Category: Collaborations

Is climate action on the path to exponential change?

Is climate action on the path to exponential change?

Melanie Jamieson

Large scale systems change is what we aspire to enable at Leaders’ Quest – and that’s no easy task. The LQ community in London came together recently to spend time with Nigel Topping, a leading light in mobilizing deep systems transformation. We were privileged to have Nigel join us The Conduit to talk about how he has realized huge ambition in his many roles, including that of UN Climate Change High-Level Champion at COP26.   

Aside from co-founding Race to Zero and Race to Resilience, Nigel has also joined several of our Quests – as a participant, a host and facilitator! We had a rich discussion, followed by some great questions.

Here are three takeaways which particularly resonated with me:

The path of exponential growth 

“We need to stop telling each other how bad a job we’ve done of something in the past, and start believing how brilliant we can be. Act accordingly and set targets for exponential growth.”

While we might feel we have already let down the next generation, we cannot resign ourselves to panic, fear, anger or apathy. Despite the slow pace of change, we can still get on the path of exponential growth so long as we keep going. Exponential growth (change that happens very slowly then very quickly, rather than in a straight line) is well documented. Think of the adoption of electric vehicles or the development of computing power for example. This change happens not because it’s inevitable. It happens because people are working every day to create disruptive businesses, make policy changes, invest in innovative enterprises, raise awareness and campaign for change. We need to keep doing the work because, if we do, we can generate the kind of exponential change which tackling global warming requires.

We need belief in our genius 

“Moore’s law is not a law of physics, it’s a law of collective belief in our ability to solve problems.”

The nature of exponential change is that we don’t get to rest! Even when change happens, you need to keep solving problems or else your period of being a leader is very brief. If we believe in our own genius, our collective ability to create change, then facing the biggest challenges of today becomes an exciting agenda full of agency and ingenuity and engineers, policy makers, activists solving one problem after another. We may not be able to solve everything immediately but belief in our genius, that collective belief that we can solve problems, means that we will keep going rather than stop in despair.  

Leaning in and letting go 

“[Leaning into change] is deeply personal. It’s about identity. People don’t want to be seen as cowardly or stupid. Business people have brands, products, technology, of which they are proud. They don’t want to be told they’re taking it in the wrong direction.”

To lean into individual and collective change, we need to recognise when the signs of exponential change are all around us. Nigel told the story of an automotive manufacturing group that he met on a Quest, and that he’s since worked with to support their journey towards electrification and to being carbon-neutral by 2030. This change has been deeply personal, requiring a mindset change at the individual, organisational and industry levels. Change can be very difficult because it requires letting go of so much: what we know, what we’ve invested in, what has shaped us, what defines us and what we feel comfortable with. However, with the right support this kind of change is possible, and it’s something I’ve witnessed on the Quests we’ve run and in the work LQ’s done with leaders and their teams.

Lastly, on a personal note, I asked Nigel about what he’s leaning into and letting go of. He shared that he’s reflecting on what it means to be a good elder – and how to empower others to lead the change that’s needed.

Climate action needs us all – from non profits to big business

Climate action needs us all – from non profits to big business

Sayo Ayodele

When we see, feel, and experience our beliefs in action, it’s an energizing experience.

I recently returned from a trip to Colombia where I had the privilege of meeting people and organizations leading positive change in the face of extraordinary challenges.

They included:


Run by amazing visionary leader Maria Adelaida Lopez and a passionate team, aeioTU‘s early childhood learning centers have provided millions of children with quality education, regardless of their socio-economic status. In the process they’ve created entrepreneurship opportunities for women, who can run aeioTU approved childcare services from their homes.

Cacao Hunters

Cacao Hunters develops high quality cacao plants in indigenous and post-conflict regions of Colombia. It is the first Colombian company to locally source and produce premium chocolate in the region, thereby generating greater income for local small-scale farmers.

Gaia Amazonas

Gaia Amazonas collaborates with and supports indigenous peoples to protect their land. This matters for several reasons – including the fact that deforestation rates in Resguardos Indígenas (indigenous managed area) were ten times lower than in other areas of the Colombian Amazon between 2000 and 2012.

These are small organizations making an outsized impact on giant problems. At the other end of the spectrum, Countdown – a Leaders’ Quest/TED partnership – recently launched the TED Future Forum, which convenes large multinational organizations with a mission to transform the global economy and create a healthy prosperous future for all.

TED Future Forum will tell stories about the successes and challenges that global companies face in stepping up to tackle climate change. The goal is to use these stories to inspire more businesses across the economy, and of all shapes and sizes, to take action.

