It’s a good bet you’ll never see a spread on Richard Sandor in GQ.
The first day I met Richard Sandor, a professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and Chairman and CEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange, he was dapperly yet casually dressed. Under his slacks he was wearing knee-high, green argyle socks and a pair of bright green leather tennis shoes that appeared to have been ordered from a Dr. Seuss mail order catalog. Far from the stogy, banker-blue suit reminiscent of the bottom line business world, Richard’s unusual attire reflects an emerging breed of leaders in the business of moving humanity forward. If energy was a color, Richard’s color would be green since he exudes so much personal energy which changes and charges the energy level of everyone in a room. Like most of us, Richard knows that green is IN and it has hit critical mass. Now, Richard and CCX are at the forefront of making the same thing happen for carbon.
Recently, the word CARBON jumped out at me by way of a clever free booklet on carbon emissions prominently displayed at my local Starbucks—a sure sign that carbon is on its way to becoming a household name in American culture and on the global stage. If so, there is no question the climate-change CEO wearing green tennis shoes is the one responsible.
Saving the planet by creating financial-based mechanisms.
Richard is a preeminent carbon expert and creator of the world’s first trading system for greenhouse gas emission to help solve global warming. His company, CCX, was launched in 2003 as the world’s first, and North America’s only active voluntary, legally binding, integrated trading system to reduce emissions of all six major greenhouse gases (GHGs), with offset projects worldwide.
Here’s the simplified version of this complex process: Humans are creating an overabundance of the prevalent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (C02). Since we create C02 than can be absorbed by the ocean in a natural cycle, our man-made C02 stays trapped in the atmosphere causing global environmental chaos. It’s like injecting a little toy snow globe with massive heat, sealing the insertion point, and watching Santa, the elves and the North Pole melt into red liquid.
To avoid the fate of the snow-globe Santa, we need to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. Richard founded CCX to provide a virtual trading system that provides participating organizations with the ability to buy and sell the rights to pollute. Organizations that operate clean or create carbon credits (or offsets) can sell their carbon to other organizations that pollute more.
Mother Nature has a carbon exchange mechanism between the ocean and the atmosphere. The CCX has created a man-made exchange to help reduce our man-made C02 emissions and all six greenhouse gases. CCX is a wholly owned subsidiary of Climate Exchange Plc, a public stock company listed on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange. Climate Exchange Plc also owns the European Climate Exchange, Europe’s leading C02 emissions exchange. CCX creates revenue from the virtual trading, simple and genius at the same time.
History repeats itself.
In the 1970’s, Richard, a former UC Berkley professor and vice chairman of the Chicago Board of Trade, wrote a prescient position paper on how to commoditize air. At that time, acid rain was as prevalent in the media and in the minds of Americans as global warming is today. It was a real and measured threat to America. Today, acid rain has been eliminated in the U.S. based on the concepts in Richard’s paper and his collaboration to get the Clean Air Act passed. For his second act in environmentalism, Richard began writing on emission trading as a solution to global warming and presented it to the United Nations Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, long before anyone else. The rest, as they say (and we can hope) is history.
Richard doesn’t believe he is the smartest person in the room (really!).
In 2002 and 2007, Richard was named Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” and “Heroes of the Environment,” respectively. But Richard credits his mentor and teacher, 98 year-old Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase, for the idea of trading in the environmental arena. He considers Coase a hero “to the economic profession for setting up the foundations of property rights and transaction costs.” He also considers Coase “one of the smartest men in the world.”
Richard introduces everyone at the CCX offices to his partner and CEO of London-based Climate Exchange PLC which runs CCX, Neil Eckert, to his team of talented scientists, economists, and financiers. Richard has surrounded himself with some very smart people since their task at hand, to most of us, would be unimaginable. But no one at CCX shares that limiting view. They are all associate heroes-in-residence and have a united company purpose: saving the planet. Indeed, CCX has grown and today handles about 85 percent of the trading on carbon exchanges.
What is next?
“My goal is to put myself out of business,” Richard states seriously. “When that day happens, we’ll know we’ve solved one of the most serious problems facing the planet.” Richard Sandor is a 21st century business visionary whose business’ exit strategy is the foundation of its mission statement. Just as carbon is emerging into American culture and the global stage, a new business culture is emerging in small, medium and large companies alike. Running a successful business and performing change-the-world-work are no longer seen as being mutually exclusive.
We are not worried about acid rain anymore. Problem solved. Every person on the planet should look forward to Richard going out of “business” again and moving on to the next market-based solutions on his radar: using water more efficiently and transforming healthcare. Today, Richard is not only a leader in the “business” of moving humanity forward, but he’s committed his life’s work to make sure humanity survives.