Christa Clapp: CICERO Shades of Green


A new generation of ethical investors are kickstarting ventures with social and environmental benefits and transforming citizens’ lives. Christa Clapp is co-founder of CICERO Shades of Green, an organisation that providers independent advice on the extent to which investment opportunities align with sustainability goals.

Christa Clapp: CICERO Shades of Green

What do you do?

I am research director of climate finance at CICERO and co-founder of CICERO Shades of Green. We provide independent green ratings of financial instruments, like green bonds, and show investors how well the investments align to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future, using a simple system of light, medium and dark green. The methodology is based on climate research that shows we need a green transition in all sectors to achieve the climate targets in the Paris Agreement. We give a clear signal to investors about how their investments align with climate goals in order to facilitate green financial decisions.

Governments and corporations can issue green bonds to finance many things, from renewable energy to transport solutions. For cities, we have seen green bonds used to finance, for example, public transport and cycling lanes, green hospital buildings, improved recycling practices and adaptive measures to address the increased flooding associated with climate change.

Why do you do it?

Climate change is the biggest threat our society faces. While policymakers have started to address the challenge, they need to do much more. The financial sector can play an important role in shifting capital to climate-smart investments. If investors have transparent information on climate risk, they can make informed choices.

How did you get where you are today?

I started my career in finance, then returned to grad school looking for more meaning in what I do. The complexity of the climate challenge motivated me to move into climate policy and economic analysis. Eventually I completed the circle, channelling climate change research back into a solution for the finance sector.

When investors began to ask for more clearly identifiable green products, they needed to know that they could trust the green label. A research-based approach, simply communicated to investors, is one answer.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in trying to do your job?

As a climate researcher, I am surrounded by depressing climate news: political setbacks, increasing costs of extreme weather events associated with climate change such as flooding and forest fires. Keeping positive is sometimes tough. But that’s why it’s motivating to work with investors that are asking for more green bonds and sustainable financial products. This has been one of the most positive trends related to climate change.

What are you most excited about at the moment?

Seeing green bonds supporting financial incentives to promote greener choices, such as preferential rates for green mortgages or better loan terms for cities strong on climate change adaptation planning. We have even seen some Swedish municipalities competing with each other to be the ‘greenest’ in their bond issuances.

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