PostCOVID19 Opportunities for a sustainable 2050


In our Zoom for Thought on June 29th, 2021, UCD Discovery director Prof. Patricia Maguire spoke with Tess Mateo, green investor, entrepreneur and special adviser to the United Nations on gender and climate, about, “Post-Covid-19 opportunities for a sustainable 2050”. In case you missed it, here are our Top Takeaway Thoughts and a link to the video.

The Role


AQAL Capital, where Tess is an adviser, is “all about finding and investing in great people and great ideas driving a sustainable 2050”. This involves identifying entrepreneurs who “can make change happen profitably”. As adviser to the UN, she has to look at “the bigger picture… to find systematic ways governments can create an enabling environment so people can get to that sustainable 2050”. Her role as Managing Director of CXCatalyst is “much more on the ground. We do public/private partnerships specifically to help the private sector, eg companies, partner with governments in doing sustainable projects”.


Problems = Opportunities


The biggest opportunities are to be found in “the biggest problems of the world”.  In 2015 193 countries agreed on the world’s biggest problems, and to a plan to address them in 17 Sustainable Development Goals. “Coming from the private sector that means when there are big problems and have solutions - that's huge economic opportunities.” The biggest opportunities are using the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies in solving these big problems and achieving the SDG goals”. Tess helps to “identify, specifically, those companies on the ground that are going to help us achieve” the SDGs. 


Club of Rome


The Club of Rome which includes former heads of state, Nobel laureates and philanthropists, was founded in 1968 “to save humanity from itself”. Its 2018 report, entitled Transformation is Feasible,  identified just one remaining path to a sustainable 2050. The path to sustainability has five strategies, which are and will remain Tess’s focus for the next decade. 


The Path


The five priorities identified on this path are as follows: 1) Accelerate the transition to renewable energy. 2) Double the productivity of sustainable food chains. 3) Reduce inequalities through government policy. 4) Put in place new development models in poorer countries - in agriculture, services, manufacturing, etc. 5) Invest in gender equality and quality education and healthcare for all.


Pandemic Wealth Gap


The wealth gap between men and women has widened in the pandemic and this is cause for concern. Tess notes that the G20 group of finance ministers, who, in 2008 and 2009 “only met 13 or 14 times” have convened virtually more than twenty times during COVID19. “That's how important the issue is; they're looking at these policies.” The group will also assess how COVID19 recovery funds are going to be channeled to align with a sustainable 2050.


Green Investments 


Tess has been investing in “the renewable space, and also in the circular economy which is about reducing waste in the system”. She praises Thai solar pioneer Wandee Khunchornyakong, a woman who “has been transforming the energy sector in ASEAN, specifically, with the help of the government policies. What we're trying to do is replicate that in other countries”. She also singles out two women from Italy and Poland with start-ups involving their discoveries in printable photovoltaic (solar) cells. “I'm investing in those types of businesses.”


Doing Well Saving the Planet


There has been “this great shift” to the idea that saving the planet can be a profitable opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. “Wall Street now understands sustainability,” says Tess, particularly intangible risks and assets relating to Environmental, Social and Governance  (ESG) criteria. “companies now want to minimize their ESG risks and explore how to make positive impact and money while also addressing the SDGs.” It even has a term: impact investing. She recommends a book by Dr. Mariana Bozesan called Integral Investing, which is a comprehensive book on emerging technologies, sustainability and investment opportunities to achieve a sustainable 2050.


The Final Frontier 


When the Transformation Feasible report was published in 2018, there was a meeting that was convened by some folks on the west coast of the US. At that time, most did not feel the world could collaborate fast enough or that there was enough money available to address climate change and so many doubled down on space exploration. There was some urgency to find a path to save humanity in case we don't get to that sustainable 2050.’” She says this is why there has been such a focus on the privatisation of space exploration in the United States and why she is also investing in space exploration. 


Pods in Space


Tess says if you coped well within your COVID-19 bubble, “you will thrive in space exploration because it will happen in groups of six to eight to 10 people” initially. She “completely” believes that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have the option to visit space. But just as many of her childhood friends in Michigan have never travelled abroad, not everyone will avail of the opportunity.




Tess has multiple degrees from the University of Michigan and Columbia University , in biology, psychology, economics, finance and management. “It was because of that varied background and all my friends in these completely different sectors that you find these cross-collaborative opportunities. I really do think that it's diversity that drives everything forward - diversity of thought, diversity of our backgrounds, but also the diversity of what we each bring to the table.”


This article was brought to you by UCD Discovery - fuelling interdisciplinary collaborations. 




Tess Mateo is Advisor to AQAL Capital, the United Nations on Gender and Climate and Managing Director CXCatalysts, which develops public private partnerships in clean energy, water, sustainable food, infrastructure, and health.  With over two decades of corporate restructuring, turnaround and start-up experience in over four dozen countries, she partners for profitable green growth opportunities.

An investor and entrepreneur, sample ventures include Trumid a fintech unicorn; Gralni Group, a real estate firm; IncentOne, a behavior modification tech platform; and Colorworx, an innovative consumer product company.  

Publications include The Internet of Women: Accelerating Culture Change (River Publishers 2016); Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles and Practices, 1st Edition (Macmillan Reference USA 2014); and Vision 2050, Business New Agenda (World Business Council for Sustainable Development February 2010)