Climate 21

Can Sustainable Investing Make A Difference Without Systemic Change - A Chat With Tariq Fancy

July 21, 2021 Tom Raftery / Tariq Fancy Season 1 Episode 34
Climate 21
Can Sustainable Investing Make A Difference Without Systemic Change - A Chat With Tariq Fancy
Show Notes Transcript

I first came across today's podcast guest Tariq Fancy when I read an interview he gave to Peter McKillop on Greenbiz where he argued that sustainable investments and the current focus on ESGs won't achieve anything and may distract from what is really needed - a carbon tax and systemic change. Given Tariq was recruited by Larry Fink's Blackrock to be its first Chief Investment Officer for Sustainable Investing, it's likely he knows what he's talking about.

I was intrigued to know more, so I invited him to come on the podcast to explain his perspective and he agreed! We had a fascinating conversation and as always, I learned loads, I hope you do too.

If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to leave me a voice message over on my SpeakPipe page, head on over to the Climate 21 Podcast Forum, or just send it to me as a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn. Audio messages will get played (unless you specifically ask me not to).

And if you want to know more about any of SAP's Sustainability solutions, head on over to www.sap.com/sustainability, and if you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover the show. Thanks.

And remember, stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane!

Music credit - Intro and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper



Tariq Fancy:

Having the vantage point of the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, which has somewhere in the range of $9 trillion largest asset management history, I had an inside look inside the machine and started to realize that, unfortunately, you know, there's a lot of good intentions. There are a lot of good tools that are being built, but the way they're being implemented today doesn't create for the most part, any social impact whatsoever.

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the climate 21 podcast, the number one podcast showcasing best practices and climate emissions reductions. And I'm your host, global Vice President for SAP. Tom Raftery. Climate 21 is the name of an initiative by SAP to allow our customers calculate, report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In this climate 21 podcast, I will showcase best practices and thought leadership by SAP, by our customers, by our partners and by our competitors if they're game in climate emissions reductions. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast in your podcast app of choice to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the climate 21 podcast. My name is Tom Raftery with SAP and with me on the podcast today I have my special guest, Tariq Tariq, would you like to introduce yourself?

Tariq Fancy:

Thanks, Tom. Glad to be here. My name is Tarik fancy. I currently am the founder and CEO of Rumi, which is a nonprofit that does micro learning. But before that, I spent a long career in finance and was most recently BlackRock global Chief Investment Officer for sustainable investing.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, cool. Now, before we get into sustainable investing, let me just put up a full disclosure here. I know more about crochet than I do about finance. And I don't know a whole lot about crochet. So take it very easy on me, please. I don't want to have that finance gene. I find it hard to balance a check. Nevermind, a checkbook. So yeah.

Tariq Fancy:

noted, I totally understand how finance can get boring and jargony often, so I'm going to try my best to explain things in relatable terms and stay away from from jargon. It's it's, I totally hear you. I don't want to put anyone to sleep.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, appreciate it. Thank you for that. So, I mean, I've had a couple of guests on the podcast talking about this kind of thing before. Trey Callie David Harris from the London Stock Exchange group and Paula Connor from JPMorgan. So you know, it's not quite without precedent. But I don't want to presume that, you know, people have heard people listening, I've heard those are know what sustainable investment actually is. So could we start off and kind of level set there and talk a little bit about sustainable finance and sustainable investment. And you know what that's all about?

