Our story
Universal Owner is a mission-driven start-up intent on using the power of objective data to help the financial sector transition companies around climate change
Universal Owner’s founder, Thomas O'Neill, has long seen climate change and environmental degradation as the primary threat to human security in the 21st century. In 2015, he co-founded InfluenceMap to produce the world’s first system to analyse and challenge corporate lobbying on climate policy — the primary obstacle to an effective governmental response. Thomas left InfluenceMap to focus on the concept of impact and helping institutional investors achieve it through their engagements.
Why the Universal Owner name?
​The concept of the universal owner was developed in 1995 to describe large institutional investors with highly-diversified and long-term portfolios that effectively hold a large share of the overall market. Therefore, it follows that investment returns depend on the continuing good health of the entire global economy and all the conditions which underpin the production of value - labour, the earth's biological systems, political stability, etc.
From this perspective, it is not in the interest of a universal owner to prioritise the short-term profitability of an investee company at the expense of negative externalities that will harm the long-term health of the market as a whole.
In the 2019 paper 'Universal Ownership in the Anthropocene', Dr Ellen Quigley argued for an expanded definition of the concept.  With the rise of passive investing and portfolios with "unhedgable" climate risk, all long terms investors (including citizens with savings) could be defined as, and think of themselves as, 'Universal Owners'.
The Triskelion symbol consisting of three interlocked spirals is one of the oldest Celtic symbols.  It appears on the Newgrange kerbstones, which date to around 3200 BC.  The Triskeles are thought to evoke the Celtic interpretation of the three realms of material existence: earth, water, and sky (and all their interconnections). We believe the symbol resonates with the perspective of the universal owner that sees the preservation of the natural world, the people, and the economy as intrinsically intertwined.
What does the symbol mean?