I interviewed Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and global statesperson, for RBC Capital Markets’ first annual ESG Conference. As head of the Elders, a group formed by Nelson Mandela to help resolve global conflict, Robinson is focused on the climate crisis and upcoming UN summit in Glasgow. Here’s some of what she had to say:

  • COVID has shown what’s needed to resolve crises:
  1. Collective action.
  2. Government.
  3. Science.
  4. Compassion.
  • Historically, pandemics have caused great loss and change, but also galvanized societies. COVID has made people reassess their values and the way we’ve been living, working and consuming.
  • Business innovation and private enterprise will drive the recovery. The direction of the recovery needs to be towards net-zero.
  • 127 governments have a net-zero goal, covering 63% of the global economy.
  • Pace is still not fast enough.
  1. Need to phase out coal 5x faster.
  2. Need to ramp up renewable energy 6x faster.
  3. Need to transition to EVs 22x faster.
  • Public opinion is shifting.
  1. The U.S. elected a president with the most ambitious climate policy in history.
  2. Young people have stepped up, imploring us to listen to science.
  • When it comes to ESG, the “S” (social impact) gets left out more than environment or governance.
  1. Need to see importance of a just transition, with new jobs and new training.
  2. We’ve learned to spend money to help those affected by COVID; we need to learn to spend money to help those affected by climate.
  • We have to do a lot in a very short amount of time. We need to reduce carbon emissions by 45%.
  1. often tell people that everyone can do three things:
  2. Make the climate crisis personal.
  3. Get angry with those who should be doing more.
  4. Imagine the world we need.

You can watch the full interview here.


John Stackhouse is a nationally bestselling author and one of Canada’s leading voices on innovation and economic disruption. He is senior vice-president in the Office of the CEO at Royal Bank of Canada, leading the organization’s research and thought leadership on economic, technological and social change. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail and editor of Report on Business. He is a senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and sits on the boards of Queen’s University, the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada and the Literary Review of Canada. His latest book, "Planet Canada: How Our Expats Are Shaping the Future", explores the untapped resource of the millions of Canadians who don’t live here but exert their influence from afar.

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