In WCS Blog

WCS Member of the Month highlights the amazing stories of female leaders in the industry. This month, we spotlight Morgan LaManna, Senior Manager, Investor Engagement at Ceres.

Please introduce us to Ceres and the work it does. For readers who are unfamiliar with investment management to protect our resources can you give us a little background?
Ceres is a sustainability non profit that leverages the influence of major investors and companies to effect policy change around important global issues like climate change. Investors such as pension funds and asset managers are also working together to voluntarily direct finance towards a more just and sustainable world.

We see more activity in the investment space, directed to sustainable funds and companies. What are some of the most significant recent advances that are changing the investment world?
At the One World Summit hosted by the French president last year, over three hundrer investors managing over $30 trillion agreed to work together to push the 100 most carbon emitting companies to decarbonize their operations and products in line with the Paris Agreement’s ambition of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees. I joined Ceres to coordinate the North American part of this initiative called the Climate Action 100+. In the last six month, three major US power companies have set Greenhouse Gas reduction targets for 2030 and 2050. One such company, Xcel energy set a target for zero emissions, another global shipping company, Maersk also set a zero emissions target for 2050. Ambition needs to be raised even more to prevent catastrophic climate change, but commitments such as these, negotiated by investors are groundbreaking.

Your work requires engaging with many players, including internal and external teams. What skills do you rely on in achieving successful project outcomes?
I’m so lucky to be in this role as I get to bring together the amazing work that so many individual investors and my colleagues are doing. The most important thing for me in working with dozens of internal experts and hundreds of external stakeholders is to just keep checking in and having conversations with people. I think of myself as a cross-pollinator between the brilliant analysis and projects that others are working on.

What has your career path been so far? Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other women seeking to enter work in the green industry?
I had a long and winding road into sustainability. I managed a restaurant for 5 years while in college and then worked in film festivals and retail banking before getting my Master’s in Environmental Policy and Development. My dissertation project led me to research the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) where I took my first role after graduating. My advice is just to talk to as many people as possible and don’t see limitations from not having expertise in specific subject matter. Working at IIGCC I helped tend and grow a network of investors from 50 – 120 in 5 years. My experience in hospitality and curating innovative presentations made this possible even though I lacked an education in finance.

Investment companies are notoriously gender-imbalanced. What actions would you like to see happen in your sector to increase the number of women in all functional roles and organizational levels?
The Responsible Investment space is better than the overall asset management. As these thematic investments bring in more money women are moving higher. I’d like to see women promoting more women and when I go to conferences I’d like to see women speak up to confidently share their stories.  

Looking forward: solutions to climate change and conservation of our natural resources rely on multiple factors, including policy, infrastructure, technology, and financial services. What area do you see as being most critical for achieving necessary change?
You said it perfectly! Regulation, consumer demand and innovation all drive change. Change makers trying to leap frog business as usual need to try and strategize across all these dynamics.

For women who are job hunting: what roles are most often hired for in your organization?
Ceres hires people at entry level all the way to department directors. To join the team at a high level people only need to understand Ceres’ theory of change: to work across policy, business and finance to make positive change for people and the planet. Over the past 30 years Ceres has driven cultural changes in the industry to make what may have seemed radical at one time into the mainstream.

What is something you hope to get out of your WCS membership?
I have already met some friends through WCS and attended some great sessions that were both educational and replenishing to my soul. I would like to see more events in SF and be able to bring some of my new Ceres colleagues along to inspire them as well!

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