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Revolutionizing ESG education: Water Markets micro-certificate

“Water is going to be one of the largest investment asset classes over the next decade; people who understand it will hold a leading edge over those who don’t,” says Simon Olivier, head of water tech fund Cycle H2O
April 30, 2024

Water Markets

Concordia's committment to spearheading innovation is the driving force behind the introduction of groundbreaking micro-certificates in sustainable finance and ESG communications, marking a significant stride in fostering growth in these vital fields.

Simon Olivier is head of water tech fund Cycle H2O and the instructor of the water markets micro-certificate. Here's how the new program will address a widening skills gap in the sustainability sector and provide professionals with insights to confidently tackle new professional challenges.

How does your background position you to guide students looking to gain the ESG knowledge they need to advance their careers?

Simon Olivier: I've always been a big fan of the environment. I grew up on a farm, and I’ve had a chance to witness climate change firsthand in a significant way, which led me to become an engineer and then work for General Electric. After working there for 20 years, I received a phone call one day to launch a new business, which was called Renewable. Not many people knew about wind and solar back then, but when I started there, I invested in technology and solutions to start fighting climate change. And today, 20 years later, one of the major themes from an environmental point of view is water conservation.

How can participants gain an edge from your experience?

SO: When considering climate change, it’s essential to understand that CO₂ is the cause but H₂O or water is the consequence. Natural disasters like flooding, droughts, and wildfires, which account for about 90 per cent of such events, are all water-related phenomena caused by climate change.

Given my background and expertise in CO₂ and greenhouse gases, particularly in renewable energy sources like solar and biogasification, we find ourselves in a relatively mature market. There's a lot of parallels and best practices that we can import into this nascent water market. We’ve also partnered with some of the best in the ecosystem to be able to build a course framework that's going to be sustainable but also very practical.

Water, by nature, is complex and complicated. Why? Because it's one of the largest industries in the world, valued at about a trillion dollars annually, yet it's highly fragmented. In the US alone, you've got over 80,000 different utilities spanning the market. The big problem is that it's been underinvested for decades. The needs for water are just increasing given population and industrialization. But as water is a finite resource, it must be better valued and monetized, not the water itself, but the use of water so that our economy can still flourish and grow moving forward.

This micro-certificate program offers participants a firsthand exploration of the water investment landscape. They will gain insights into various water markets, pricing mechanisms, and avenues for impactful involvement leading to a brighter future.

In what ways do you see the water markets micro-certificate making a meaningful impact in the lives of the participants?

SO: I think the unique advantage of this class is that you’re gaining insights to be able to get ahead of the game. Water is going to be one of the largest investment asset classes over the next decade; people who understand it will hold a leading edge over those who don’t.

Now, not everything is defined. By that I mean, the landscape is evolving, and it's being defined as we speak. But the trends are substantial, so people who have some insight will be called upon to participate in this great venture. When you achieve a double bottom line in sustainable finance, meaning that you not only make money but also generate significant sustainable impacts on the environment and society, that's when your effort becomes truly meaningful.

While this micro-certificate won't be easy, it's going to be lots of fun and immensely rewarding. We're going to have lively debates with knowledgeable professionals to delve into the future of water investments so we can collectively gain from each person’s unique perspectives. They're going to learn a lot, and I’ll learn as well.


Learn more from Olivier during the micro-certificate in Water Stewardship and Market Mechanisms starting May 29.

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