South Pole appoints new chief on back of carbon project furore

Dr Daniel Klier, formerly from McKinsey and HSBC, will look to steer growth and rebuild trust in the firm, which has been rocked by accusations of overselling carbon credits.

Daniel Klier joins South Pole
Dr Daniel Klier will join South Pole as CEO in May 2024. Image: South Pole.

Climate consultant South Pole has named a new chief executive three months after the previous head stepped down.

Dr Daniel Klier, a finance and consultancy veteran who formerly held roles in McKinsey and HSBC, will step into the top job in May, as the Swiss company and carbon project developer prepares for growth while “strengthening trust, integrity and transparency in its own business and the wider market”, its statement on Wednesday said.

South Pole was accused of overselling carbon credits from a major forest protection scheme in Africa following an investigation last year.

Klier was most recently the chief of ESG Book, a provider of corporate sustainability data and ratings. He worked at HSBC bank from 2013 to 2021, the latter half of his time there as global head of sustainable finance. Klier was a partner at consultancy McKinsey & Company from 2005 to 2013. He is currently on the board of the GRI sustainability reporting standard, and international initiative Sustainable Energy for All.

Klier will replace South Pole’s caretaker chief John Davis, who had since November been filling in for predecessor and company co-founder Renat Heuberger.

Heuberger had stepped down amid intense scrutiny last year over a forest management project in Zimbabwe, in which South Pole was the carbon asset developer. Media and activist investigations alleged that the project oversold millions of carbon credits – each supposed to represent a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions saved – and delayed notifying buyers of the mistake.

South Pole initially said the project did not overissue credits, but later exited the venture in October, saying it will learn from the experience and enhance its quality and risk controls. Carbon credit certifier Verra is investigating the project and has suspended it from issuing more credits.

Klier said on LinkedIn that he was “drawn to South Pole as a firm that was critical in the development of the carbon market and one of the most iconic brands in the climate and sustainability space”.

“South Pole must now prepare for the next stage of global climate action. That means enhancing our strategy, ensuring we innovate, and that we meaningfully advance our risk and compliance processes. Trust and transparency will be at the heart of our next chapter”, he said in a company statement.

South Pole said interim CEO Davis will remain at “an executive level” after the change of guard. Last month, the firm appointed its first chief risk officer, Antoine Predour. Heuberger has remained senior advisor since relinquishing his post.

South Pole also advises governments and businesses on sustainability strategy. Its funders include private equity firm Lightrock, software giant Salesforce, and Singapore’s state investor Temasek. South Pole had been valued at over US$1 billion in 2022, before its carbon project troubles.

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