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Five Indian Americans Named to Time Magazine’s Inaugural List of Influential Leaders Driving Business to Real Climate Action

Five Indian Americans Named to Time Magazine’s Inaugural List of Influential Leaders Driving Business to Real Climate Action

  • The list, which draws attention to the people who are shaping and leading climate action, comes at a critical moment, ahead of the 2023 U.N. Climate Change Conference.

Five Indian Americans are named in ‘TIME100 Climate,’ the magazine’s inaugural list of “the world’s most influential leaders driving business to real climate action,” released today (Nov. 16). While “climate leadership is ­embedded across all of our coverage today,” Time believes that “more could be done to draw attention to the people who are shaping and leading climate action.” The list, which the magazine calls “a community,” comes at a critical moment, ahead of the 2023 U.N. Climate Change Conference. Apart from being a community, the list is also “an argument for how we see the future,” Time says, “because we believe progress for the planet will come from the engagement with and leadership with the business world.”

Indian Americans included in the list are: 

Geeta Aiyer, founder and president of Boston Common Asset Management, a woman-led, employee-owned sustainable investment firm with nearly $5 billion in assets under management. Time says the firm “prioritizes investment in climate change mitigation, and uses shareholder engagement to push portfolio companies toward more sustainable business practices.” Aiyer serves on the Boards of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC) and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). She is co-founder and board chair of DAWN Worldwide, an NGO addressing gender-based violence. Previously, she served on the boards of the Sierra Club Foundation and YW Boston. She was on the Board of UN PRI, becoming the first US asset manager elected to serve. She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School, and her MA and BA (Hons) from Delhi University.

Rajiv J. Shah is president of The Rockefeller Foundation, which now works to ensure that all initiatives and investment strategies are focused through a climate lens. This year, it “partnered with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet to launch the Coal to Clean Credit Initiative,” Time says, adding that the “aim is to develop a new carbon finance standard to spur a just transition away from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy in emerging economies.” Shah was appointed USAID Administrator in 2009 by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Before his appointment at USAID, he served as chief scientist and undersecretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the United States Department of Agriculture. Last month, he published “Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens,” where he shares “a dynamic new model for realizing transformative change,” the foundation website says. He founded Latitude Capital, a private equity firm focused on power and infrastructure projects in Africa and Asia. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the Wharton School of Business. He has received several honorary degrees, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and the U.S. Global Leadership Award.

Ajay Banga, who began his five-year term as World Bank Group president in June, is ushering in a new mission for the institution: eradicating poverty while fighting climate change. “If you can’t breathe and you can’t drink clean water, there’s very little point in eradicating poverty,” he said at the 2023 World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings in Morocco. He is calling for more money to “widen the aperture” of the Bank to structure incentives and loans for projects that lower emissions and advance sustainable development. He is also pushing to reduce how long it takes to approve projects so that billions of dollars can quickly reach the countries that need it. He most recently served as vice chairman at the equity firm General Atlantic. Previously, he was president and CEO of Mastercard, leading the company through a strategic, technological, and cultural transformation. He was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal in 2012, the Padma Shri Award by the President of India in 2016, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Business Council for International Understanding’s Global Leadership Award in 2019, and the Distinguished Friends of Singapore Public Service Star in 2021.

Jigar Shah is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Programs Office, which oversees DOE’s more than $40 billion in loan authority across manufacturing, innovative finance, and tribal energy projects. Before joining the federal agency, Shah was co-founder and president at Generate Capital, where he focused on helping entrepreneurs accelerate decarbonization solutions through the use of low-cost infrastructure-as-a-service financing. Before Generate Capital, he founded SunEdison, a company that pioneered “pay as you save” solar financing. After SunEdison, he served as the founding CEO of the Carbon War Room, a global non-profit founded by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite to help entrepreneurs address climate change. Originally from Illinois, Shah holds a B.S. from the University of Illinois-UC and an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland College Park.

Manoj Sinha is CEO and co-founder of Husk Power Systems (HPS), which operates 200 mini-grids across Asia and Africa, and “reached profitability in India and Nigeria this year,” Time says. In 2008, Sinha “pioneered the clean energy community microgrid, and since then has built HPS into the leading net-zero energy company serving rural communities in Africa and Asia,” according to the company website. HPS is the only microgrid company to sign a UN Energy Compact, in which “Sinha and the Husk leadership committed to build 5,000 microgrids by 2030,” the website notes. Sinha is a board member of CLEAN, India’s decentralized renewable energy trade association. He was named one of the 2022 Global Power & Energy Elites and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA) in 2022. He was also awarded an Impact Excellence Award in 2022 from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

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Joining the list is Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder, Ola Cabs and Ola Electric, one of the fastest growing startups in India and the nation’s largest maker of electric two-wheel scooters, and a market leader in micromobility generally, from taxis to ride-sharing. This year, Ola launched its most affordable electric scooter ever, priced at 79,999 INR (about $960 U.S.). He began his corporate career by joining Microsoft in 2007 as a Research Intern and was absorbed by the company as an Assistant Researcher in 2008. After working as an employee for more than two years, he wanted to start something that he could call his own so in 2010 he co-founded Ola Cabs.

Also included in the list is Australia-based Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO and managing director of Macquarie Group, a global financial services group, where she works to prioritize green finance. She assumed her current role in December 2018, after joining the company in 1987. Under her leadership, the bank is also a leading investor in renewable energy. Last year, Macquarie announced “a partnership with the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, to which it would add $205 million from Macquarie’s institutional investors to boost EV charging infrastructure,” Time noted. Wikramanayake was born in the U.K. and was raised there and in Sri Lanka before immigrating to Australia with her parents when she was 13.

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