"Greenwashing" Controversies Focus Minds On What Investors Own

Tom Burroughes Group Editor November 14, 2023


This news service talks to the MFO – born from a series of corporate mergers and acquisitions – about how controversies in areas of ESG investing and sustainability are ultimately positive in the long run if they underscore the need for deep understanding of what businesses actually do.

A senior figure at international multi-family office here and here.) This, so critics say, fosters cynicism about the wider drive for decarbonization, reducing forms of pollution, improving biodiversity, and other goals. It also comes at a time when political support for “green transition” policies is already creating pushback, such as over concerns about how the public will pay for it. 

Part of the issue may be that many firms moved into the ESG space in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, a traumatic event that hammered the reputation (not always fairly) of free market capitalism and financial markets. 

A large amount of traditional finance moved into the ESG/impact sector after 2008, Emerson said. “When you have upheaval, people will look for new avenues to avoid past mistakes and, in this case, to bring greater integrity into the investment process. I celebrate the entry of mainstream financial actors into the impact investing community/markets.” 

What is clear, from Emerson’s point of view, is that the term “ESG” is a great deal more prominent than when he started out focusing on helping homeless people and other problems that needed addressing more than three decades ago.

AITi Tiedemann Global is neither a small boutique house nor a large institutional player but somewhere in between. “There is also a direct relationship with the senior leadership team,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in purpose-driven capital for about 30 years,” he said. “30 years ago, things were very different and it [Impact/ESG] was not mainstream.”

In the 1980s, Emerson founded and ran a leading homeless youth services program in San Francisco; he has also worked with various NGO and related organizations. In 1990, he was the founding director of a fund that invested in small and medium-sized enterprises, providing transitional employment for homeless people. He ran this fund for 11 years. Called REDF, the fund is a leader in venture philanthropy, social enterprise development and blended finance. While leading REDF, Emerson convened what is thought to be the first working group to formalize a methodology to calculate social return on investment – a framework which has been used by various for-profit and not-for-profit investors over subsequent years. 

AITi Tiedemann Global swings a large club in impact investment – it had $4.25 billion of dedicated impact investments as of June 30. It is not the largest, but the direction of travel is clear.

“The amount [of ESG investment] has certainly increased and also the amount of inquiry from prospects,” Emerson said. 

The firm has been through a series of changes. In May this year AlTi Tiedemann Global acquired Singapore’s AL Wealth Partners. That deal came a few months after AlTi Tiedemann Global was born out of the merger of US-based Tiedemann Group and London’s Alvarium. The combined organization oversees about $65 billion of assets under advice and administration.

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