Extinction event sparks Joseph’s green dream
Finance holds the key to global solutions on climate change
"We know that there is more to come because climate change is accelerating."
You have probably never seen a Bramble Cay mouse, and if you haven’t it’s certain that you never will.
That’s because the unassuming little rodent – known to science as Melomys Rubicola – was the first mammal swept into extinction by the effects of human-made climate change.
It lived in a range of tiny coral islands at the northern tip of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and some time in around 2009 rising seas finally washed away its remaining patch of habit. The last survivor was either drowned in its burrow or washed out into the Pacific.
Its demise was marked by few, but for Joseph Owolabi it was the perfect symbol for his new company, which sought to do its best in a belated effort to stem the careless destruction of the natural world.
The business aimed to build a reverence for the natural world and a dedication to sustainability into every aspect of investment and corporate decision making. He called the business Rubicola.
"I bring the same entrepreneurial spirit that I had in my former roles. I am just applying them in a different setting, as CEO building a business from scratch."
‘The penny really dropped for me last year when the destruction caused by climate change reached people’s doorsteps in Australia,’ said Joseph.
The country suffered its worst-ever bush fires which were caused by rising temperatures and drought. More than 30 human lives were lost, and scientists think animals died in their billions.
‘This wasn’t an exception. It was another in the chain of climate crises that have ravaged the world in recent times,’ said Joseph.
‘Lake Chad, in West Africa and home to about 30 million people, has shrunk to less than one-tenth of its size just 60 years ago, destroying livelihoods, displacing populations and incubating terrorist activities. There’s been catastrophic flooding in Indonesia, hurricanes in the US and droughts in Capetown and California, to name a handful of disasters.
The bush fire was the final burning straw which caused Joseph to turn his back on a long career with major finance corporations to launch his new venture. He had worked for three of the Big Four all over the world, including in his home country of Nigeria, the US and Australia, and as a speaker at events worldwide.
‘In lots of ways my work hasn’t changed that much,’ he said. ‘I bring the same entrepreneurial spirit that I had in my former roles. I am just applying them in a different setting, as CEO building a business from scratch.’
Rubicola is already working on green finance projects with big banks and major businesses as well as SMEs, helping them find new ways of working which don’t despoil the planet.
‘There is a long way to go, but the culture has changed,’ said Joseph, who is based in Melbourne.
‘It is much easier to have these kinds of conversations than it was 10 years ago.
‘In many ways the corporate world is catching up with ACCA, which has been a champion of sustainable business for a long time.
‘Even as a young student I wanted to work internationally and with a global perspective. It’s why I chose ACCA early on, because it had that global vision. ACCA wasn’t an accidental choice. It made perfect sense, and was a perfect choice. That expansive culture and the breadth of its Qualification and network allowed me to work all over the world. It is a global brand and it made my entire career possible.
‘It is why I feel so much at home with ACCA, and why I am so proud to be a member and to serve on Council. My values and motivations are exactly the same as ACCA’s.
‘Now I want to use that motivation to build Rubicola to a place where it is the leading trusted advisor in opening up new ways to build businesses which tread lightly on the Earth.’