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Sustainability 2.0 – Technology at the Tipping Point

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At Cowen, we are deeply committed to Sustainability, one of our core values and a guidepost for all we do for clients and as investors. In a new series of commentaries, we delve into the vision of a more Sustainable future. Drawing from our in-depth research and thought leadership across the firm, we will explore Sustainability across the business and social landscape from energy to mobility to consumer preferences and more.

Cowen puts our core values into action every day. We are motivated by our Vision of the future in all parts of our business. Our Empathy is apparent not only in how we treat our colleagues, but also in how we advocate for others. As we work collaboratively across the firm, our Tenacious Teamwork helps our clients outperform. Sustainability is a cornerstone at Cowen, anchoring our desire to make a broad positive impact—within our firm, on our industry, in the communities where we live and work, and among the companies we do business with and invest in. We focus on all three components of ESG—environment, social and governance—to promote sustainability for the benefit of society and our planet.

Our firm is particularly strong in technologies that elevate sustainability, with expertise in alternative energy, mobility technology, biotechnology, synthetic biology, Internet of Things, edge computing and 5G, and robotics and automation. Each of these technologies has reached a tipping point of delivering value, with unit economics that can drive sustainable outcomes.

To explore what sustainability means to us as a firm—and as we pursue our goal of creating sustainable societal benefits—we are initiating a series of commentaries. Drawing from our voluminous research, our work with clients, and interactions with key players and investors, we hope to encourage more conversations around sustainability—where we are, how far we’ve come, and what lies ahead.

A Call to Action

Sustainability is not a new concept. In the late 18th century, Thomas Robert Malthus sounded a doomsday warning that exponential population growth would exceed the more linear expansion of food supply and other resources. In hindsight, Malthus’s assertions seem extreme.  However, because his claims forced key influencers to rethink the possibility of mass starvation, the next few centuries saw significant changes in agriculture, at a time when the Industrial Revolution was just emerging. Today, sustainability concerns have gone far beyond food supply alone to also include combatting climate change, protecting the environment, conserving soil and water, improving the quality of people’s lives, and creating higher-skilled jobs and providing more training—each of which also contributes to creating more sustainable organizations, increasing sustainability in society, and preserving the planet.

Sustainability means many things to many people. In this series of commentaries, we are using a working definition of sustainability: Utilizing Resources and Technology to Benefit Society and the Planet. This takes our firm in many directions. For example, we see many opportunities to invest in new technologies that are at or near the tipping point of commercialization in key sectors such as energy, mobility, and biotechnology—each of which is a focus area at Cowen. There are many more opportunities to pursue sustainability within multiple sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and consumer/retail where consumer behaviors support greater equity and sustainability.

In every sector, advanced technology will play a key part, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, sensors, and automation as an augmentative technology for. Coming out of the pandemic, there will likely be vast technological innovation in sustainability, benefiting both the environment (climate change) and people (biotech for healthcare and AI/robotics for job development). We believe sustainable businesses that embrace ESG and have proven business models will likely be the winners over time, emerging as the market leaders in their respective sectors. It is an exciting and dynamic vision of the future.

As a call to action, sustainability resonates widely, from the CEOs of the Business Roundtable to the global priorities of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to institutional investors that continue to emphasize ESG, even in the midst of a crisis. At Cowen, our Cowen Sustainable Investments (CSI) team continues to see growing interest and capital flows from investors wanting to participate in ESG opportunities.

Leading the Way

We are committed to taking a leadership position as an entrepreneurial bank and trusted advisor working closely with disruptors. We are also committed to improving our own metrics and culture around sustainability and encourages others to do the same.

Pursuing sustainability is both a core value and a strategy. Realizing its potential requires a unified approach across the entire organization: creating valuable insights and content, and then collaborating across the firm to deploy it to the benefit our clients. Guided by our values and with sustainability as our cornerstone, we will find new, meaningful ways to help clients and other key stakeholders outperform.