In Scope

Ask An Expert: Laura Zizzo on Climate Change Risks and Opportunities

Laura Zizzo is the founder and CEO of Zizzo Strategy.

Protecting the environment is possible and profitable – companies just need to shift their perspective.

Laura Zizzo, founder and CEO of Zizzo Strategy, wants her clients to rethink climate change. While many companies – and indeed, most people – consider climate change to be one earthly challenge among many, Zizzo has a different perspective.

“Climate change is a lens through which we can and should see all sustainability issues,” she says. “It’s not simply a threat in and of itself. It’s a threat multiplier.”

That means climate change touches both sustainability and financial issues: community investment, workers’ rights, supply chain, you name it. The idea of tackling climate change holistically can be overwhelming, especially for large companies with so many global stakeholders and moving parts. (A flood in Asia can send economies reeling in North America.) But that also means it’s an opportunity for education and, ultimately, growth. “My firm helps companies plan for climate change just like other risks,” Zizzo says. “It’s a trend. It can be tackled and leveraged if it’s integrated into the larger business strategy.”

As a lawyer with a background in ecology, Zizzo began her career on Bay Street specializing in climate change law. But she quickly realized her work was less legal services and more strategic consulting. “Dealing with legal minutiae is very important, but not everyone can provide climate change expertise.” The shift in focus allowed Zizzo Strategy to broaden its talent base, taking on lawyers as well as engineers and accountants.

Now Zizzo and her team advise top organizations in the financials, utilities, government, property and non-profit sectors – something she finds particularly important given the state of North American politics. “I find the powers that be often push the incorrect view that wealth is founded on the exploitation of resources,” Zizzo tells us. Because of this, it’s important for her firm to be an advocate of science.

“Insight is the first step to gaining trust, but we still get resistance,” she says. “We need to ask probing questions to show clients how their business affects, and is affected by, a larger mechanism.”

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Cultural hurdles aside, positive movements are coming out of the private sector, Zizzo reminds us. She points to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) as “a game changer.” Chaired by Michael Bloomberg, the organization aims to increase transparency and, and in doing so, make markets more efficient, stable and resilient. Critics have attacked the TCFD’s lack of prescription in its recommendations. Zizzo, for her part, sees it as a strength. “Businesses know their business best,” she says. “It’s about developing a process to identify risks and educate investors on the evolving discourse.”

As we’ve learned from many of our interviewees, goodwill is hard to measure, but it’s become increasingly important to business strategy. It impacts market share in the economy and it’s a means of attracting and retaining clients. In short: people care passionately about issues like climate change. And they will support companies that care, too.

“My clients aren’t people who don’t believe in climate change – they want to be part of the solution,” Zizzo says. “It’s my job to find common ground and connect the dots.”

Huge thanks to Laura for the fabulous discussion. Want more interviews with Sustainability thought-leaders and experts? Be sure to sign up for In Scope Digest, our quarterly newsletter on all things #Susty.

Barry Chong

Barry specializes in script writing and other editorial pursuits. He is a clinical Torontonian and has no intention of dropping the habit. Check him out on iTunes – his show is called Hogtown Talks. We recommend the episode where he interviews Alan Cross about a curly slide.

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