Obituary: Tessa Tennant

It is with sadness that we report that Tessa Tennant, one of the pioneers of the SRI field, has died following a long illness.

She co-founded the Carbon Disclosure Project in 2000 and was its first Executive Chair and became a board member of the environmental data body, now known as the CDP, in 2009.

Before that she had co-founded the UK’s first green investment fund, the Merlin (now Jupiter) Ecology Fund, in 1988 and worked to build the green investment industry ever since. Notably, as Head of Responsible Investment at NPI (later Henderson Global Investors) she built and lead a team that grew sustainable AUM faster than any other group in the UK, winning large institutional mandates.

In the 90s, she co-founded the UK Social Investment Forum and the UNEP Insurance Initiative, which later merged with UNEP’s banking group to form the UNEP Finance Initiative. She led the creation and was first Chair of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA), now part of the Principles for Responsible Investment.

She was made an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List this year and was most recently focused on looking at financing the national climate commitments (NDCs) which form the Paris Agreement.

She held many other roles, including directorships at SynTao, the SRI firm in China, solar firm Solar Century and the UK’s Green Investment Bank. She was an advisor to the SRI Committee at Oxford University Investments.Just last month she received the new Lifetime Achievement Award from the Financial Times and International Finance Corporation. “Deeply, deeply honoured,” she said on Twitter.

In a post on her personal website in May, Tennant revealed that her cancer had returned almost a year earlier but, typically, she decided not to tell anyone as she didn’t want to cause unnecessary concern “and I didn’t want the issue to get in the way of work”. She stopped working at the end of 2017.

Tennant read Environmental Studies at the University of London and on her LinkedIn profile had this to say about this “formative” course. “Watched the scrap between different faculties over its development… Science won over humanities, disappointing. Set up the Rock ‘n Roll dance club, joined Shell’s amateur dramatics society and we won the Lewisham Arts Festival prize with a potted version of Under Milkwood.”

“Tessa was someone to whom it was impossible to say ‘No’,” said Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), the organisation founded by the UK’s Prince Philip in 1995.

“She was so convinced and convincing that turning around the world of finance to be generous to all life on earth was not just possible but was simply what had to happen.” He said her voice would “echo down the years” but “I will miss that energy and her laughter”.

With reporting by Vibeka Mair.