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Brian Matt

In April 2024, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) held the NYSE Sustainability Leaders Summit, which convened over 100 dedicated sustainability professionals from NYSE-listed companies that are leaders on the topic across virtually every sector and global region. The annual Summit included sessions on environmental topics such as climate transition plans, emission measurements, renewable energy and carbon markets as well as broader sustainability topics including sustainability measurements, board oversight and regulation. 

The Summit is designed to bring the NYSE’s community together to learn from sustainability thought leaders who are helping solve problems at both global and local scales, as well as dedicated networking sessions to connect to peers in their industries. Such events can be a useful way for an exchange to update its market participants on the latest developments in sustainability, provide them with access to experts, as well as to gain feedback from them on what additional resources might be helpful to support them.

To get an overview of the Summit and the key takeaways from this engagement opportunity with corporate leaders, the SSE spoke with the organizers. 

NYSE’s Head of ESG Advisory, Brian Matt, led the programming for the event and hosted it along with Intercontinental Exchange sustainable finance lead Larry Lawrence. 

Brian spoke with SSE after the event in April 2024. More details, including takeaways from the Summit, can be found here.

SSE: Where did the idea for the Sustainability Leaders Summits come from and why was it decided to make it an annual event?

Brian: I joined the NYSE in early 2021 with the goal of engaging with the community of sustainability leaders at NYSE-listed companies. We realized that not only are so many of these leaders new to dedicated sustainability roles, but also, with the space evolving so quickly, they were often learning more from each other than from other sources. Every time we gathered these individuals together in small groups, we found the conversations continued well beyond the event and led to information sharing that helped individuals tap into each other’s knowledge base. In 2022, we realized we needed to convene these leaders at a larger scale, and the NYSE is a great place to do just that. 

SSE: How do you decide what topics to discuss each year? 

Brian: That’s easy - we ask the experts. In early 2022, the NYSE launched its Sustainability Advisory Council, comprising 24 heads of sustainability with deep experience in their fields and working for well-regarded companies across nearly every sector. Twice a year, we host this group in person at the NYSE, and as part of those sessions, we listen for the topics that are rising in importance from the work they’re doing with stakeholders. The NYSE also has a fairly direct line into the investment community, and the ability to hear from ESG research leads and stewardship teams as to what’s “net new” in their worlds. Given this information and feedback, we’re able to build the program accordingly. 

SSE: What stands out most in your mind from the conversations you had during this year’s summit? Was there anything said this year that particularly surprised you or changed your perception of some area of sustainability? 

Brian: For our last session of the day, we turned the tables on our audience and had them work together in small groups to discuss the ways they measure the contributions their sustainability programs make to the value their companies create. We expected we’d hear a lot from companies about lowering costs via improved energy usage and stronger human capital management practices. We were surprised to hear companies are generating value from circularity programs, even outside the industries you’d expect. Waste-to-energy, investments in recycling infrastructure, and programs that share benefits with suppliers and/or customers were the new and unique ideas that got synapses firing in our audience.

SSE: Now that this one’s in the rearview mirror, what is getting you excited about the next summit? What are your expectations for next year? 

Brian: As you know, this space is changing very quickly. That said, the main difference I see from attendees from our recent events is the elevation of the sustainability role. New sustainability leaders seem to be much more likely to report directly to the CEO or CFO today, and a majority of our 2024 Summit audience is already involved in communicating with the board of directors. At each subsequent event I think we’ll see more individuals who can share their successes and challenges from being directly involved in business strategy, not just reporting or compliance. 

Also, this year I expect to see more progress in carbon markets, as organizations such as ICVCM and VCMI start to put their work into play, and as we see the first sets of carbon credits and claims that meet new standards. I’d bet we’ll see interest in this from our community as we plan 2025’s summit.