Building a more sustainable and inclusive waterfront for Boston

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ronald P. O’Hanley, President and CEO of State Street is Co-Chair of the One Waterfront CEO Roundtable. Seen above: O’Hanley speaks at  the second annual One Waterfront Gala  on September 5, 2019

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ronald P. O’Hanley, President and CEO of State Street is Co-Chair of the One Waterfront CEO Roundtable. Seen above: O’Hanley speaks at the second annual One Waterfront Gala on September 5, 2019

As one of the oldest companies in Boston, State Street is proud to support the bold vision of The Trustees’ One Waterfront project to transform Boston harbor with world-class open spaces that will also provide natural buffers against rising sea levels for vulnerable neighborhoods.

It is a privilege to co-chair the One Waterfront CEO roundtable along with my fellow business leaders:

Bobby Chacko of Ocean Spray; Roger Crandall of MassMutual; my co-chair Andrew Dreyfus of Blue Cross/Blue Shield; John Farina of PwC; Neeti Bhalla Johnson of Liberty Mutual; Jeff Leiden of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Marcy Reed of National Grid; G. Scott Uzzell of Converse; and Michael Woodall of Putnam. Our objective is to provide advice and to help raise support and visibility for this important project.

All of us feel a personal and professional responsibility to help safeguard the future of this great city.

We are committed to working with our political leaders as well as great civic organizations like The Trustees to build a more climate-resilient and vibrant Boston that will continue to attract the best and the brightest for generations to come.

These are spaces that every resident of Boston will be able to enjoy, regardless of where they live or how much money they have. It is important to remember that One Waterfront has a dual purpose: creating both a more sustainable and a more inclusive future for Boston and all of its residents and visitors.

From left to right: Roger Crandall, MassMutual Chairman, President & CEO; Michael Woodall, Putnam Investments Chief of Operations & Boston Water and Sewer Commission Chairman of the Board; Barbara Erickson, Trustees President & CEO; John Farina, PwC Northeast Managing Partner; and Ronald O’Hanley, State Street Corporation President & CEO

From left to right: Roger Crandall, MassMutual Chairman, President & CEO; Michael Woodall, Putnam Investments Chief of Operations & Boston Water and Sewer Commission Chairman of the Board; Barbara Erickson, Trustees President & CEO; John Farina, PwC Northeast Managing Partner; and Ronald O’Hanley, State Street Corporation President & CEO

As a global company with deep roots in Boston reaching back to 1792, State Street manages and services investments for long-term investors like pension funds, endowments and foundations, insurers and financial intermediaries. By definition, we are focused on the future and long-term value.

For us, the uncertainty around the pace and intensity of climate change is a textbook definition of material financial risk that investors need to address. And every climate science expert warns us that we are running out of time to take effective action.

State Street is committed to supporting a more climate-resilient future so that we can continue to operate in Boston for another 200 years. That is why we applaud the leadership shown by Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker to ensure the city and Commonwealth are preparing for a future of rising sea levels and more frequent storm surges.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop might have described Boston as a shining “City Upon a Hill” in the 17th century. But the reality is that much of the city lies dangerously close to sea level already, since it was built on marshlands and tidal flats.

Boston is the fifth-most vulnerable coastal city to flooding in the U.S. after Miami, New York City, New Orleans and Tampa. And it’s the eighth-most vulnerable in the world in terms of the cost of the potential damage, with estimates as high as $740 million per year by 2050.

But obviously this is not just about monetary damage. It’s about the damage to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Boston residents. Earlier this year I attended a climate summit at the Vatican with the world’s largest oil and gas companies as well as major institutional investors like State Street. 

Pope Francis also attended the proceedings to remind us of our moral duty to be good stewards of a shared planet for future generations. Since nearly half of all the carbon now collected in our atmosphere was generated over just the last 30 years, it is clear this it is our generation’s responsibility to solve the problem now, and not leave it to our children and grandchildren to face the consequences.

More importantly, Pope Francis pointed out that climate change is already disproportionately affecting the poor and dispossessed who are least equipped to deal with its devastations.

Boston is no different.

One Waterfront’s parks will help protect our neighbors who are most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

It will also help to make Boston a stronger and more inclusive city by drawing families from all over the city back to the waterfront for recreation, entertainment and community-building.

The One Waterfront initiative is a great way to build upon efforts already underway to address climate change risk in Boston. But it also has the potential to engage and excite a much broader group of Bostonians from all over the city to get involved and help celebrate the diversity that is our city’s strength and the catalyst for our future success.

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To learn more about the One Waterfront vision, visit: onewaterfront.thetrustees.org/about


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Ronald P. O’Hanley

Ron is president and chief executive officer of State Street Corporation. He is also a member of State Street Corporation’s Board of Directors. Ron was previously president and chief operating officer of State Street Corporation, and before that president and chief executive officer of State Street Global Advisors, the investment management arm of State Street Corporation. He joined State Street in 2015. Ron serves on the boards of Unum Corp. and Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. He also serves on the boards of The Boston Foundation, the IYRS School of Technology and Trades, Syracuse University and WBUR. Ron’s philanthropic and civic interests include corporate governance, retirement/healthcare policy and funding, education, and climate. He has led several initiatives on gender equality. Ron is a frequent speaker and writer, and is an avid offshore sailboat racer.