Tariq Fancy:

Definitely. And let me start, even before sustainable investing, just talk really simply about what investing and finances just so it's really relatable for everyone, the best way to think about the financial sector is dead, it sits in between the savings that all of us have in society, whether it's, you know, the checking your money in your checking account, or a pension fund managed on your behalf. And on the other side, the most productive uses of that capital in our economy. Right. So what actually happens is people don't realize this is that you indirectly own stakes in private companies in one shape, you know, what, some way shape or form because when you believe your money with a bank, their business model is to lend that out, you know, on some timeline and, and collect the difference in yield, or it's a pension fund, it could be a public one. And again, they're investing for the long term to make sure that you have enough to retire for. So in some sense, when people talk about Wall Street, they talk about financial services industry, they're talking about that capital allocation machine that sits works throughout the economy, and it almost kind of operates to move capital to the most productive uses of that. So creates jobs provides a return for the investor or saver and so on. And so sustainable investing is the idea of doing all of that, but also advancing sustainability goals. So in addition to the core preceptive of finance, which is that you're going to try to find an attractive risk adjusted return for savers by investing in the most productive uses of that capital, which then of course has economic benefits because you create new companies and jobs. We're trying to direct that money towards the you know, the things that are better for the world, right They have better environmental and social footprints and away from the ones that are harmful.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and how do we make sure that any money that we try and direct into sustainable investment is investing in sustainable stuff?

Tariq Fancy:

Well, you know, that's your best the million dollar question in the sense because it is the promise of it is that sustainable investing, which manifests itself in different ways in different parts of the financial sector, whether it's a process enhancement for existing investment processes, or it's a set of new products, green bonds, you know, ETFs, show the things, the general idea is that they should be favoring companies that are, quote unquote, better, right, better for society. Generally, that's done by looking at the company's ESG rating. So ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. And there are a set of scores and metrics that are used in the industry to understand which of the companies frankly, are, you know, are doing better for the environment for society, and which are the ones that are doing worse. And so to give you an example, if you're Exxon, Mobil, Exxon Mobil, you probably get a fairly poor ranking on your on the E part of the ESG score, as you can imagine, exactly that, hopefully. But then the s and g are treated differently, right? The SMG are very important for banks and tech companies, because they often have smaller carbon footprints, but they have massive social implications. And often, governance, which is sort of a slightly different one of how the company, you know, manages the interests of shareholders and serves their needs. Those are our top tech companies, banks. And so in general, they look at these scores, they vary across companies based on their geography, their industry. And those are meant to sort of be a measure of the company's, you know, footprints on the world, and whether it's good or bad. And the idea being that like using those ratings, you can tilt capital allocation more towards the good companies. Does it work? The way it's set up today? No. In fact, I would argue that it's actually negative for society, because not only does it not work, but it creates a giant societal placebo, that, you know, that lulls us into believing that something is getting done, whereas in fact, nothing is getting done. I am, I am sort of a bit of taking a contrarian view and went public a few months ago saying that, I think that this is not only not helpful, but actually actively dangerous. There's a number of voices who have started saying that, I suspect that the prior guests on on your podcast who I didn't hear, were probably on the other side of the aisle for me that it's where I used to be. And I'll tell you, I honestly drank the Kool Aid, spent a few years doing it, but I had, I happen to have a vantage point that very few people have. I'm a former trained investor have worked across asset classes, geographies, for years, you know, both invested in money and built in strategies and hired people to invest money. And having the vantage point of the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, which has somewhere in the range of $9 trillion largest asset manager in history, I had an inside look inside the machine and started to realize that, unfortunately, you know, there's a lot of good intentions, there are a lot of good tools that are being built. But the way they're being implemented today doesn't create, for the most part, any social impact whatsoever. In fact, generally speaking, the way it works is that most of what is being done are a set of non binding sort of commitments to consider different things that are actually ever implemented, and often can't be because they have legal obligations that prevent them from thinking about anything other than, you know, return, right. I mean, that's legally, they're legally obligated, financially incentivized to only focus on profit, or what I call dollar value, not social values. And in other cases, there are products that purport to create some social or environmental impact. And they're marketed as such, they have higher fees. They're attractive to people in particular millennials and younger people are folks like you and I, and probably most of your listeners who are really, you know, believe that we need to act quickly on climate. But the challenge is that the mechanics of how those funds actually work, if you get into the financial details, which I won't get into too much of them now. But I'll just generally say that what they do is they move money around, and they move stocks and other things that are that already exists around in different ways. So that people who care more by virtue can, you know, can be connected a bit more to, you know, those sorts of things. But none of it creates any social impact that would not have otherwise happened, right? There's no there's a thing in the impact space, an idea around or even the classes around conditionality. Right? The idea is that if you make an intervention, there's you should be creating some impact that's additional that you know, otherwise would not have had And the vast majority of those products, they effectively just move money around from one place to another, and the aggregate result is the exact same. And that that's worrying to me because it doesn't do anything, but it does. It is being sold as if it does. And that, you know, leads people to believe, you know, lulls us into complacency because we think, okay, Wall Street's got this. And underneath the hood, you know, business as usual.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, interesting. I mean, one of the previous episodes, as I say, was with a guy called Shree Callie, and he was talking about green bonds. And, you know, it sounded great. If you wanted to roll out some kind of green project, you could create these green bonds and sell them and that way use that to finance whatever green project it was that you wanted to roll out. But you're saying that, you're saying that, if I understand your argument correctly, that, you know, I could have just done it anyway, without having raised the green bonds. And the raising of the green bonds just makes people feel good, but doesn't actually do anything additive and extra that would that I wouldn't have done anyway.

