Category Archives: University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge: A Window Into The Future of Sustainable Commerce

Some recent news from the insurance industry reminded me of a lecture that I gave this year in England at the University of Cambridge to some of the world’s largest businesses: businesses interested in transitioning to a more sustainable future. Their comments after my talk, and especially that night over a memorable dinner in a memorable place led me to sense that these executives and their colleagues are keenly aware that our world is changing and that our future will be one fueled by sustainable energy, not fossil fuels. As the year ends, it’s as good a time as any to set politics aside and consider what real people are doing in real businesses to lay a foundation for our sustainable future.

Liberty Mutual, for example, is one of America’s best known insurance businesses and their announcements this month that they have implemented new positions on both coal industry underwriting and investing, as well as having created their first ever Chief Sustainability Officer, got my attention and were in line with what I heard from many of the executives I visited with in England.

”We are committed to being a responsible global corporate citizen with a focus on environmental sustainability, supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy and investing in companies that show proven progress in this evolution. We understand the shift from coal to clean energy is a journey, and we recognize the role the insurance industry plays in supporting that evolution for our customers. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that companies take an active role in advancing their ESG agendas, and I look forward to partnering with internal and external stakeholders around the world to help drive positive impact in society.”

Frances Hyatt, Chief Sustainability Officer
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Ms. Hyatt’s new role is to focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues in a world where consumers increasingly demand that those they do business with have a social conscious that includes not supporting fossil fuels such as coal.

Their new approach to underwriting and their investments means the insurer will no longer accept new risks where 25% or more of a business’ sales come from the extraction or production of energy from thermal coal, nor make new investment in businesses that derive more than 25% of their revenue from thermal coal mining or, for that matter, gain more than 25% of their electrical production from thermal coal. The company says it will fully phase out offering coverage or making investments in their current relationships that exceed the same 25% by 2023.

Liberty Mutual is not alone. There is a growing movement within the insurance industry to divest from insuring or inventing in fossil fuel businesses such as coal mines. Following Liberty’s lead, The Hartford Financial Services Group also announced this month that it will stop underwriting any organizations that draw over 25% of its revenue from coal mining.

“The world needs affordable, accessible energy to support global economic progress and, at the same time, action is needed to mitigate the impact such activity has on our climate. Extreme weather affects people’s lives and businesses – and the risks are getting worse. As an insurer and asset manager we recognize the growing cost of this crisis, and we’re determined to use our resources and influence to address the challenge.”

Christopher Swift, Chairman & CEO
The Hartford

According to the organization Unfriend Coal, Liberty Mutual and The Hartford now join 17 other global insurance and reinsurance companies, each a gigantic corporate titan -including Chubb, Swiss Re and Zurich – in implementing a business strategy to begin shifting away from fossil fuel risks and investments and towards sustainability.


These announcements remind me of my time in England and a keynote lecture that I gave this year at the University of Cambridge in England to open their Global Climate Change and Environmental Risk Financial Reporting Conference at the St. John’s College Judge School of Business. Now, I admit that I don’t know much about finance and accounting (but, then again, who does at age 19?); however, I do know a bit about our global climate crisis and have more than a few opinions on the topic.

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The conference at Cambridge was attended by a “who’s who” of global businesses such as banking giant JP Morgan Chase, international insurer Zurich Insurance and hundreds of others. Some in attendance, such as the Nestle Corporation, have made great strides in embracing sustainability while others, such as BP Oil, openly admitted to having a long way to go yet were upbeat in their desire to change and evolve.

My talk that day focused not only only on my own climate journey and concerns but highlighted a handful of businesses that have embraced sustainability and are headed in the right direction along with why I feel that we not only can but must solve our climate crisis.

Hogwarts Dining Hall

St. John's College Dining Hall

St. John’s College Dining Hall

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After the lecture I was invited to tour the Cambridge campus and later in the day re-joined conference attendees for dinner in the St. John’s College Dinning Hall. I don’t know what J. K. Rowling used as inspiration for the dining hall at Hogwarts in her Harry Potter books, but it would not surprise me if it was St. John’s. Antique and alluring, filled with prodigious paintings, stained glass windows, and voluminous vaulted ceilings St. John’s was most majestic and like the rest of the campus at Cambridge it was a special place indeed.

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But as special as the campus was, the people in attendance were even more impressive. With a day of lectures and work behind them, the conference’s attendees were eager to discuss our climate change crisis with me and to gain the perspective of Generation Z. No sooner than I’d taken my overcoat off and hung it on a heated rack I was bombarded by attendees who wanted to talk about my lecture, what’s happening around the world and share what they are or are not doing to address the issue as good corporate citizens. I spent the next hour or so discussing these topics with four or five adults at a time, all successful people in their fields, and all concerned with whether their businesses were doing enough or fast enough to influence the future.​

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And as fascinated as they seemed to be with me, a real life Gen Z kid deeply concerned about climate change, I found their concerns refreshing. Prior to arriving in England I was not certain what to expect from the conference attendees. Would they diminish my concerns as those of a “kid”? Would they put their short term profits ahead of the dire needs of our society? Would they spew the ridiculous political nonsense that we too often hear in the States from one of our two dominant political parties and its leaders?

