Previously, in 2015, Universal Owner Initiatives, Founder Thomas O’Neill, co-founded InfluenceMap, the leading global think tank on corporate political lobbying on climate change.
Universal Owner Initiatives was founded to maximize our impact on the financial system and world. In the 21st century, we are reproducing threats that are destroying the biosphere and peoples’ ability to have a good life on earth, potentially forever. This danger includes the collapse of the earth’s nine support systems, runaway climate change, biodiversity loss, nuclear war, and more.
Our theoretical approach to this problem is what we are in a position to influence and how we can do so to a maximum degree. We focus on the financial system because it has the power to shape the future. Further, investors can take a uniquely long-term view, including through universal ownership theory, that is often missing from other fields, such as representative democracy.
What is universal ownership?
The concept of universal ownership theory, developed by James Hawley, recognised that large institutional investors with diversified portfolios owned a representative share of the entire economy and their interests align with the public at large.
We consider that any investor exposed to a representative slice of the market is, and should act as, a ‘universal owner’.
A more detailed explanation of universal ownership theory can be found here.
Currently we are focused on two parallel tracks
1) Producing thought-leading reports on universal ownership and investors' real-world impact on climate change.
2) Developing systemic interventions in the finance system, by (A) institutionalising that investors should be having real-world impacts through their company engagement activities and that this impact can and should be verified. (B) Building a financial model for universal ownership.
A financial model for universal ownership
Our model will show the ‘net portfolio cost’ of any company, company asset or company activity that generates carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. It could, for example, be applied to an automobile company, a coal plant, land-use practices, and even climate lobbying. We want to answer the question: do the benefits of this activity outweigh the costs of its emissions reinternalized into the investors’ market-spanning portfolio? Where there is a portfolio loss, investors have a strong financial interest in transitioning or bringing the activity to a halt.
Assessing investor impact
We have developed an original methodology to assess when and how investors have a real-world impact. We are working with investors to independently verify investors' impact claims and co-develop this nascent program.