Tariq Fancy:

Generally speaking, that's right, green bonds don't really have anything additional. And that additionality argument, it really sits across ETFs, right, ESG, or green ETFs, mutual funds and green bonds. So the way to think about green bonds is that, let's say a company has needs to finance its operations, right. And they need to build a set of infrastructure and projects, and so on and so forth. What they can do is some fraction of what they're investing in qualifies as green, then they what they do is, instead of just financing general financing to go build a bunch of stuff, and then do you know, 10 different things of which one is green, they will separately fund fund the green thing completely on its own. So they say, Okay, well wait a second, there seems to be an investor base, which there is people like you and I, frankly, who really want to see something done about climate change, and they only want to fund green activities. And so what we'll do is we'll take specific green projects will separate them will ring the fence, which is a financial term to basically separate the proceeds. So that, you know, you and I Tom, we get to fund the green project only, but it doesn't stop the company doesn't First of all, there's no guarantee the company is doing anything additional, they went to because most companies are doing something green, right. And so if they siphon out, you know, the the funding for that specific project so that people like you, and I get to feel good about it, it doesn't really tell you that they're doing anything more than they would would have otherwise done, ended up to stop them, frankly, from going and you know, you know, using their general funding that's not from the green bond that you and I bought, to go and build, you know, coal plants or whatever else. So here's the analogy. I think I'm trying to stay away from too much finance jargon. Imagine I am many years ago, I was a team. And my mom gives me a $10 allowance a week. And then I also make $30 from a paper route. Right. So every you know, delivering papers and just doing our jobs. So every week I have $40. And my mom then discovers that $25 have been spent on Archie Comics and candy, which I use as a specific example, because that's actually what I spent a lot of money on as a kid. So she said a lot, I don't want to fund that I want to, you know, I want my $10 allowance to be used for good things like buying books and, you know, things that my, my very strict mother would have viewed as being productive and good for my studies. This is like me basically saying, okay, here's a new deal, Mom, I spent 1012 bucks on books and other things, your $10 allowance only goes towards, you know, the books and whatever, then I just use the money from my paper route or whatever other cash, I have to fund all the bad things. You know, really, it makes my mom feel good because her $10 is, you know, going towards the good stuff. But in reality, I'm spending exactly the same way as I was before. I'm just sort of attributing the good stuff to her. So she feels good about it. But the aggregate results the same. I'm still buying Archie Comics.

Tom Raftery:

And what about the idea though, that investment managers are asset managers are looking at the ESG reporting of companies and saying, Okay, this particular company, good ESG reporting good outcomes, they're attractive, I'll throw money their way. This other company, though, either they're not reporting on ESG, or their ESG reporting makes them look terrible. I won't give them any money because they're really risky. Or if I give them any money, it'll be really expensive for them is Is that a thing? Or am I just being complete? Am I smoking crack, you know, is attending that way and if so, is that not good?

