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About Joan Bavaria

Joan Bavaria co-founded Ceres in 1989, with a mission to move companies, financial markets and policy makers to find solutions to sustainability challenges such as global climate change.

Black and White of Joan BavariaJoan Bavaria, a pioneer of social investing whose vision and humanity helped catalyze change in the capital markets, passed away on November 18, 2008 at her home in Marblehead, MA after a prolonged battle with cancer. Bavaria dedicated her life to exploring and developing all means of social investing and to educating and motivating other investors.

“Joan was one of my heroes, a visionary who’s done an extraordinary job at both laying out a vision for changing the world, and at making that vision become reality,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres. “Today we celebrate her life, rather than grieve, which is exactly what she would have wanted us to do.”

“It is hard to imagine the world without Joan Bavaria,” added Norman Dean, Ceres board co-chair and former executive director at Friends of the Earth. “It is even harder to imagine what the world would be like had there been no Joan Bavaria.”

Bavaria began her career in 1969 as an Investment Officer at the Bank of Boston, and it was there that she recognized that many investors wanted to integrate social and environmental values into their investments but that financial institutions at the time were ill equipped to do so.

She went on to co-found the Social Investment Forum in 1981, an organization of research, advisory, banking and community loan fund organizations dedicated to advancing socially responsible investing. A year later, she founded Trillium Asset Management, the first U.S. firm dedicated to developing social research on publicly traded companies. Her pioneering work there laid the groundwork for the tremendous growth and interest in the socially responsible investing industry today.

Bavaria co-founded Ceres in 1989, with a mission to move companies, financial markets and policy makers to find solutions to sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Under her leadership as Board Co-Chair for 19 years, Ceres launched three major initiatives that continue to have global impact: the Ceres Principles, a corporate environmental code of conduct; the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the de-facto international standard for corporate sustainability reporting now used by 1,300 companies worldwide; and the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), an alliance of over 70 investors with more than $7 trillion in collective assets dedicated to addressing climate change.

“Ceres could not have survived its early years without Joan's personal contributions both financial and personal,” Dean recalled. “For a period of time, Ceres operated out of Joan's offices. Joan always came to the rescue when the organization had no money to meet payroll or when a crisis erupted. When issues appeared too complicated to resolve, Joan was frequently the person to offer the elegant solution.”

In her honor, in 2008 Ceres and Trillium Asset Management created the Joan Bavaria Awards for Building Sustainability into the Capital Markets to recognize investors, corporations, and NGOs that have helped move the capital markets from a system focused on short-term profits toward one that balances financial prosperity with social and environmental health.

Bavaria received numerous awards for her work, including the Charles R. Schwab IMPACT award in September 2008 for her vision and leadership in the investment and advisory business. She also received the prestigious 2005 Botwinick Prize in Ethics, which annually recognizes an outstanding leader who exhibits the highest standard of ethical conduct in business or the professions. In May of 2004 she was named one of the 25 most influential people in the planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine.

In 1999, Bavaria was named a "Hero for the Planet" by Other awards include the New England Women Business Owners (NEWBO) Woman of the Year award in 1994, and two regional awards from Working Women Magazine and their Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards in March of 1999.

“Joan was a woman of powerful vision, courage and compassion,” said Bob Massie, who served as Ceres’ executive director for seven years. “She changed everyone she met, every organization she led, and the planet on which she lived throughout her brilliant though too brief life.”

“The lucky people in this world can often point to that one special person who had a profound effect on their lives, that one person who moved them in a positive direction,” said Blaine Townsend, the manager of Trillium’s San Francisco office. “Joan is that special person to many, many people.”

Previous Winners


Geeta Aiyer, Founder and President of Boston Common Asset Management


Sister Patricia Daly, OP, Executive Director, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment


Phil Angelides, President, Riverview Captial Investments


Tessa Tennant, The Ice Organisation


Impact Award
Peter Kinder, Co-Founder of KLD Researh & Analytics
Innovation Award
William Foote, Root Capital


Impact Award
Tim Smith, Walden Asset Management
Innovation Award
The Center for Political Accountability


Impact and Innovation Awards
Robert K. Massie


Impact Award
Enhanced Analytics Initiative
Innovation Award

Bainbridge Graduate Institute