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Well, I can tell you that none of that happened. Instead they expressed concern for what is happening to our environment. They touted what their businesses were doing to help change things for the better and some commiserated that they feared that their businesses were not doing enough, or fast enough. They were candid, open, engaging and appreciative. Not condescending like so many divisive political leaders here in the U.S. have become. It was, frankly, refreshing.

And speaking of politics, they think what is happening here in the United States is truly tragic. In fact, our political chaos of the past three years was easily the number one thing they wanted to talk about. In Cambridge, beyond the talking heads on television or talking points from one political organization or another that seem to populate our never ending news cycles, these successful businessmen and women from large corporations all over the world wanted to talk to me, a teen at the time, about American politics. And they were very candid with their views and concerns over what the Trump Administration is doing. They made it very clear that they feel we have a brewing global crisis and that the curent administration in the United States is much further behind the rest of the world when it comes to tackling our most serious environmental issues.


While enjoying a delicious four course dinner that night at Hogwarts, I mean St. John’s, I was fortunate to sit with four Australian insurance executives. These ladies once again illustrated why I feel that their industry is going to play a signficant role in forging the change we need to solve our climate change crisis.

These ladies agreed that their industry would be at the forefront of demanding change but as experienced as they are with the data and science, they were shocked when I played videos of the flooding that we are routinely experiencing here in South Florida.

Sure, they had read the predictions and heard about the flooding and rising sea levels, but they had never seen it with their own eyes until I played a video I had filmed of the flooding the prior October (which you can watch here). Of course they knew about the coral bleaching that has been destroying their own Ningaloo and Great Barrier Reefs, but to see damage on the other side of the world that threats their own industry came as a shock to them.

And before I end this post, allow me also share that not only did the business people at that conference leave a positive impression on me but the lovely people I met did too. While being a tourist in and around London and Cambridge there were (literally) signs everywhere you looked about all sorts of environmental topics, concerns and movements. It was refreshing. Whether their trash cans adorning “For Fish’s Sake” campaign signs or posters for climate related events, it’s clear that our friends in Great Britan care a great deal about our environment.

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As 2019 and the decade of the 2010’s comes to an end I believe that local and global businesses are finally and increasingly beginning to take our climate crisis more seriously. From my view at the front lines of the climate fight over the past six years, it seems to me that the decade which is about to end has been relatively successful, not so much in solving our climate crisis, but in bringing wide-spread awareness about it to every corner of the globe.

And as a new decade dawns, it’s my hope that our civilization will now transition to implementing sustainable solutions rather than spending more time debating what man has so obviously has done to ourselves and our planet over the past century. That was my take away from Cambridge: that change and solutions are taking root all over the world and that serious business people, not pretend politicians, understand what is at stake and seem interested in being part of the solution.

Here’s to hoping that all of us will make the 2020’s the decade of climate solutions. Happy, Healthy New Year.

Allow me to end by thanking Dr. Alan Jagolinzer, professor at the Judge School of Business, for inviting me to speak, as well as he, the University of Cambridge and Dr. Hui Chen, professor at the University of Zurich, for sponsoring my trip. It was an honor to be with you and your colleagues. 

Our Common Cause

I believe that our global climate crisis is the biggest challenge that my generation will ever face and that it is up to kids like myself all over our planet to solve this crisis. As ominous as the problem is there is good news about the passion and perspectives that children all over the world have, about how seriously many of us take this topic and of how committed we are to solving it. With that in mind I’d like to share a few recent examples of hope from all around the world with you.

France & Canada

Take my new friend Myriam Khelifi, a French Canadian who lives in the Province of Quebec who wrote me after my recent blog on the Yellow Vest riots in France.

Hey, Delaney!

I’m Myriam – a young climate activist, just like you! I am 15 years old and I wanted to propose you a mutual agreement: team work. 

I created myself a blog 2 years ago, on which I post a lot of articles, magazines and videos (I have a YouTube channel) regarding many issues about global warming. Although it’s mostly written in French because it’s my mother tongue, some of them are available in English.

I’ve invited her to write a guest blog or two for our site and as she’s considering the topic to start with she wrote the following;

I could talk about the oil sands in Alberta or the Kinder Morgan pipeline that Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister, wants to build even though people are against it. I could even talk about any other subject – I’ve already done a lot of research about coral bleaching, GMOs, plastic in the oceans, etc. 

