In 2015, Thomas O'Neill, founder of Universal Owner Initiatives, co-founded InfluenceMap, a global think tank focused on corporate political lobbying related to climate change. Universal Owner Initiatives was created in 2020 to maximize our impact on the financial system and the world, particularly in response to the threats posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and other existential risks.
Our focus is on the financial system because of its power to shape the future, and because investors can take a uniquely long-term view through universal ownership theory. By leveraging this approach, we aim to influence the system to address the threats to the biosphere and human well-being, potentially forever.
What is universal ownership?
Universal Ownership Theory, developed by James Hawley, recognizes that large institutional investors with diversified portfolios own a representative share of the entire economy, and that their interests align with those of the public. At Universal Owner Initiatives, we believe that any investor with exposure to a representative slice of the market is, and should act as, a universal owner.
To learn more about the principles of Universal Ownership Theory, please refer to our detailed explanation.
We are currently pursuing two main tracks:
Producing thought-leading reports on the concept of universal ownership and the real-world impact of investors on climate change.
Developing systemic interventions in the financial system, including building a model to understand systemic risk from the perspective of universal ownership.
Through these two tracks, we are working to maximize our impact on the financial system and the world, particularly in response to the threats posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and other existential risks.
A financial model for universal ownership
Our model aims to determine the 'net portfolio cost' of any company, asset, or activity that generates carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. This could be applied to a wide range of activities, such as an automobile company, a coal plant, land-use practices, and even climate lobbying. The goal is to answer the question: do the benefits of the activity outweigh the costs of its emissions when reinternalized into investors' market-spanning portfolios? If the answer is no, investors have a strong financial interest in transitioning or halting the activity to avoid portfolio losses.
Assessing investor impact
We have developed an original methodology to assess when and how investors can have a real-world impact, and are currently working with investors to independently verify their impact claims and co-develop this program.