Tariq Fancy:

It is good. In theory, the challenge is in practice, it doesn't work. And the reality of why it doesn't work is because investment managers are almost always constrained legally. by something called judiciary duty or fiduciary obligation. The idea being that, you know, if you and I are investing our own money personally, you know, we can decide to invest in green bonds, non green bonds, we can give it to a nonprofit, right and get zero return back, but then create social impact, we can do whatever we want with it. But most of the money in the economy is managed on someone else's behalf. Right. So if I invest, it's a pension fund manager that is running, you know, a national or state pension fund. They're doing it on behalf of the pensioners, right, they give that money then to an asset manager like BlackRock that will invest it. And all along that chain, everyone has investing capital that doesn't necessarily belong to them, it's not their own. So that means that they're constrained legally to only focus on returns, right. So that's the sort of point where they have to focus on dollar value, and not social values. Don't get me wrong, they can look at social values, in addition to that, but they're not allowed to give up return, you know, to give up your my money in the pursuit of a social objective. And, you know, the reality is that it's because value is objective, right? It's easily measurable, it's $1, or euro or pound terms, but social values vary from person to person, right there, you know, you and I agree that climate changes is critically important. But there may be other people for whom that is their second or third priority. I'm not not I don't mean climate deniers, I mean, to people who say, well, human rights are more important to me right now, or this or that. And so weighing values becomes very difficult. And so they're generally constrained by legal obligations. And that becomes a very big problem. Because today in our economies, there are a lot of business activities that are frankly, irresponsible, right, they're bad for the world, but they make profit. And frankly, fossil fuels are one of the greatest areas and until we introduce a price on carbon, for a carbon tax, they don't pay the costs of the pollution, that they you know, they cause and, you know, there's there's a cost for that they don't pay it, but of course, society pays for it over the long term. And so unless you correct that, what happens is a lot of, you know, the market failures like that exists. And there's a lot of profitable activities that are, you know, just bad for the world. And the obligations of all the managers, this was a challenge, I found the disconnect between the marketing of what was being said, in the space. And then what I saw looking, having the vantage point over the largest, you know, the largest pool of assets available in capitalism today, what I saw was that, you know, frankly, they were both the actual portfolio managers who make all the decisions are both legally obligated, and they're financially incentivized through their annual pay and bonuses, to only focus on profits and returns. And that includes financing things that are bad for the world, and that they'll honestly tell you this, I look, I know this is bad. But, you know, I have to, you know, it's kind of like a player on the field, like a sports player saying, I know, this is like, I'm a soccer fan. Imagine some of your listeners won't be imagining a soccer player who dives in the penalty box in the 92nd minute habitually, to try to win games, con con referees and win games, you know, prior to var, you know, video assisted sort of approaches. There's a lot of them who would do it. And they do it intentionally because it wins games. And people say why are you doing it? You know? And it's and it's a Yeah, I know, it's unsportsmanlike. But I'm on the field to win games. Like that's our goal. It's the same thing with portfolio managers, right? They're they're trying to score points and get return. And if there's, you know, there's things that they do that are considered dirty player bad for the world, they're unfortunately still obligated to do them unless those those market failures are fixed.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and what is the financial equivalent of a video ref are to put another way? How do we fix that?

