The social entrepreneur

Mindy Lubber.

Mindy Lubber speaks at the Ceres Conference in May in San Francisco.

As a teenager, Mindy Lubber, BS ’75, MBA ’77, was disappointed her Long Island community lacked a recycling program—so she created one and convinced the town to adopt it. 

“I learned you could look at an issue, find a solution and work toward remedying it,” she says.

She does the same thing today as president of Ceres, a nonprofit that rallies companies, investors and public interest groups to push for environmentally responsible business practices. Lubber was a founding board member when the organization launched in 1989.

“At Ceres, what we talk about—and why we exist—is integrating sustainability as a fundamental financial issue from the boardroom through the supply chain, through enterprise risk management and budget systems,” she says.

Her inspiration

While studying at the School of Management, Lubber’s passion for social causes grew after hearing political activist Ralph Nader speak on campus. She joined the New York Public Interest Research Group and, with UB faculty members, researched and lobbied for the Hearing Aid Sales Practice Act, which requires a prescription for hearing aids to prevent consumer fraud.

“Be willing to break the mold,” she says to students today. “It’s important to think about how to use the skills you’re developing to build projects, campaigns, technologies and companies that improve the planet and the economy.”

A force for change

Since Lubber was named president in 2003, Ceres has grown its company network to nearly 100 major corporations and launched the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a group of 117 institutional investors worth $13 trillion in assets committed to reducing climate change risks in their portfolios and seizing related economic opportunities.

Under her leadership, Ceres created the Global Reporting Initiative used by more than 6,000 companies worldwide to report their environmental, social and economic impacts. In 2010, Ceres successfully lobbied the Securities and Exchange Commission to mandate that publicly traded companies disclose climate and water risks in their operations.

While she’s proud of these triumphs, Lubber says: “We still have a long way to go. We need to further embed sustainability into capital markets, so stock exchanges and rating agencies integrate these issues into their work. We need to reach supply chains and ensure these issues are mandated through compensation systems and the goals set by publicly traded companies.”

Written by Matthew Biddle, this story originally appeared as part of the cover feature in the autumn 2015 issue of Buffalo Business.