Leading Voices in Global Sustainability
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Assistant Manager, Climate Change & Sustainability Services (Financial Services) - EY
10 Questions to Change The World
ESG is the source of a lot of controversy these days; what do you think are some of the greatest challenges sustainability leaders face on this topic?
Looking at sustainability leaders and teams within the corporate world, I would say the first challenge would be keeping up with the rapidly evolving ESG space with rapid developments of standards and regulations. Leaders need to take the time to understand what is required and also responsibly and coherently execute the standards and regulatory requirements by embedding the full spectrum of ESG within their operations - not just because investors, customers and other key stakeholders want them to but also because it makes business sense.
Another challenge would be that the language around ESG is rapidly evolving within the corporate world. As world leaders pledge their nations to ambitious climate targets to align with the Paris Agreement, the private sector are slowly but surely waking up to the challenge that climate change can only be combatted collectively - by the private sector and public sector working together.
Furthermore, challenges surrounding data - especially since it is difficult to allocate a numerical value to assess the value of nature - mobilising capital to those areas of our ecosystem as well as assessing society’s impact on nature is still a challenge that sustainability leaders face.
How do you think climate change and the global sustainability agenda will impact your industry over the next 3-5 years?
Financial services are the drivers of the global sustainability agenda. They are integral to financing the global sustainability agenda, which can only be done if all financial services organizations integrate all aspects of E, S and G into their decision making frameworks to ensure that financing decisions are made with all aspects of ESG in mind.
One of the key trends that we are already seeing gaining momentum is around sustainable finance. With successful discussions during COP 27 on the importance of climate finance being mobilized for climate adaptation as well as climate mitigation, I am optimistic that we will see the shift within the industry. In the meantime, blended finance mechanisms are slowly becoming the industry darling for climate financing.
Leaders need to take the time to understand what is required and also responsibly and coherently execute the standards and regulatory requirements by embedding the full spectrum of ESG within their operations.
The Climate Change and Sustainability Services Team at EY are constantly working with clients across banking and capital markets, wealth and asset management, insurance sectors, and private equity to support and assist them in elevating and strengthening their overall ESG agenda by ensuring that all our bespoke approaches empower our clients to be climate-resilient not only today but also into the future.
Women are more likely to be appointed to head of sustainability than men. What specific values do you think women bring to these roles that make them better suited for the tasks?
It is not surprising that women are rising to the challenge and are more likely to be appointed to Head of Sustainability than men. Research indicates that women are the hardest hit by climate change. Therefore, it makes sense that women are more likely to be a part of this endeavor to drive this agenda forward.
Furthermore, women are more likely to exhibit emotional intelligence which is a distinguishing quality to have in a leader, making them better equipped to communicate about sustainability within senior level management.
Over the past few years, the number of women as business leaders has grown and this diversity in leadership fairs well for businesses. The fast evolving service economy is no more dependent on physical strength but depends on skills that come easily to women, such as critical thinking, determination and detailed attention. It is well known that the females think in terms of long-term strategic vision and community building. It is good for the world that female leaders are emerging as a centrifugal force, we now commonly see them emerging across generations and driving change.
How important do you think diversity is in improving ESG scores overall for a corporation, and how do you see that manifesting itself?
In order to build strong businesses and ensure successful delivery of strategies, diversity in workforce must be
Diversity is indeed very important and should not be thought of only with regards to improving overall ESG scores.
Our workforce needs to represent the world we live in. Our world is so globalized and diverse. Therefore, in order to build strong businesses and ensure successful delivery of strategies, diversity in workforce must be embraced. The workforce building and implementing business strategies and goals should represent the customer/client base they are engaging with to deliver the best possible outcome.
Now, the milennials and the Gen-Z are vocal about all aspects of E, S, and G - they demand businesses to be conscious and responsible with the way they engage with the environment, take into consideration the social considerations and with the way they govern those issues, internally and externally. They demand transparency.
The conversation around the ’S’ in ESG is only getting started!
How important are partnerships to your sustainability strategy and how are you forging and managing those partnerships?
Partnerships are vital to elevating the global sustainability agenda. There needs to be strategic alliances between the private and public sectors as innovation and policy making/support must go hand-in-hand to make change possible.
The Climate Change and Sustainability Services Team at EY understands the importance of collaboration. For all our client engagements, we endeavor to bring market leading expertise and knowledge by pooling in experts from all our global offices. When engaging with the CCaSS Team, all our clients benefit from our global pool of subject matter experts - whether that be to develop a market leading sustainability strategy, strengthening the current strategy or beyond.
On the other side, it is not just enough for a business, in any sector, to develop a sustainability strategy, publish it and let it be. In order to ensure effective delivery of the sustainability programme, internal partnerships must develop and those relationships need to be managed and fostered to allow for the strategy to fully embed across all functions of the business. The CCaSS Team understands the importance of this and aims to work with clients to identify, manage and monitor those partnerships, internally and externally, leading them to excellence.
Who do you go to for inspiration and thought leadership on sustainability?
There are tons of sources for my inspiration on sustainability. Starting from my elders in my Indian family who embody sustainability in everyday life and remind me, everyday, of new ways of looking at the world around me and how simplicity in everyday life is both sustainable and creative way of doing things.
Professionally, I look up to all my mentors so far in Austria, Equatorial, Switzerland and Ireland - where I have worked and grown up professionally with diverse leaders who work in climate action and social impact across the global south and global north.
Oh, there are so many to choose from!
But I am very passionate about the issue of food security. So the two that I am currently following are the food waste warriors such as Too Good To Go and Eat Grim. They are doing incredible impactful work in the space and building that awareness and action - slowly building into everyday action.
There needs to be strategic alliances between the private and public sectors as innovation and policymaking must go hand-in-hand to make change possible.
What’s the coolest new idea or solution you have seen in the impact space?
What is your one ‘guilty / non-eco’ pleasure? (that you can’t live without)?
Taking flights - way to stay connected to my global family and friends network as well as exploring this beautiful world!
What is your favourite place on earth and why?
Sao Tome & Principe - a place where nature and community connect. A reminder that all we need is right here and we must cherish it.
If you could go back in time, when would you go back to and what would you do to impact the current state of climate and social imbalance?
I would perhaps go around the time of the Industrial Revolution.
I would engage in active dialogue around how development is indeed important but that it must be done in harmony with nature and the society.
I think that a lot got lost from us by focussing on the ‘grey’ when we should have built alongside the ‘green’ and the ‘blue’ of the world.
I would also remind them that we must listen first to the local communities of the region to learn and understand the environment before engaging in industrialized practices as those communities are rich with knowledge and would provide great insights into how we could build and grow in a sustainable and responsible way - with balance in mind.
"If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it. In my lifetime I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours you could - and should - see a wonderful recovery.”
- Sir David Attenborough