ESG – much talked about but how do we ensure that it is a force for change rather than just a feel good? Expertly led by Rita Martins, Head of Fintech Partnerships at HSBC, the panel represented a broad range of participants and perspectives from across the sector.
As Martins noted at the start of the session, this is indeed the challenge of our lifetime and asked the panellists what they and their organisations were doing to address it. As Stephen Watson, Head of Proposition at Cushon noted, there is a general lack of awareness of the ways in which pension funds contribute to the climate crisis. He pointed to the ways in which power can be put in people’s hands to decide how they want their pension savings invested and the ways in which those companies in which they invest behave.
Looking at a large institution, such as Lloyds, there are a number of ways in which they can have an impact both within the organisation and for their customers/consumers. As Jemma Waters, Head of Responsible Transformation – ESG in Tech; Data, Design and Digital at Lloyds Banking Group noted, they (as an organisation) need to make sure they consider the S in ESG and ensure addressing climate change doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Paul Noble, Chief Commercial Officer at Tandem pointed to the role that they, as a lender, can play in offering choices to consumers that allow them to make positive changes. As a bank, they can support those decisions through their lending decisions. He too noted that the S is often overlooked. You need to bring people on the journey to environmental impact mitigation and build understanding through lots and lots of small steps.
Leon Saunders Calvert Head of Research & Portfolio Analytics at refinitiv pointed to the impact that individuals and institutions are having when it comes to decision-making in the allocation of capital and incorporating ESG factors into those decisions. He also noted that, at present, there is no obligation to report ESG data although that is starting to change.
However, there is as of yet no global standard as to what should be included and how ESG data should be reported. Data will certainly play a key role in future regulatory frameworks and reporting requirements. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done on that front.
But the point of data is to drive insight that measures activity and understands outcomes. ‘No regrets actions’, as Waters notes, can go ahead without waiting to have the data to measure outcomes to the nth degree. The groundswell of consumer passion, behaviour change and concern is driving change now. The panel was united in the view that action needed to start now, even if refinements and future change is on the horizon.
Worried that you will walk away from this session frustrated and worried about the future? You won’t. It is refreshing to hear and learn from those working in the financial services industry to design products and policies that will have an impact and drive change. They were unified in their optimism for the future. Even more to the point, people drive change – whether through private industry or governments so it is incumbent on all of us to keep the pressure on.
A must listen. Really.