Each of the companies involved and their leaders know that they are part of the problem, and are working on advancing climate solutions, often at scale. But ultimately no one person or company can solve this alone, no matter their size. It can often feel like an uphill battle.

Brave and humble leadership

What unites the organizations I met in Colombia and those involved in the TED Future Forum is that they are working on complex, multigenerational challenges to which there are no easy solutions: access to quality childcare, post conflict economic development, indigenous rights, and climate change. They require brave leaders to see a wicked problem and try to tackle it knowing that they alone cannot fix it.  

We all often feel small and insignificant relative to the challenges we face – I certainly do. These small examples of progress make me believe that change is not only possible, but happening. And they inspire me to ask the question – how do we make more positive change happen, faster?

Leaders’ Quest to serve as co-convener of TED Future Forum

Leaders’ Quest to serve as co-convener of TED Future Forum

TED Countdown, a global initiative committed to accelerating solutions to the climate crisis, co-founded by Leaders’ Quest, announced its second Summit will take place in Detroit, Michigan from July 11-14, 2023. The Summit will also host the inaugural gathering of the TED Future Forum, an initiative of TED Countdown, focused on the role of business in accelerating solutions to the climate crisis.

The 2023 TED Countdown Summit will convene 700 leaders from the science, activism, innovation, business, finance, policy and philanthropic sectors. Hosted at Michigan Central, a newly opened innovation hub addressing the most pressing challenges at the intersection of mobility and society, and the historic Fillmore Detroit, the Summit will include TED Talks that highlight real-world solutions at scale; Breakthrough Sessions designed to explore the tools and partnerships we need; and immersive offsite experiences with local innovators to see how the city at the heart of the American auto industry is building an inclusive, sustainable future.

The four-day event will include:

  • Seven mainstage sessions, featuring 40+ TED Talks, interviews and performances
  • Offsite “field” experiences, from visits to state-of-the-art EV and battery production lines and factories upcycling waste to meetings with leaders building the “black to green” economy, climate migrants settling in Michigan and policymakers working to change the regulatory landscape
  • Breakthrough Sessions to scale collaboration, including working sessions on the transition to regenerative agriculture and how we fund climate adaptation as well as pitch sessions with entrepreneurs who are creating companies to solve the toughest climate problems

Featured themes and areas of focus to include:

  • The state of science + progress: Where are we for the UN’s global stock take on climate progress, and how does this reframe our understanding and actions?
  • Positive tipping points: Where are we making faster progress than we realize, and what are the most important breakthrough solutions to unlock now?
  • Adaptive innovation: What will improve the resiliency of 3.8 billion people who face shocks in a 1.5-degree world?
  • Bridging divides: How do we find unity in diversity and make progress despite our differences?

“Michigan Central is pleased to host Countdown and the TED Future Forum as we work to create a future that is more sustainable and equitable,” said Joshua Sirefman, CEO of Michigan Central. “Accelerating solutions to the climate crisis requires cultivating innovation that enables greater social, economic and physical mobility — the mission at the heart of Michigan Central’s work. Detroit is the perfect city to host these critical conversations and we are thrilled to welcome the world to the fully restored Book Depository Building.”

TED Countdown is collaborating with Detroit-based businesses, local leaders, arts organizations and the Office of the Mayor to both contribute to the Summit design and shape additional community activations. Speakers from Detroit will be prominently featured throughout the Summit program, and local organizations are partnering with TED to design experiences in the venues and throughout the city of Detroit. Existing partners include the Visit Detroit BureauDetroit Narrative AgencyKeep Growing DetroitReal Times Media and Detroit Blight Busters.

“The last TED Countdown Summit was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I’m thrilled the next one will be hosted in Detroit, Michigan,” said Carla Walker-Miller, CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services. “Convening 700 global leaders here is an enormous opportunity to amplify amazing work across the city and foster mutual learning and sharing with a diverse audience.”

Since its launch in 2020 in partnership with Leaders’ Quest, TED Countdown has released more than 170 solutions-focused original videos and podcasts, including 140 climate TED Talks that have generated more than 230 million views, facilitated 1,000+ local climate events in 100+ countries and, with TED’s Audacious Project, generated more than $470M in philanthropic funding for climate solutions.

TED Future Forum

Convened by TED Countdown, The TED Future Forum is a community of companies committed to stepping up with greater climate ambition to help transform the global economy and create a healthy, prosperous future for all. The Forum will work with its founding companies to identify critical business-focused initiatives where we can accelerate progress. TED will then tell transformational stories of both successes and challenges at events and via TED platforms, with the goal of inspiring businesses across the economy to action.

