement of commercial enterprise with the university’s global climate and sustainability research.
As part of the exclusive three-year agreement, AllianceBernstein and Columbia will embark on research focused on the intersection of climate science with investment decisions. AllianceBernstein’s investors and Columbia’s experts will interact on climate issues as they arise in the investing process. The project will seek to leverage Columbia scientists’ skills and insights to help financial professionals manage climate risks and solutions across the industries, sectors and countries that they invest in. Columbia and AllianceBernstein will also collaborate on long term, in-depth research into the top challenges, including the potential approach to net zero over the next 30 years.
“Our partnership with the Columbia Climate School demonstrates the depth of AB’s commitment to advancing the integration and understanding of climate change into decisions facing investors, businesses, governments and society,” said Seth Bernstein, president and CEO of AllianceBernstein. “The urgency of climate change means that investors need to go beyond the traditional approach to risk, research, analysis and engagement to develop knowledge and human capital within the investment industry that is acutely focused on this issue.”
AllianceBernstein is a leading global firm that offers research and diversified investment services to institutional investors, individuals and private wealth clients in major world markets. As of March, it had $697 billion under management.
The Columbia Climate School is the world’s first purpose-built school to focus on developing solutions to climate change and its related challenges. Announced last year, it will serve as a hub to connect and advance new areas of inquiry at the university. The school will encompass the research centers and programs of the university’s Earth Institute, building on decades of fundamental earth-science research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. It will also involve schools and departments from across the university, with education programs designed to equip students with the knowledge and tools necessary to lead on the climate crisis.
“I strongly believe that if you want to effect real change in the world you need to think about how you can engage the business community,” said Alex Halliday, founding dean of the Climate School and director of the Earth Institute. “This partnership represents an unprecedented opportunity to do just that. AB’s role will be integral for providing our scientists with a view of the potential impacts of their work and research.”
The agreement represents the second phase of Columbia and AllianceBernstein’s collaboration. In the first phase, which started in September 2019, AllianceBernstein and Columbia developed a first-of-its-kind curriculum focused on integrating climate science into portfolio construction and management. More than 250 of AllianceBernstein’s investors along with members of the board of directors and the executive team participated in the intensive, research-based training program. The program was aimed at giving investors greater insight into climate science, and its implications for macroeconomic issues and investment decisions.
For their part, Columbia scientists learned about the investing process, to help them better formulate and disseminate practical information to companies, communities and governments. The investment firm and the university also recently rolled out a Climate Change and Investment Academy, which has trained and certified a global cohort of more than 1,000 asset owners and consultants on key climate-related finance issues.
As part of the long-term research agenda, AllianceBernstein and Columbia will continue to work together with the firm’s clients to develop practical solutions to the challenges of climate change.