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Business leaders rethink climate best practices

May 5, 2022
Illustration a small sprout and a pen in the lapel pocket of a suit jacket.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Business titans like venture capitalist John Doerr and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes are applying pressure in the boardrooms of companies and institutions to address the climate crisis.

Why it matters: The two men, each worth billions of dollars, are deviating from the ultrawealthy's traditional playbook when it comes to fighting the climate crisis.

Driving the news: Doerr, the Silicon Valley venture capital icon, announced Wednesday that he and his wife, Ann, would donate $1.1 billion to Stanford University to create the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, focused on climate change.

  • Separately, Cannon-Brookes announced Monday that he purchased an 11% stake in the Australian utility AGL Energy to stop it from spinning out its coal-burning business.

Flashback: Doerr, personally and through his role at Kleiner Perkins, was at ground zero of the cleantech 1.0 boom and subsequent bust.

State of play: Donating to a well-known university or buying a significant stake in a company as an activist investor are not new tools in an investor's tool box.

  • Other top-tier universities have also created separate schools focused on climate and sustainability issues as universities devote more resources to these areas, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.
  • However, other business giants like Jeff Bezos have largely committed to philanthropic missions instead of exercising direct pressure in the boardroom or advisory board.

💭 Our thought bubble: Though philanthropy is undoubtedly a hugely influential force in climate science, investor pressure is arguably even more important.

  • And as Andrew points out, in Doerr's case, climate tech innovation could be one unique area in which Stanford's program could excel, given its ties to Silicon Valley.
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