TED Future Forum includes diverse industries with unique concerns — and all are seriously committed to the green transition for the long haul. The 13 Founding companies are: AB InBev, BCG, Bolt Threads, CEMEX, COFRA Holding, Ford, Google, Interface, Maersk, Mars, Nestlé, Ørsted and Siemens. We look forward to welcoming other companies into the Forum following the TED Countdown Summit in Detroit, Michigan, from July 11-14, 2023.

“We cannot tackle climate change without wholehearted engagement from business,” said Lindsay Levin, Countdown founding partner and head of partnerships + impact at TED. “The Future Forum is convening leaders who have the courage to change the way business operates — and to work across divides to do so.”

“I know from experience that transforming a company requires a combination of dreams and details. We need to dream big, before we have the answers, and then to work really hard on the details to figure it out,” said Jim Hagemman Snabe, TED Future Forum Vision Council chair, chairman of Siemens AG and vice chairman of Allianz SE. “TED Future Forum is about helping companies to find the courage and know-how to speed up their green transition because it makes good business sense — and it’s the right thing to do.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Countdown and the TED Future Forum to Detroit, where Ford is working to build the future of manufacturing and to revolutionize the way people move and connect,” said Cynthia Williams, global director of sustainability, homologation and compliance at Ford Motor Company.  “People everywhere are looking to businesses like Ford for solutions and urgency in responding to climate change. We look forward to putting our minds and resources together — in what we believe will be a powerful collaboration — to help shape a future for transportation that’s more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

“Every day we’re seeing the increasing impacts of climate change throughout local and global communities, supply chains and food chains. A more sustainable, equitable future will require meaningful action today across the business sector to deliver on commitments made in the fight against climate change,” said Shaid Shah, president of Mars Food and Nutrition. “By partnering with TED as a founding member of the Future Forum and joining cross-industry leaders and peers, we’re scaling up our efforts — and calling on others — through collaboration and uncommon partnerships to recruit new allies in the critical fight for a more sustainable future.”

“Information is the foundation of our company. Our founders set us an ambitious, almost audacious mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” said Kate Brandt, chief sustainability officer at Google. “The challenge of climate change requires ambition on a similar scale. In many ways, it’s at the heart of how we realize our mission in the years ahead. A sustainable future depends on the decisions individuals, organizations and governments make every day. We know that businesses need to move faster, together, so we’re thrilled to be a part of a burgeoning community of businesses focused on pooling innovation and knowledge to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis — and hopefully inspiring others to join us.”

“Collaboration is key to solving the urgent climate challenges the world is facing,” said Ezgi Barcenas, Chief Sustainability Officer at AB InBev. “AB InBev is thrilled to partner with TED Countdown and the TED Future Forum and its partner companies to work toward redesigning global value chains with cutting-edge innovation to create a future with more cheers.”

A subset of uniquely positioned TED Countdown partners are supporting the TED Future Forum initiative. Partners include the B Team, Environmental Defense Fund, Fundação Dom Cabral​, Generation Investment Management, Global Warming Mitigation Project, Kite Insights, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, Project Drawdown and Stand.Earth. A small cross-sector group of leaders provides guidance to the TED Future Forum as part of a Vision Council. This includes Jim Hagemann Snabe (Chair), Manish Bhardwaj, Habiba Ahut Daggash, Nili Gilbert, Rebecca Henderson, Wanjira Maathai, Roya Mahboob, Gonzalo Muñoz, Kim Stanley Robinson, Suzanne Simard and Nigel Topping.

Learn more about TED Countdown here, and learn more about the Detroit Summit here.

Leaders’ Quest, Reos Partners, Climate Champions Team, and TED Countdown launch the Radical Climate Collaboration Initiative

Leaders’ Quest, Reos Partners, Climate Champions Team, and TED Countdown launch the Radical Climate Collaboration Initiative

Reos Partners, the social impact company bringing transformational change to complex societal issues, announces that it’s joined forces with the Climate Champions Team, TED Countdown, and Leaders’ Quest to launch the Radical Climate Collaboration initiative to accelerate climate action.

The global climate movement is an unprecedented collective response to an unprecedented global challenge. As the global impacts of climate change are becoming more clear and severe, the need to effectively collaborate with diverse others is imperative.

Reos Partners, the social impact company bringing transformational change to complex societal issues, has partnered with the Climate Champions Team, a global team of experts supporting the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions to drive collaborative climate action, TED Countdown, and Leaders’ Quest to launch the Radical Climate Collaboration initiative to support the movement towards net zero. 

