As companies and regulators increasingly see climate change as a business threat, the data company Gro Intelligence is devising indexes that it says can track climate risks in a granular way — and could create a new class of financial investments.
The company is developing indexes to measure conditions like drought, floods, temperature and more, according to Sara Menker, its founder and chief executive. For example, its software aggregates 46 variables into a single measure of drought severity on a scale from zero to five.
These indexes, along with a new $85 million fund-raising round that Gro will announce on Friday, the DealBook newsletter reports, are the latest signs of the financial industry’s efforts to generate money from environmental initiatives.
More investors are piling into climate-focused minded funds, like the one created by the investment group TPG that recently named Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs chief executive, as executive chairman. (A partnership including TPG is one of the lead investors in Gro’s latest round.)
A big opportunity lies in climate-linked financial products. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently published a report declaring climate change a systemic risk and urging the development of new financial hedges and investments. Data providers like S&P Global have been promoting their ability to score companies on a variety of environmental factors.
Gro also signed up a new board member: Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president and Trump economic adviser, who was initially asked to find weak spots in Gro’s indexes. “Universally trusted and transparent data” is important as companies are required to disclose more about their climate risks, he said.
Among Gro’s clients is Unilever, which already uses Gro’s data for sustainability planning at its Knorr brand. “Data driven insights are key to assessing and managing the risk of climate change on our food supply,” said Dorothy Shaver, who leads Knorr’s global sustainability efforts.
Gro’s bigger ambition for its indexes is to encourage a new universe of financial instruments, like swaps that companies and investors can use to hedge climate risks, catastrophe bonds and even exchange-traded funds, said Ms. Menker, herself a former Morgan Stanley commodities trader.
She said could not predict what else could be built on the indexes: “Our dream as a company is that you have many, many applications that come on top of Gro.”