Gautam Bakshi is the Co-Founder & CEO of 15Rock, a global leader in climate risk management and advisory services.
Gautam is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of all 15Rock key operating units, including Technology, Research, Product, and Operations.
Could you share your story of when you became concerned with climate change and when you realized you needed to get involved?
I have always been interested in history and have been in awe of the challenges humanity has been able to resolve with courage. There are many examples of this from the bravery in WW2, to Mandela’s battle against a seemingly unbeatable foe.
Climate change is that foe today and it will touch every aspect of our lives. It’s just not about flooding or heatwaves for people far away. It will get closer to every single one of us and it should be impossible for us to ignore. Countries have gone to war for a lot less.
Like the internet transformed the world so will this transition. It is impossible for humans to continue to increase the temperature in the world and survive. As with slavery being banned, I believe we will enter a point where high-emitting companies will not be allowed to operate. Companies emitting emissions are damaging the planet and in many cases the people most impacted are the ones who are emitting the least. You are seeing the anger growing in the world and the urgency for change is growing every day.
How did you then transition to launching 15Rock?
I felt that my life in capital markets as a managing director was great for me personally but in the context of the bigger picture of world, I could contribute to something bigger than myself. I was scared to take the jump, so I started the firm while I was working at my previous firm. When the time was right, I left as I realized this was a massive problem with very few people actually working on it.
One of the core functionalities of 15Rock is the ability to search for a company to then get an overview of their climate transition plan, what type of data is offered, and how is this data collected?
AI can process a companies behaviour at scale. It is impossible for a human to understand everything going on in a company. Imagine a company that has 20,000 employees, it is impossible for a single person or even team to know at a operational level what is happening and what can be done.
Front line workers are not enabled to make changes so we are in a situation where firms just talk about great ideas with generally very little progress.
At 15Rock we build actionable decarbonisation plans. We also review companies plans to assess what they are doing. We can compare what is ideal/easy with what they are actually doing. We normally alert companies, investors and regulators of these gaps. Some call this greenwashing but often we simply see firms aren’t resourced for this task.
Can you discuss the type of forecasting that is offered and how these numbers are calculated?
We conduct many types of forecast, we forecast the external cost of carbon, this is very hard when you factor in government policies, emissions from population levels, agricultural yields and customer behaviour. It is very hard and I’m shocked people are attempting it manually, but scientists welcome our work and we have been open with how we model.
We model companies’ emissions and pathways to lower their emissions. We also use our unique datasets to go as far as to provide pathways (actions) to abating their emissions as well share climate solutions they can use.
For investors who are searching for climate risk modeling solutions, how does 15Rock assist them?
We can model (and provide existing) climate scenarios, assessments on company pathways, critique their plans, monitor government and industry policies as well as track climate solutions.
We believe we are the only AI solution that can go end to end like this. Our alternative is very expensive consultants from big firms who simply cannot process the scale of data of required.
How is machine learning used to assist investors with investing in climate friendly solutions?
We have been using NLP/LLMs for this for over 2 years. We were inspired by a research paper by Harvard and were engaged by investors to find climate solutions (or climate leaders/climate opportunities funds).
We now have many funds using our tool to find companies working on climate solutions. We have advanced the platform with one of the largest pension plans in the world to also look for companies in private markets who are working on climate solutions. We started using scientific papers from solutions like Project Drawdown, but since we have aligned to various taxonomies and we can adapt fairly quickly to changes they make.
For investors who are only concerned with maximizing their investment, why should they consider these green investment solutions?
We have around 60 years of experience in financial markets between our three-person leadership team. We have experience in some of the largest firms in the world, Manulife, TD, McKinsey, Morgan Stanley, MSCI, Oracle and many others. We understand the world is motivated by returns.
In investments there are two key factors. Risk and returns. They are different edges of the same sword. Let’s use the internet as a example, companies that didn’t adapt think HMV or Blockbuster while others Amazon, Uber, Netflix did very well. We are seeing a shift in the world. Regardless of your belief in climate change – the public, governments and large companies are reacting to this change. Investors and companies need to adapt too.
Investors are very concerned with firms who do not adapt because as new lower emitting alternatives are created it creates new opportunities. Think of EVs, generally they have cheaper operating costs and customers are overwhelming purchasing them. As more and more players get into this market, prices will go down making it more affordable.
What impact do you hope to see from 15Rock?
I hope that we can help to be part of the solution for climate change. We know that people are using us to extend the reach of their teams and save money which allows the economics of addressing the climate issue more affordable. We want to make it even more affordable and the solutions taken more successful. I deeply hope that others realize that it is possible to do something and that technology / AI can help them.
We need people all over the world with domain and regional understandings to move things forward. This will be a global effort and if 15Rock can support those heroes’ efforts, we would be so happy.
What’s your vision for the future of enterprises tackling climate change and other existential environmental risks?
It will reach the point where companies simply have no choice but to do their part and companies delaying action are only giving their competitors chances to catch up.
Think of SpaceX vs Lockheed or Uber vs taxis. I’m not totally convinced that many of the biggest companies that consumers engage with will exist in the future if they do not adapt, and climate will be a factor in that tipping point.
We live in a time where many people are innovative and want to solve the climate crisis problem. Companies will either solve it internally, rely on external partners or likely, be replaced. They have a choice to make but inaction is letting others solve it for them.
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit 15Rock.
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