Managing Director of Frontier Impact Group, Jennifer Lauber Patterson, reflects on the importance of
I have always been driven by my passion to make a difference. My resilience is one of my greatest strengths: no matter how hard things have been, I never give up.
I commenced my career over 30 years ago as a scholarship graduate for the electricity generation sector in the Latrobe Valley. I started working on the shop floor before moving up into management, electricity trading and senior finance roles, working my way up to transacting one of the first renewable energy trades in the electricity market and playing an active role in the establishment of Australia’s renewable energy markets.
After 12 years in the energy industry, I transitioned into banking, accepting the role as Head of ANZ Electricity, Renewables and Carbon. At that time, I established the electricity and renewable market trading business for ANZ in the early 2000’s. I also became involved in financing solutions for renewable energy projects. One of my legacy projects included influencing ANZ’s leadership to commit to go carbon neutral, a huge commitment at the time.
I then moved to NAB as the Head of Environmental Treasury Solutions, where I led the successful implementation of the trading and risk management system for renewable energy commodities and managed the global carbon portfolio. I was also responsible for investment in over one million carbon offsets for NAB in global projects.
At NAB the possibility of making good business and environmental decisions came to be my main focus: I saved NAB significant money on carbon offsets whilst also maximising the environmental and social impacts of the carbon projects we ran.
In 2012, I attended the global Copenhagen Conference, which changed my future. I was disillusioned with the missed opportunity Australia had in getting a carbon trading scheme in place, and realised other countries saw the transition to a low carbon economy as an advantage for business and economic opportunity.
One evening in Copenhagen, following a few drinks with a colleague we established the “Carbon Awareness Forum” which focused on the new way of communicating the benefits of moving to a low carbon economy.
The Forum was very successful in attracting and educating numerous national business, government and community leaders inspiring opportunities and initiatives around a move to a lower carbon economy. Our key driver was to ensure Australia did not lose competitive advantage due to its failure to innovate around climate change. The opportunities in this area, and its personal importance to me, led me to establish Frontier Impact Group (FIG), which I still run.
FIG quickly originated projects across 7 countries to help families that earned less than $2 per day to convert from using kerosene to solar lights.
The impacts were huge and the business was growing but then the politics changed: the international carbon markets become oversupplied and Australia sadly repealed the carbon price legislation. Like many others in this space, much of our work, major plans and strategic opportunities evaporated.
It was extremely challenging financially for me at the time and I knew I needed to find new ways to be able to make a difference, while keeping my business afloat and raising a young family.
Personally, I knew that climate change was going to have much more serious consequences and I felt it was reckless to leave our children a legacy of great suffering, which we knew about years earlier.
Through results garnered from extensive networking, endless research into the cutting edge of climate innovation and sheer hard work, FIG survived, and we pivoted towards a much brighter future.
FIG is unique as a business because we work both directly to support key projects, as well as strategically to assist businesses and the community get their own environmental and energy sustainability projects off the ground.
As a business we moved our efforts towards areas we knew still needed our help, ultimately focusing on the commercialisation of new technologies that create positive social and environmental outcomes. The technology solutions exist, but the biggest gap was that developers needed help to become investment ready. I have built a business model that rewards us with equity to help these projects get off the ground, and I am confident FIG will grow into the future as the world turns its attention to better dealing with the climate emergency.
Current FIG projects include investment in renewable diesel, organic fertilizers, carbon farming and vertical farming that are potential game changers in the pursuit of a more sustainable planet.
On a more strategic level, we also work to help corporates that may want to invest in a solar plant, community groups that may need help with financing or entrepreneurs that want to commercialise technologies or farmers that want to move to regenerative farming.
Our work sees us covering a huge variety of projects and areas across Australia, from the development of a Community Energy Financing Toolkit, assisting disability employment agency Kurragong to deploy solar PV, assisting 25 farmers in the small Victorian town of Mollonghop to transition to solar energy and provide peer to peer trading, and working with farmers in Queensland to introduce technology to assist them to effectively transition towards better farming practices and significantly reduce run off into the Great Barrier Reef.
I think it is important for individuals with expertise to give back to their communities. I have retained a strong personal focus on volunteering, working for nearly ten years as a board member, and four years as Chair of the Yarra Energy Foundation (YEF).
I am honoured to serve on the boards of both Sustainability Victoria and Carbon8, and am also a member of the Southern Cross Regenerative Farming Alliance Advisory working group, developing innovative financing solutions to scale up regenerative farming activities in Australia.
I feel blessed and privileged that I have the ability to make a difference and know that I have done all I can do for our children and future generations to leave the planet in a better place.
The challenges to our planet are enormous but I am also confident that we have the solutions to be able to reverse the biggest negative impacts if we all come together and contribute.