The initiative’s first endeavor brought together 100 experienced climate practitioners from around the world to summarize their guidance in the forthcoming Radical Collaboration to Accelerate Climate Action: A Guidebook for Working Together with Speed, Scale, and Justice. The guidebook is designed to help people and organizations from diverse backgrounds, sectors, and scales, collaborate more effectively. It defines seven practices which, taken together, have the potential to generate a cooperative effort leading to fast, big, and fair results. The guidebook is available at

“People around the world are stepping forward to take climate action. Some of these collaborations are producing extraordinary results, but in aggregate they are not yet big or fast enough to achieve the economic and societal transformations necessary for a safe and just future,” says Adam Kahane, Director at Reos Partners.

“Making progress on climate mitigation, adaptation, and restoration requires many stakeholders to work together across deep differences. This is the reason for the Radical Climate Collaboration initiative. Radical collaboration is a pragmatic and proven approach to working together to move forward with speed, scale, and justice,” he adds.

Nigel Topping, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the UK, COP26 says, “We need a collaborative shift across all of society towards a decarbonized economy so that we can all thrive in a healthy, resilient and zero carbon world. The Radical Climate Collaboration Initiative will enable us to achieve the collective action needed for successful climate action.”

“Climate change has led our planet to a perilous position, requiring urgent action. It’s a complex issue needing collaboration, innovation, and rapid action in order to make meaningful progress,” said Lindsay Levin, incoming Head of Impact and Partnerships at TED and co-founder of TED Countdown. “By providing practical resources, on-the-ground workshops, and a global network for sharing, learning and collaboration, our goal as the Radical Climate Collaboration Initiative can build the capacity to move toward a net zero world.”

Founding Leaders’ Quest and co-creating TED Countdown

Founding Leaders’ Quest and co-creating TED Countdown

Lindsay Levin joined the Money Espresso Podcast for a wide-ranging interview on leadership, founding Leaders’​ Quest, and co-creating Countdown with TED to find solutions to the climate crisis.

Listen to the interview.

Virtual visit to Beijing: Greening the Belt & Road Initiative

Virtual visit to Beijing: Greening the Belt & Road Initiative

China’s game-changing “Traffic Light System” color codes overseas investments based on impacts to climate, environment, and biodiversity.

Earlier this year, China pulled out of coal projects in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and President Xi Jinping just announced that China will no longer build new coal-fired power projects abroad — what other impacts might this system have, and how might it be used to help “green” the Belt and Road Initiative?

During a sessions titled “Virtual visit to Beijing: Greening the Belt & Road Initiative” at Countdown in Edinburgh, Scotland, Chatham House Research Director Bernice Lee orchestrated the only discussion between Mainland China and Hong Kong, as speakers and guest commentators deepened appreciation for ways China can be a catalyst for other global powers to strive for and even compete in becoming carbon neutral.

The conversation on the Traffic Light System began with remarks from Dimitri de Boer (Head of ClientEarth China) and explored factors for implementation, such as direct and indirect policies of the Chinese state, and resulting prospects for environmental sustainability among Belt and Road countries. With enforcement now at the forefront of the global conversation, China’s state-owned enterprises have taken immediate actions to follow through on the new guidelines.

Following remarks from Ma Jun (Director at the Institute of Public Affairs), Lee facilitated a discussion on the transparency of publicly disclosed information about the environment. Such transparency engages the public and allows NGOs to monitor local governments’ and corporations’ enforcement of laws to meet climate commitments. As such, IPE’s Blue Map Database has proven an effective tool in tracking and stopping polluters.

The session closed with comments from expert guests, inviting the voices of those joining virtually from Mainland China and Hong Kong. Guests felt optimistic that the Traffic Light System would help catalyze countries to compete in green initiatives globally. At the same time, the phaseout of coal projects abroad actively engages BRI countries in deciding how to green their own domestic policies.

After hearing from experts on the ground, participants left with a more nuanced understanding of the Belt & Road Initiative – one less highlighted in global media. The hybrid model connected global leaders gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland with experts around the world in dialogue about the promising prospects for a green Belt and Road.

LQ Partner Kenzie Kenzie Lau-Kwong provides additional commentary on the “Traffic Light System”

The week of October 11 was auspicious as it’s also the week of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was being held in Kunming, China. Therefore, several interested leaders and experts, such as those from Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC)Foreign Environmental Cooperation Centre in the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), and People’s Bank of China, could not attend our BRI session. 