Tariq Fancy:

The equivalent of the ref is the regulator, right is really the government, right? The government, the government has special powers to be able to address systemic crises in ways that move the economy faster than it would go if we just waited and left everything to the quote unquote, free market, which is an odd term because there is no such thing as a free market. Every every market has rules, right? There's no rules, no market, there's rules around patent protection around, you know, property rights, around regulation, on pollution, and this and the other, and they're all the constraints within business activity, you know, within which business activity must happen. In theory, the regulators are meant to prevent damaging things to society. So you know, reducing emissions preventing slave labor, you know, that's their job is to prevent fraud and other things. It's the same way that as a referee in the game, basically is, you know, whether they use VR or not, they're Their job is to make sure that the game was played cleanly. And I think one of the biggest challenges we're finding is that since the 1980s, there has been a series of economic narratives that people often associate with sort of Thatcher Reagan sort of era. And these ideas that are sometimes called neoliberalism. But they generally the idea behind them is that free markets can solve all problems and don't need regulation. And that those set of ideas led to the financial crisis, right, there was a large repeal of a lot of the Depression era, regulation in 1998, something called the Glass Steagall act, 10 years later, it led to the financial crisis, those problems has still not been fixed by the regulation that came after it, which was heavily diluted. And now we're finding with with climate change that, again, unless the regulators step in, they put a price on carbon, they start implementing vehicle emissions limits, you know, building efficient energy efficient standards, all of these sort of rules within which society must operate, you tend to find that the movement towards that is much lower than we need. And again, it's fundamentally because, you know, we've, as a species spent $5 trillion around sort of a global energy industry, Morgan Stanley estimates it will cost 50 trillion to decarbonize the world economy. It is difficult, but it's necessary. And there's a fantasy that's been pushed out there, I think heavily by business and financial companies that says no, no, this is an opportunity. This is a great thing. We can all make money and be green at the same time. And in some cases, that makes sense. In the majority it doesn't. Because frankly, climate change is not an opportunity. It's not a blessing for humanity that we would have, you know, wanted. It's unfortunately a vexing problem. But it's also one that we need to solve. And that requires that's a decisive government action of the kind we haven't seen yet. And that would cause the financial markets to react and reallocate capital correctly. But you know, without that, what you tend to get is a lot of wishful thinking, or what one, one, there's a bunch of former finance people have come out against sustainable investing, and one of them called it green wishing. Right, it's helpful, but it doesn't really work. And it's somewhere between greenwashing and greenwashing. But unfortunately, it hasn't really produced much in the last decade.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. I am a genie with a magic wand. And I can turn you into a world financial regulator. What are your first three steps to fix all this?

Tariq Fancy:

