Interview with Renat Heuberger, CEO, South Pole
Realising the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals is a trillion dollar business opportunity. Some of the biggest opportunities lie in transforming the global energy, food and land use systems. Achieving the Global Goals is intrinsically linked to the Paris Agreement and its goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C. Failing to do so could put up to US$ 24 trillion of assets - almost of 20% of all financial assets - at risk by the end of the century.
At South Pole, we work with businesses and governments across the globe. We help realise deep decarbonisation pathways across industries, based on a thorough understanding of climate risks and opportunities in specific sectors, as well as the highest emission reduction standards.
Our Purpose: We act today for a better tomorrow
Financing the goals of the Paris Agreement calls for a fundamental shift in the global economy. Our success hinges on re-allocating capital at scale, unlocking substantial investments, being nimble and seizing opportunities.
Our Vision: Climate action for all
The moral case for climate action is clear - failing to meet the climate and sustainable development challenge would push hundreds of millions of people into poverty, with devastating social and economic consequences globally. Moreover, millions of new green jobs are already being created through climate actions across sectors. Climate and human development are sides of the same coin. South Pole strives for a world where businesses, governments and communities make climate action the new normal.
Our Mission: We accelerate the transition to a climate-smart society
Our team of over 250 social entrepreneurs globally are developing innovative solutions tailored to the needs of specific organisations and entire sectors. We are always on the pulse of the rapidly changing climate policy and regulatory environment. Understanding the big picture is important to us and to our clients. So is identifying and implementing actions on the ground with lasting positive impacts on the environment, communities and thereby business.
Our Impact: We support the planet and a sustainable economy
Together with our clients we have so far achieved the following results:
- Positively affected 20 million people around the globe (around the total population of Sri Lanka)
- Saved over 170 million tonnes of CO2 (around the annual GHG emissions of the US State of New York)
- Developed over 700 projects in renewables, forestry, agriculture, industry, households and public institutions
- Screened the climate footprint of over US$ 2 trillion of investments (in economic terms around double the nominal GDP of Indonesia)
- Mobilised over US$ 15 billion clean energy investments (around the annual budget of the country of Uruguay)
- Enabled the production of more than 140,000 GWh of renewable energy (almost half of the national annual electricity consumption of the UK)
- Protected or restored over 55,000 km2 of land (around the total area of the African country of Togo)
- Helped create nearly 100,000 jobs in developing countries (around the total number of employees of The Coca-Cola Company)
Our Story: Viewing climate change as an opportunity
In 2006, five young social entrepreneurs got together and founded South Pole. From the beginning, diversity, partnership and entrepreneurship have been key values for the company – and these three values continue to drive the success of South Pole today.
South Pole has always stood for one, shared belief: that our economy and society can only thrive if businesses can embed sustainability and the environment into the heart of their activities.
As graduates of the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), each one of the five founders had a unique perspective on ways to confront climate change; from promoting renewable energy, and protecting forests, land and water, to market-driven initiatives for companies and investors. They quickly discovered these perspectives, borne of differing disciplines, could work together as one.
After successfully founding the non-profit 'myclimate' they decided to position climate change as a business opportunity for visionary companies, and South Pole was born.
Drawing their motivation from the belief in a sustainable world, the founders built a fast-growing enterprise with a truly global reach. Our employees, heralding from over 30 different nationalities, have interdisciplinary backgrounds, as well as degrees from top universities and experience in both the public and private sectors.
- 2006: South Pole is founded in Zurich
- 2007: South Pole opens offices in Beijing and Bangkok
- 2008: South Pole opens offices in Mexico City and Jakarta
- 2009: South Pole opens office in New Delhi
- 2009: Corisol Holding acquires a small minority stake in South Pole
- 2010: South Pole opens office in Medellín
- 2011: South Pole invests in VNEEC, Vietnam
- 2011: South Pole is awarded the WEF Schwab Foundation's Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award
- 2011 Onwards: South Pole is awarded “Best Project Developer" 2011 - 2017" by Environmental Finance
- 2012: South Pole invests in Climate Friendly, Australia
- 2012: South Pole is recognised by the City of Sydney, Australia for sustainable enterprises, businesses and supra-national organisations
- 2013: South Pole receives Sustainability Award for SME from the Bank of the Canton of Zurich
- 2013: South Pole opens office in Stockholm
- 2014 Onwards: South Pole becomes part of the World Economic Forum's Expert Networks
- 2014: South Pole becomes a core Partner of Climate-KIC; the EU's biggest climate innovation platform
- 2016: South Pole opens office in London
- 2017: South Pole sells “Climate Neutral Investments" unit to Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS)
- 2017: South Pole is Official Partner of the UNFCCC at the COP 24 Bonn climate conference
- 2018: South Pole opens offices in Amsterdam and Singapore
- 2019: South Pole completes incubation of and sells majority share in Australian project developer, Climate Friendly
Partnerships and Memberships
- Alliance for Water Stewardship
- Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation
- EU Climate-KIC (Core Partner)
- International Emissions Trading Association
- International Insetting Platform
- Swiss Cleantech
- Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa
- Tropical Forest Alliance 2020
- UN Global Compact
- World Bank Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition
- World Economic Forum