Case StudyPeak: Investing at the Edge of Ecological Limits

Our economy relies on the Earth’s ecology. This should be obvious, but most investment strategies refuse to take this simple fact into account. Portfolio 21's powerful report changes the whole conversation.

Infinite economic growth isn’t possible on a finite planet. What could be simpler or more intuitive? And shouldn’t every investor have this key piece of information? Still, it’s a radical position for a major investment company to take. And it’s a break from the fluffy, no-tradeoffs approach of traditional Socially Responsible Investing.

Portfolio 21 had the makings of a new story that the investment world had to hear — and we were eager to help them tell it. In close collaboration, our teams decided the vehicle for that story should be a richly illustrated, accessible report for investors and their advisors.

Our process began by getting educated. The Free Range writing team became well versed in the complex debates between the grow-at-all-costs economists like Milton Friedman and the limits-based approach of Herman Daly. We challenged ourselves to understand global markets and to project trends into the future. And we worked closely with the brilliant leaders and analysts at Portfolio 21 to turn their original white paper into a compelling story of tough choices and big opportunities.

Of course our dive into complexity would ultimately lead us back to simplicity. We created a suite of infographics that instantly communicate the logic of limits and reveal wise investment strategies. We layered rich historical imagery and credible illustrations of the future with jargon-free text backed up by data and peer-reviewed sources. Ultimately, Peak would give busy financial advisors a life-changing story-based insight in exchange for a few moments of their time.

The report has become a powerful tool for Portfolio 21 and is a major contribution to the conversation about how to navigate today's volatile financial markets. In the words of founder Carsten Henningsen, Peak “shaped years of research and experience into a visually compelling narrative. We’re so proud of the results."

Details Peak: Investing at the Edge of Ecological Limits

The Diagram

The Portfolio 21 team brought us “the squiggly line” diagram which had been an effective tool for educating about limits to live audiences. But what worked well in person required a couple more layers of explanation in static form. Our interpretation of the diagram tells the story in a glance without the need for further explanation.

Peak: Investing at the Edge of Ecological Limits

The Imagery

From the earliest explorations we knew our image selection strategy had to avoid typical nature-as-beauty approaches, and show ecosystems as vast but finite networks supporting not only life, but our economy as well. Initial moodboards offered three directions, each using unexpected and abstract image crops, vibrant colors balanced by neutrals, and various infographic styles that could efficiently communicate a lot of content.

Peak: Investing at the Edge of Ecological Limits