I would say I'll give you four steps if that's okay, great. And I would actually, I'll borrow from the playbook we all know, well, COVID-19. So let's look at about just roughly just over a year ago, now. The pandemic sort of really started to wash up on the shores of, you know, Western democracies. And what was the problem we needed? You know, we saw it was a systemic crisis. And scientists told us that we needed to flatten the curve very quickly, right, we need to flatten the curve of infections. We knew very instantly that we couldn't just leave it to the free market, right? Like imagine you just leave everything open and business as usual. Infection levels would skyrocket, and ice used to be overwhelmed. So governments around the world quickly reacted had to bend down the curve through force, right. And they use a special powers that only governments have. And only they have, frankly, democratic legitimacy to use. And they did things like restricting travel, they closed high risk venues, places, like bars, even unfortunately, schools, they made masks mandatory indoors, you know, these are all were pushed down by government, and they had consequences for failing, you know, they enforced them. If you broke them, there were fines and the consequences. Those are what helped us flatten the curve. And then while government was holding the curve down with one hand, with the other hand, they quickly started finding us in as a solution, right, and escaped. And that was this aggressive attempt to find vaccines. And so in the US, it was done under the auspices of operation warp speed, right. And in that case, again, the pharma companies are the ones obviously doing all the work. That's not surprising, you know, most of the capital and the jobs in our economies are in the private sector. But the private sector needs a push on things like that. And so the US government ordered nearly a billion vaccine doses, even though that's obviously far more people than they have some countries, it's been far higher. The government also funded individual companies directly. And the idea was that in normal circumstances, one or two companies may look for a vaccine. But if you're, you know, the third or fourth or fifth, you may give up because you think, Well, I'm not going to get there in time. And I'm, you know, I'm not going to get any the business. And so you don't want to spend all the r&d upfront, but by the government, effectively pushing people you know, and funding them directly, making sure that everyone had pre orders. They all had an incentive and so you had five or 10 holes. As all rushing as fast as they can, with emergency approvals that government led, and so on, you know, to get us a vaccine. And now that's how we're sort of starting to emerge from the crisis. Now, let's look at climate change. Here we have a systemic crisis. Science is telling us we need to flatten the curve, right? It's the greenhouse gas emissions curve. And there are no shortage of policy ideas to flatten the curve, right. So we could put a price on carbon. Again, I mentioned vehicle emissions limits, energy standards for the for, you know, the energy sector, for buildings and for all other kinds of infrastructure. And all of those are policy led from the government down where it's the regulator's playing the rule, you know, the role of referees and a sport and saying, Okay, this is no longer allowed, this is encouraged, you know, so we get the outcomes that we need to serve the public interest. Those can all be done to flatten the curve of greenhouse gas emissions. And then with the other hand, again, government can aggressively push the private sector through taxes and incentives, to do more to create the kinds of new technologies we need in a hurry, right carbon capture and storage, other things around Battery, Battery, renewable power, and so on. All of those things are possible. But they happened with COVID. And they didn't have they have not yet happened with climate change. And I would say the most fundamental concern that we should have is that the reason it didn't happen is because of the incubation period COVID-19 takes a few weeks, climate change takes a few decades. Today, capitalism is extraordinarily short, term oriented, bright, co tenure is the shortest has been in decades, it's five years, co pays, the highest it's been a decade is 320 times the average industry worker, when you have such a short term system where the incentives of the businesses, the CEOs, the the finance seers, who back them at places like BlackRock are all very short term oriented. They don't get paid to think about the long term. And so you tend to see society reacts very quickly to the fast moving crises. But, you know, we just kick the can down the road than long term ones. And I think, you know, I think you'd agree that that is, I find that to be morally reprehensible because the costs of that are going to fall on the youngest and the poorest in society did,

Tom Raftery:

indeed, to record coming towards the end of the podcast now. And you mentioned at the start something called Rumi. And I know you wanted to chat about that. Before we get into that. Is there anything else that we've not mentioned that you think it's important to be aware of? Or any question I haven't asked that you wish I had?

Tariq Fancy:

No, I think I think the main thing I would just leave people with is that we need to aggressively question the messages coming out of the business community today. I say that, by the way, as a capitalist, I'm a former investment banker, I have an MBA, you know, I am a capitalist. But I believe that in many ways, the current consensus view that comes out of Davos, and a lot of the sort of leadership in these areas seems to create this idea that there is only one version of capitalism, right, that, you know, and this is the one we have, and you know, this is that the free market will hopefully solve it. And that I think, is extremely dangerous. It's led to younger generations and millennials losing faith in capitalism, right, because generally, it's a system. And I think, what we need to do is question that, because I think generally speaking, capitalism can take different forms, just like football or soccer can take different forms, their referees can change the rules if they need to update them. That hasn't happened yet. And I think that you know, what aggressively which would move the needle is not if we, you know, jettison capitalism as a system, because we know it has had great outcomes in the past, we had better lower inequality, and you know, better environmental protection in the post World War Two period, there was no such thing as sustainable finance, right? It's because governments were doing their jobs. And they were, you know, just like referees doing their jobs. And they're fixing the rules for the current era, and they're aggressively enforcing them. And so I would say that there needs to be a large debate within the business community around what the meaning of business ethics and leadership are. And I think that that needs to start with business understanding its own limitations, right, that a systemic change can only be achieved through government because they don't only government has systemic powers to flatten curves and the way that we need done.

Tom Raftery:

Very good. Very good. Now, when you left Black Rock, you set up Rumi. I think I think that's the the the the order of events, correct me if I'm wrong. And if I'm right, tell people what Rumi is.