If you don’t think the world is changing, that children all over the planet are serious about this topic, then consider that the young woman who wrote about oil sands in Alberta, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Prime Minister, coral bleaching and plastics in the ocean is “just” 15 years old.  Thanks Myriam for helping make my point and being such an inspiration to me and so many others.


I am humbled by how often I hear from children in India and their fears concern me deeply. In fact, one of my first classroom presentations after starting The Sink or Swim Project was to a girls’ school in India by Skype. That was an amazing experience, me here in Miami near midnight and the children in their classroom live in front of me on the other side of the world a morning later talking about their concerns. Sea level rise threatens an estimate 50 Million people in Bangladesh alone who are predicted to become Climate Refugees (the number of Climate Refuges that South Florida could produce within my lifetime is 2.5 Million people).

So, yeah, India has a very serious problem on its hands and notes like this recent one from my new friend Pathan are common (as are his concerns):

Hi Delaney

I am Pathan Arshadkhan from India.

The world’s most air polluted cities are here but no serious action done by government.

What can I do for my country and my people?

My response includes ways to engage his local government, to start small on fixing this very big problem and I am confident that he and children all over India are doing just that right now.

Cambridge, England


And while we are touring the world a bit allow me to share with you that I am honored to announce that on April 2nd I will be the opening speaker at the University of Cambridge (England) for The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and its annual Climate-Related Financial Reporting Conference. I am grateful to know that the University and conference attendees want to hear from a child as they consider ways to measure and manage the complex issues of climate change.

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership was created to assist people, businesses and industry all over the world seek profitable, sustainable, ways to work together to address common challenges and become agents of true global change. The Institute has offices in Cambridge, Brussels and Cape Town as well as delivery partners in Beijing, Melbourne and São Paolo. By working with multinational businesses, multilateral agencies and governments all over the world the Institute and its amazing staff delivers sustainable projects in Europe, Africa, North and South America, Asia and Australia.

The conference, as outlined on its website, “is designed for financial officers, risk officers, strategic managers, enterprise risk managers, investors, regulators, insurers, accountants, auditors and accounting academics who are interested in understanding the development progress and potential impact of near- and longer-term initiatives to report the implications of global climate change on potential financial performance, the implications of firms’ decisions on global climate change, and the degree of firms’ interactions with and dependencies upon stocks of natural capital.”

As I said, I am truly honored that the University of Cambridge would think to invite me overseas to speak at this important event and would like to thank them, Dr. Alan Jagonlinzer and the University of Zurich for sponsoring me. You can learn more about the Conference by clicking here.

The United States of America

Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United states and are projected to intensify in the future but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.

United States Global Change Research Program

Fourth National Climate Assessment

November 23rd, 2018

And that brings me back home to America. The good news is that it’s not just children who are “getting it.”

Slowly, but surely, even Republican lawmakers in our country are breaking rank with the past and with our President, seeing the growing gravity of the problem and starting to pay attention to the science as much or more than antiquated, protectionist politics.

Take for example the recent New York Times article (which you can read here) entitled Trump Is Increasingly Alone On One Side Of The Climate-Science Divide where it was reported that three Republicans from the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative’s Walden of Oregon, Upton of Michigan, and Shimkus of Illinois wrote an article for Real Clear Policy and within it state “climate change is real” and suggested that we change our ways so as to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And if that’s not enough proof that things are starting to change, that reality is sinking in, in a historic first a candidate for the 2020 Presidential race, Washington Governor Jay Inslee launched his bid for the White House by announcing that our nation’s most pressing issue is climate change. “It is time for our nation to set a new priority,” Inslee told supporters gathered at a solar-panel business in Seattle. “This is truly our moment. It is our moment to solve America’s most daunting challenge and make it the first, foremost, and paramount duty of the United States … to defeat climate change.”

Of course, when I say reality is starting to set in I am not referring to the current occupant of the White House. President Trump remains America’s Climate Denier in Chief, an abate embarrassment as he desperately works to secure re-election votes from coal mining states, utilities and others who want to continue their polluting ways. Our President is so delusional, so unwavering in his ignorant, evil, support of carbon pollution that according to the Washington Post (click here) he’s in the midst of creating a committee of scientists to take issue with his own Administration’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, a report last year that concluded “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. 97% of the world’s scientists agree that our planet is warming and that man’s reliance on fossil fuels is the cause, but leave it to Mr. Trump to seek out the 3% who are likely biased in some fashion and might want to suggest otherwise just as tobacco companies ran advertising with biased doctors promoting cigarettes’ use a generation ago.

We still have much to do, and do quickly, but from Miami to Canada, India, England and beyond, today’s youth have tired of the pollution, and the politics of deceit, and are quickly coming together to solve our common cause, our global climate crisis.