For Anna Albright (YC ’23), caring about our climate is a way of life. It all began in her high school environmental science class. As she learned about worrying phenomena like the greenhouse gas effect and its feedback loops that melt our ice caps, she couldn’t help but feel deeply frightened. “The only way I could fight this feeling, fight the fear, was to think, I have to be a part of the solution,” Albright said.
So, she got to work. Even before she arrived at Yale, she threw herself into climate activism. She testified at the Massachusetts State Senate, spoke at an MIT climate summit, and helped draft the City of Cambridge’s climate goals. At Yale, she has made it a mission to continue this work, exploring her activism in a new dimension: capital allocation.
Early on, Anna discovered a great interest in a rapidly growing area of finance called environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-based investing. ESG-based investing is centered around the idea that an investor should weigh a company’s achievement of environmentally stable, socially responsible, and internally ethical practices before deciding to invest. Albright believes widespread implementation of ESG holds great potential to galvanize fast and effective positive change for our climate. “Trillions of dollars—tens of trillions of dollars—move through the financial system each year,” Albright said. “Even if you can get a portion of that to go to better places, or you change the incentives around where it goes, or you even change the standard morals or ethics about what you can invest in—that really has an impact.”
She began her work promoting ESG at Yale with the Yale Student Investment Group (YSIG). She was one of only three girls in her YSIG class and, to her knowledge, the only Environmental Studies major in the group. “My goal is definitely two things,” she said. “Number one is to make sustainability central to investment strategy and financial strategy. And number two is to make these spaces more accepting spaces for people who face a stigma about entering the industry.” She became a YSIG board member her sophomore year, and has been remarkably successful over the last few years in actualizing both of her missions. With the help of another board member, she made ESG a required component of every soft pitch given in the group, and she’s proud to report the group’s newest applicant class is fifty percent women. Next summer, Albright will work as an ESG analyst for J.P. Morgan, bringing her passion for sustainability in finance to the corporate world.
Last fall, at the height of the pandemic, Albright was inspired by an Intro to Marketing course at the School of Management to apply for a job unlike anything she’d done before: a social media manager position for the Yale School of Public Health Instagram page. “When I saw this job come up, I was really excited, because I felt like there was a lot of latent opportunity there that Yale had not harnessed,” she said. Before her arrival, the page featured mostly student profiles and campus photos and had less than two-thousand followers.
Albright knew the account could be so much more—a place for the public to gain knowledge in an accessible and fun way. “One, they were hungry for information about Covid,” she said. “And two, they were hungry for fun, digestible internet content. That’s all they wanted.” With the help of her boss, Kayla Steinberg, Albright began to radically change the account. They creatively communicated essential information about public health during the pandemic using trending memes and art that captured the attention of thousands of Instagram users.
In the last year, the account’s reach has skyrocketed to over fifteen-thousand followers, and they’ve received attention from some uber-famous public figures. “Ariana Grande reposted one of the posts, which was huge,” she said. In another instance, her work (partially) inspired a student’s future. “A student tweeted, ‘I just decided I’m going to Yale School of Public Health. Not going to lie, their memes had something to do with it,’” she said.
If there’s one running theme in Albright’s work at Yale and beyond, it’s her passion for cutting through the apathy that so often plagues society, from climate change to a global pandemic. “The hardest step is getting past the apathy,” she said. “And when you can do that, you can change people’s minds.”