With files from Rick Spence and Susanne Ruder.
The glass ceiling at Canada’s greenest companies is getting pretty thin, and the women at the top have their sights set on climate change. “I personally don’t know of any senior leaders in Canada that don’t think [climate change] is a risk, and I couldn’t say that five years ago,” says Laura Zizzo, CEO of Manifest Climate.
In 2019, Corporate Knights reported that gender diversity on boards had become the leading issue investors wanted directors to address, alongside executive compensation and climate change.
But have corporations actually prioritized female leadership in the years since, when pandemic-related job loss affected women disproportionately? In March, Equileap found that “there are more CEOs named Michael and Mark than female CEOs in Canada”.
There’s been a sliver of progress in the U.S., where women run 8.8% of Fortune 500 companies, and the percentage of women on the boards of that country’s 1,000 largest public companies increased by 4.4% from 2019 to 2021.
This isn’t just for optics. It’s actually better for a company’s bottom line, according to the Harvard Business Review, which found that in 2021 that “firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences.”
The women leading Canada’s fastest-growing green companies prove that expertise coupled with entrepreneurial acumen can lead to funding opportunities and growth. With growth rates starting at 103%, these visionaries are leaving the naysayers in their dust.
Company: Manifest Climate
CEO: Laura Zizzo
Growth Rate: 260%
“This is not a drill; we are going through a climate crisis,” says Laura Zizzo. With climate risks and regulations always evolving, how can companies keep up? Zizzo founded Manifest Climate in 2020 to help companies track and report on climate change. As a trained lawyer and environmental studies specialist, Zizzo has a long list of accomplishments under her belt – the most noteworthy might be that she is a delegate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), attending annual COP (UN climate summits) meetings since 2007.
The company she founded uses analytics and AI to organize climate information so companies can benchmark and project climate risks to understand their impact. And it’s paying off. In March, Manifest announced it had completed a $30-million round of funding co-led by the BDC Capital Women in Technology Venture Fund and Climate Innovation Capital.
Manifest says its software helps organizations understand their current climate change disclosure and how to improve it while levelling up their internal competence for climate risk management.
Zizzo says that “people are feeling disruptive, they understand the need to integrate science into their business decision-making.” And that’s where Manifest comes in.
For public companies, growth rate is based on their one-year revenue (generally, 2021 sales over 2020 sales). For privately held companies, growth rate is based on the S&P Capital IQ database, with data on recent fundraising rounds, and sorted based on percentage growth of capital raised from the two most recent years of fundraising rounds.