Podcast: David Chen, CEO of Equilibrium Capital

January 20, 2015

In the latest episode of freshwater Talk, I sat down with David Chen – an entrepreneur, investor, teacher and CEO of Equilibrium Capital – for a fascinating conversation about defining sustainability, creating value and changing the world. At Equilibrium Capital, Chen has developed a sustainability sector within the investment industry, blazing a trail in conservation finance and building a career at the intersection of economy and the environment.

But his impact and vision doesn’t stop there. Chen is also the co-owner of Patton Valley Vineyards, an award-winning sustainable vineyard in Oregon; he teaches sustainability and finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University; he is the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Portland Branch; and he is a board member of B Lab, the 501(c)3 nonprofit that certifies B Corps (like Warby ParkerPatagoniaBen & Jerry’s) ensuring they meet social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency standards. Chen embodies what it means to be an innovator and agent of change as he’s discovering, teaching, advising and leading the path on how to do it.

“Sustainability is not necessarily defined purely by environment,” says Chen. “It is really defined by humans, people and community in the context of the environment.”

Given his background and expertise, our interview is focused around finance, sustainability and investments. But our discussion is about so much more than dollars and science – it is about looking at the world differently to find tools or systems to drive new markets. It’s about changing the perception of sustainability into a source of competitive advantage and the act of investing in a tool for change. And it’s about rethinking capital and value to affect culture.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” – The Real Work, Wendell Berry

This poem by Wendell Berry speaks both to our conversation as well as the innovative path that David is on. It is hard work. There are plenty of barriers to cross along the way. But there is a tenacity to affect change. It was an honor to spend time with David for a mind-blowing conversation about dollars, cents, science and sustainability of the future.

As always, I’m thankful for your time and hope you enjoy this episode. Catch up on previous episodes or let us know how we are doing by giving us a rating at freshwater Talk on iTunes.

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