Megan Reilly Cayten: “Nothing matters without a planet that humans can live on”

Megan Reilly Cayten: “Nothing matters without a planet that humans can live on”

20 Jul 2020

by Lucia Conti

Megan Reilly Cayten is co-founder of Ocean 2050, a consultant on carbon markets, impact and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) criteria, and Senior Advisor at Javelin Capital.

You are the co-founder of Ocean 2050. Could you explain the aim of this enterprise?

Oceans 2050 is a campaign and action platform, created by Alexandra Cousteau, with the goal of restoring abundance to the oceans by 2050. We intend to reset our collective ambition about what is possible, and to inspire action at the scale needed to restore our blue natural capital, especially in these next 10 years which are crucial.

One of our key strategies is expanding seaweed aquaculture, which is a scalable, financially self-sustaining activity that is profoundly restorative to the ocean, and to the climate. I run our blue carbon work, as well as taking the lead on our commercial partnerships.

How important is it to integrate ESG criteria into business development and what are the long-term advantages?

The idea of business as pursuing short-term financial gain for a few at whatever the cost is a relatively recent one in human history. Companies are formed by people and within communities and ecosystems that they need to thrive.

It is fundamentally good business to make sure that your employees, your customers, and the natural systems you depend on are thriving, and that you are making decisions with the long-term interests of your business and all it depends upon in mind. I consider good ESG practices to be a basic requirement of running a business in this day and age.

You shared your story during a Spotlight Session during UNIDO’s conference “Women in Industry and Innovation”. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs?

While there are so many injustices and challenges to address, nothing matters without a planet that humans can live on. Fortunately, the climate crisis is one problem - unlike inequality, for example - that we know how to fix. No matter how overwhelming the problem seems to be, consider finding a way to use your gifts and expertise in the fight to protect the only home we have.

I believe in radical collaboration, and that women have a particular role to play in leading what is really the most important work anyone can do, in any time in human history.

How would gauge the importance of the UNIDO virtual conference?

There is real value in women creating space for themselves with other women.

I remember when I left my finance job and started a company focused on women, I went to a conference that Tina Brown organizes every year in New York City, called Women in the World. My career until then was in energy and finance, both fields dominated by men.

It was the first time I had ever been around so many professional women – I found myself marvelling at the immense diversity and inspiration of who they were, and what they did. I got such energy from being there. Women have a way of lifting each other up, and the UNIDO conference was a way for all of us to experience that, and to do that for each other.

What are your future projects and initiatives and what do you hope to achieve?

I orient myself around where I can be of most use. My work is predominantly focused on developing and deploying climate change solutions that will benefit emerging markets, and an animating thread of all the work that I do is to create choices for people who might otherwise not have them, with a particular focus on financial independence for women and girls (that was the basis of Catrinka, the company I founded).

As an American, I feel a particular obligation to move my country forward so that we can stop holding the world back from addressing the climate crisis and better yet, remember how to lead again. In the coming months and year I am focused on launching Oceans 2050’s blue carbon work, on developing renewable energy projects in the Caribbean, and on advancing carbon markets through my advisory work.

Through my NGO board service I am focused on creating opportunities for all people to better understand, value and protect the natural ecosystems that give us life, and removing barriers so that all people can take control of their own future.