A Story I Hope You'll Read: Al Gore’s Role as the Green Warren Buffett

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
From our new issue: Al Gore and David Blood, two of the founders of Generation Investment Management, who believe that their firm can help engineer a paradigm shift in modern capitalism. Don’t laugh. (Photo for the Atlantic by Christopher Griffin)



Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was interviewing Al Gore about a decade-long project he had undertaken that had largely escaped public notice.

My article about that project, an audacious attempt to show that a “sustainably” minded investment strategy could make more money than one simply focused on profit-maximization whatever the side effects, is now coming out in our November issue and has just gone online. You can read it here: “The Planet-Saving, Capitalism-Subverting, Surprisingly Lucrative Investment Secrets of Al Gore.” (Of course, Subscribe!)

In every issue and most every article, we try to tell you about ideas and developments you might not have come across before. As a reporter, I like the job best, and feel most alive, when being exposed to some new-to-me culture or organization or approach to life. A Chinese factory, a software startup, a genomics-research lab, an aerospace design center, a Border Patrol unit—these are the sorts of places that I’ve had the luck to spend time inside, begin learning about, and try to describe in the magazine. The structure of a great many of our Atlantic stories, and nearly all of mine, then boils down to: “Here’s a question I had, here’s how I looked for answers, and here’s what I found.” That’s what I’ve done in this case, and I think the results contain genuine news.

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Through the past few months I’ve had what I found one of the most engrossing of these exposures. It’s the one this piece describes, involving the Generation Investment Management firm of London, which Gore helped found. In the article I do my best to describe why the firm’s approach to the world is interesting, unusual, and potentially quite significant — and why its approach has led to better returns than virtually any other asset-manager in its class. I’ll let you go there yourself to judge the case the company is making. Why the “green Warren Buffett” comparison? Because Buffett shifted investment strategies by showing that his could pay outsized returns. That is what Gore is attempting as well.

Just one other word of set-up: perhaps the most interesting substance sections of tonight’s Democratic debate on CNN about the future of capitalism. That wasn’t something you’d expect from this kind of event, but it came up — and it is directly connected with the ideas Gore is dealing with. Over to the article for more.

Meanwhile, I talked with Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace about the piece, for a segment they ran this evening. You can find it here.