However, through communications with multiple individuals in these organizations and with the speakers, I gained a broader understanding of their work’s intricacies in devising principles and executing the country’s greening policies; in turn, they get to know who Leaders’ Quest is and our purpose and vision.

I now appreciate much more their long-term thinking, meticulous planning, and hard work in ironing out conflicts behind the “traffic light system”. In fact, these soft laws are an effective, powerful strategy that connects, catalyzes, and steer state-owned enterprises, foreign direct investments, and organizations towards green development domestically and along BRI. China’s pledge of not building any new coal-fired power projects abroad is one of the many strategies in the works. 

Prep discussions with Dimitri, Ma Jun, Emmanuel offered one insightful conversation after another. Exciting and uplifting, though a bit sad that many of these positive and effective actions are hardly reported outside of China. 

Dimitri’s work is low profile but very effective – the proof in the pudding is the trust ministry officials rest in him. I’ve known Ma Jun for over 10 years. His work is a strong testimonial of the power of public engagement supported with facts and not force, which gain trust and open doors to work with the government, commercial entities, and communities. 

Emmanuel was President of East African Court of Justice before becoming Minister of Justice for Rwanda. His experience gave him the confidence to be particularly applauding soft laws because cases could be referenced, interpreted, and give public pressure, especially for companies to act. As an advisor to ClientEarth and having worked closely with Dimitri on China’s greening development, Emmanuel’s understanding is grounded in direct experience and facts. He described the ‘traffic light system’ beautifully – it’s like the stars; we cannot touch them, but they show the way.

Leaders’ Quest, Future Stewards, join Regen10 to transform agricultural systems, regeneratively produce 50% of food worldwide

Leaders’ Quest, Future Stewards, join Regen10 to transform agricultural systems, regeneratively produce 50% of food worldwide

Regen10 is an ambitious collective action plan to scale regenerative food production systems, worldwide, in a decade.

The initiative will put farmers at the heart of a global effort to transform agricultural systems, so that by 2030, over 50% of the world’s food can be produced in a way that drives positive outcomes for people, for nature, and for climate.

Regen10 will drive alignment and convergence of existing food and farming sector initiatives, and scale-up collective action, by bringing together farmers, along with businesses, investors, NGOs, and policymakers to accelerate system change. Through its interventions, Regen10 will play a key role in strengthening the agriculture and food systems’ contributions to the Paris Agreement, while halting and reversing nature loss, building resilience, and enabling farmers to earn decent incomes for the vital role they play as stewards of the land.

A broad alliance has come together to deliver the initiative, including: World Farmers Organisation, Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Food & Land Use Coalition, World Bank Group, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), SYSTEMIQ, IMAGINE, We Mean Business Coalition, Future Stewards, OP2B, Sustainable Food Trust (Global Farm Metric), and Club of Rome. Many more organisations and companies have expressed their support for the initiative and will be actively involved in delivering its 2030 ambition.

Delivering interventions that matter.  Regen10 will work in partnership with a wide range of food system stakeholders to drive action in 3 areas that together can unlock system tipping points by 2025 and enable widespread scaling of regenerative systems by 2030.

  1. Enable a global farmer community. We will support and enable a global community of farmer leaders and farming organisations to shape the transition, working closely with this community to design policy, finance and enabling interventions that work for farmers, ensuring they are able to confidently, and profitably, scale regenerative production methods.
  2. Establish harmonised definitions, outcomes, and metrics. We will drive convergence and alignment on definitions, outcomes, metrics, and farm level data to unlock transformative policy and finance, to establish the measurement backbone for accelerated transition and to lay the foundation for a new farm economic model. 
  3. Develop and enable pathways to regenerative food systems. We will work in partnership with a wide number of organisations to catalyse and facilitate the redesign of value chains for high impact food products in key growing regions. We will establish economic transition pathways and proof points of regenerative systems in multiple landscapes, from which we can draw inspiration and learning as we scale.

In the next 6 months, Regen10 will mobilise the global farmer community and engage stakeholders across the food system to design a first wave of interventions that will be delivered by UNFCCC COP27.  By 2030, Regen10 aims to have played a catalytic role in enabling:

  • — Over 50% of world’s food to be produced in a way that drives regenerative outcomes.
  • — Over 50% of the world’s agricultural land to be farmed in a way that reverses nature loss and supports decarbonisation in line the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • — Over 500m farmers to apply regenerative production methods, receiving a fair income for the outcomes they deliver.
  • — Over $60bn per year to be deployed to finance the transition.

Regen10 is an ambitious, open, and inclusive initiative in which we all have a role to play.  We invite you us in a global collective effort to build food systems that can sustain us for generations to come.