Levers of Exchange
S03E02 James Mitchell, Principle at the Rocky Mountain Institute
What we discussed: The oceans are our last “commons” of the world, legally defined to be outside the jurisdiction of every country. Thus, maritime management is a great case study of Nobel Laurate Elinor Ostrem’s work on managing the commons.
Why it matters: Unlike the tragedy of the commons, Ostrem demonstrated that communities can come together to manage common resources without the need of a top-down, hierarchical approach. However, a grounds-up system has a set of rules to follow:
- Clearly defined boundaries;
- Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs;
- Collective choice arrangements;
- Graduated sanctions;
- Fast and fair conflict resolution;
- Local autonomy;
- Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule-making authority (polycentric governance)
What it means for you: As you go about creating systems change, create new systems that are known to work. Ostrem’s model is one such model that can be used to manage shared resources.
James Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Institute, London, UK
MSc, Nature, Society, and Environmental Policy, University of Oxford, SSEE
James works to align capital flows with climate targets through innovative research on climate risks and opportunities as well as highly ambitious cross-sector collaborations. James has played a leading role in the creation of the Poseidon Principles, the first global climate alignment agreement for financial institutions. https://www.linkedin.com/in/james20/
In this interview, we discussed the following questions:
- How many frequent flyer miles does your cello have?
- How does a studied cellist make the transition into sustainable finance?
- What got you interested in environmental policy in the first place? When did you first get exposed to these ideas?
- Now that you've been in sustainable finance, how do you frame it?
- Finance is ultimately an enabling sector. When we say the financial sector is aligned to climate outcomes, what does that mean?
- It makes me think of other enablers like lawyers and accountants, who have small footprints but enable consumption across the broader economy.
- Should a bank's portfolio be a reflection of the real economy, or does it have agency to create the real economy?
- Sustainability within a company is "the whole company." You're pointing out that's true for the entire economy.
- How do you drive to these market-based solutions for sustainable finance?
- Do you find more interest in different geographies, such as Europe, US, Asia, or is it a global interest?
- What are the Poseidon Principles and what was the impetus in developing them?
- Was the maritime sector involved in the conversation?
- You're doing metrics for specific subsectors. Why not do one for the entire maritime sector?
- How many stakeholders did you have to engage with to find your initial set of signatories?
- The Poseidon principles is simple – there’s effectively only one metric. How did the stakeholders settle on that metric?
- You could have chosen 50 metrics, but you chose just one. Do you think that set the Poseidon Principles apart from the other initiatives out there?
- What was your most important skill in getting Poseidon Principles Launched?
- When did you first notice this interconnected web of moving parts?
- How did Elinor Ostrem's work on the Commons influenced your work?
- Was there something about the Maritime sector that made it a viable application of Ostrem's work?
- How do you define the boundaries that the industry sub-groups will work on?
- What other sectors have similar properties as the maritime sector?
- One difference is that the maritime is a consumer sector whereas oil & gas is a producing sector.
- It seems that the more specific the metric, the more actionable. But what about the notion of needing holistic solutions? How do you manage that tension?
- To a student or early career professional, what skill or expertise do you encourage them to learn?
About Levers of Exchange
Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)
Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)
Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.