Tariq Fancy:

Yeah, I mean, so you're, you're almost right. Technically, I started Rumi before I went to BlackRock. So what happened is I had, I actually left the finance space for personal reasons. In 2013. I had gone to business school in Europe many years ago and NCR and my roommate in Seattle became one of my best friends. He and I shared a passion for working Leaving financing going and doing something, you know, with social impact for the world, we kept putting it off just like many other people do, we went back into finance. And then he unfortunately contracted stage four cancer. And he was the same age as me. And you know, at that time, he was in his sort of mid 30s. And so he sadly passed, but his example really inspired me to, to go and start roomy. And, and so actually, as I grew it, that's one of the reasons BlackRock approached me, because I had experienced in both bottom lines, I had sort of both been a financier and investor for many years. And then I had also gone in from the ground up created social impact through a, you know, a nonprofit with only a social bottom line. And, you know, so I came back to running Rumi after I left BlackRock. And, you know, the fundamental idea behind Rumi is that with, you know, technology today, we can massively reduce the inequalities that that exists in education and in learning. And our model from the beginning has been to bring free digital learning tools to the least serve communities. We began by doing that and everywhere from Syrian refugee camps to programs for women and girls in Afghanistan to really around the world. And last few years, we've started to find that it's growing most aggressively, actually, in rich countries, because we evolved our model to one based on micro learning. And the cool thing about micro learning is that most people have never heard of it. But the idea is, you learn on your mobile device in five or six minutes snippets, right. And so just just just discrete sort of building blocks that you can do quickly on the go, you know, that meets sort of the modern learner lifestyle who are tend to be mobile first. And it's, it's really attractive, because both a it has higher learning outcomes and better learner retention, just parceling it out in small chunks. Number two, we've leaned aggressively towards making the content engaging, right? Because our view is that, you know, it's not just about the quality of the learning, it's also about does it interest the learner. And so if you go to rumi.org, you'll see all open and free micro learning courses that are, you know, that we use that there's like, they're meant to be fun and conversational, they have animated gifs, and memes. And that's, in large part why it's becoming this large pandemic success story amongst youth who were suddenly forced to, you know, learn remotely. But that's actually the biggest and most interesting thing of why we're really bullish about it, is that it competes directly with social media. So if you can grab your phone and learn something in five minutes, the data shows that you get a dopamine rush from doing that. Because you know, you get a dopamine rush, you feel good, if you learn something that's discreet in a short period of time. That is exactly what tech companies have been using to hack our attention, right? It's that you, you know, you the average session on Instagram is six minutes, right, and you get a dopamine rush. And you can just grab your phone, when you're on the bus or your dancer that you know, you're just on the go, it's addictive. And the problem for society is that that six minutes per Instagram session aggregates into a lot of time, it's two and a half hours on social media per day, in rich countries, and some poor countries in the Philippines, it's nearly four hours a day. And so all of that time, we now know, has huge, you know, sort of negative mental health effects. And our goal is, you know, why don't we try replacing that dopamine rush with something that's good for your mental health rather than negative

Tom Raftery:

superbe? And what what is the business model? How are you getting paid for doing this?

Tariq Fancy:

So we as a nonprofit, we have grant funders that, that back us and so for example, the GSM association is backing us for the projects we're doing in Afghanistan, which actually, we're working with the mobile operator there to push bytes with these, what we call micro learning courses, we call the bytes to mobile phones in Afghanistan, it's actually part of programs, we're scaling up to address the gap in women's and girls education there. And the beautiful thing about technology is that if you can deliver to a mobile device, someone has even a low, you know, low end Nokia one, you end up, you know, providing them with a lifeline to learning in a way that maybe isn't possible. And you know, given the local restrictions that exist in society there. And so it's both funded by grants. And it's also funded by large companies, you know, that, that will back us both because it creates social impact, but also because it's innovative and very quickly scalable. And because actually a lot of the content those courses are actually created by company employees doing virtual volunteering. So are all of our content today, it's a Wikipedia like model. And that the way we've scaled up so quickly, we have 50 courses coming online every week on all sorts of different topics, usually ones that are not covered by school, right? So things are at financial literacy, mental health, soft skills, life skills, getting a job, the things that frankly, especially youth tell us that they need the most. All of those are created by experts, whether it's a volunteer community that we vet, and then whose content we vet. So it's a bit like Wikipedia, but with closer vetted As well as corporate backers. And we've seen, you know, there's a bunch of companies that created content, all in a skills based volunteering way that's aligned to their areas of expertise. And it's super valuable to learners because, you know, they want to learn from, you know, the the best, right, the people who do it every single day, and the people who do it every single day I get a chance to do in a scalable digital mentorship, where they can distill their insights into bytes that then, you know, are used by 1000s of people around the world, 100,000 people around the world, and where we can even produce back data that shows them where it's going, you know, people where it's popular, how people are using it, you know, we even mapped their impact against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, there's a bunch of really cool things you can do when the solution is end to end, digital, you know, even in some of the most, you know, underserved communities in the world, whether it's, you know, a poor part of Detroit, or London, or, you know, again, somewhere in couple

Tom Raftery:

and if I am one of these kids with, I don't know, something like a cheap Nokia phone in Kabul, and I convert, or Philippines and I convert those four hours in the Philippines that I was spending to social media into four hours a day on Rumi. Apart from the dopamine rush, Do I have anything to show for it

Tariq Fancy:

wasn't a dopamine rush? I think the most important thing that you get or is that you end up building skills. And so I would liken it to imagine a physical diet. Imagine I drink a two liter bottle of coke every day, I don't, but I do drink sodas, sometimes. But imagine a two liter bottle of coke every single day. And I just replaced that with water or you know, something healthier? And I did it for six months, you know, without any question, I'd see a benefit physically. It's pretty much like a mental health diet, if you were to switch those four hours to something that is good for your mental health. But you know, gives you a dopamine rush, but for for building yourself on your skills and for learning. That is, you know, it's a mental health diet. And you know, we're soon adding micro credentialing to the mix. Right? So yeah, I figured I figured out. So that's actually something we're working with a few universities and other partners on and so that will allow something really novel, which is that, you know, you go and you create all you know, you complete bites, and you can do five minutes here, five minutes there, you know, and just like you do social media, but then it aggregates into not just learning and good mental health benefits, but also the micro credentialing that allows you to concretely you know, show that you've completed these courses. Fantastic. Fantastic.

Tom Raftery:

Tarik, we are coming to the end of the podcast now. And we've done the Is there anything? I haven't asked you questions? Oh, we're on to the last question. If people want to know more about yourself, or about sustainable investment are about Rumi, are any of the things we've chatted about today? Where would you have me direct them?

Tariq Fancy:

I think the best place is for Rumi is just to go try rumi.org and just give us an rU me.org and just pull it up on your phone and try out a few micro learning courses. And if you'd like some, share them with people so that, you know it's all open and free. So you're sharing effectively, like a Wikipedia like resource that is growing and that we can all I think benefit from at this time. And so I would you know, either go there or follow us it's roomy learn is the the social media handle, or my own is so so fancy. Because my last name is fancy fancy was taken. So fancy was taken. And so it's so so fancy. And and you know, through social media and other things, I'll be sharing a lot more and sustainable investing soon, because there's a large debate debates being sparked. And I think that it's one that's a bit overdue, because, frankly, of the urgency of the climate crisis, right. We really need to be move fast and be skeptical and concrete about decisive action sooner than later.

Tom Raftery:

Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. Drink. That's been great. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today. My pleasure. Thanks for having me on. Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about climate 21 Feel free to drop me an email to Tom raftery@sap.com or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you liked the show, please don't forget to subscribe to it in your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.