Green finance? Yep, it’s a real thing. Here are 3 women making it happen

Being good with money – it’s not just about counting the pennies, keeping a tight budget and nailing your long-term savings.

Increasingly, it’s about doing good with money. Here on the Young Money Blog, we strongly believe that money is not (necessarily) at the root of all evil – in fact, it can be an enormous and underused engine of positive change. Money doesn’t just make the world go round – it could be *the* vital ingredient in securing our planet’s very survival.

Green finance is a fast-growing sector, and one the government seems keen to support and promote. It is establishing a Green Finance Institute and has assembled a taskforce to brainstorm ways to raise more capital and investment for companies, products and projects that will help fight climate change and move the UK to cleaner forms of energy.

With every passing day, our generation is becoming more conscious – and vocal – about climate change, environmental damage and the need for sustainable consumerism. According to EY, 17% of Millennials prefer to invest in companies that meet the highest environmental, social and governance standards – compared with just 9% among older generations. But how do we increase that figure?

Step forward our Super Green Women! Following International Women’s Day, we decided to ask some high-flying women in green finance what’s it all about and what it’s like to work in a field where – unfortunately – only 35% of the workforce are female, with gender equality still some way off.

So while green finance is on the up, let’s hear it for the ladies blazing a trail in this important field. They offer their thoughts on why this sector matters, what they’re doing to make a difference, how to be more “green” in your everyday life and what anyone considering a green finance career needs to know (clue: it’s more exciting than you might think!)

Anjuli Pandit

UK Head of Corporate Sustainability / Primary Sustainability Manager at BNP Paribas

if someone is not ready to enter the finance industry, I would recommend they follow their passion and bring “green” to it. If you want to be an events manager – do it, in fact, be the best events manager you can be!

Qualification: BS in Education from University of Miami and MA in International Public Management with an Energy policy focus from Sciences Po, Paris

What exactly do you do?
I act as a bridge between investors who are looking to integrate sustainability into their portfolios and issuers who need to raise capital to achieve their sustainability goals. By studying investor needs in detail, I hope to bring to issuers opportunities on how to increase their access to capital by demonstrating ESG performance along with financial performance.

What made you go/get into the field you are in?
In 2006 I was invited to a training by Al Gore on how to give the Inconvenient Truth Presentation on his behalf. Since then I have been hooked on climate action. 10 years ago I probably wouldn’t have ever considered that I had a skillset which could be interesting to the financial services. Today, there are many people like me joining other banks or asset managers to look into ESG factors which could lead to long term returns. By marrying my knowledge on sustainability with my colleagues extensive expertise in delivering financing and investment products, we are able to push this pioneering new field – Sustainable Finance.

What do you find exciting about it, what do you get out of it, why do you enjoy it?
The incredible satisfaction that every single day you are working towards solving the climate crisis, human rights issues, gender equality- all the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals really! We all know it is going to take an immense amount of capital to change our business models and systems towards inclusive, environmentally conscious practices. My job is do everything I can to get clients access to that capital or the opportunity to invest in that future we all aspire towards. Because we have to demonstrate the impact this capital is creating, we talk about carbon emission reductions, hospital beds, employment opportunities, women on boards. It is very concrete and rewarding to know that I have some role to play in making these sustainability goals a reality.

Why might you encourage others into it/consider it as a career or a career in the ‘green economy’? Money makes the world go round. And in order to keep the world turning, we need to solve these problems. I would encourage someone who is considering finance to enter into this field because I think it is the future of finance and the best bet for their career growth. However, if someone is not ready to enter the finance industry, I would recommend they follow their passion and bring “green” to it. If you want to be an events manager – do it, in fact, be the best events manager you can be! By making all your events carbon neutral and setting a precedent for the events industry on eco-conscious event planning.

What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on and how do they ‘fit’ with clean growth?
Last year I attended a workshop with a group of portfolio managers and investment officers on how we should view companies performance through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It was fascinating because it was calling on us to challenge how we evaluate companies, and question which business models we really want to invest in. Many of the firms there were mainstream investors, making this conversation very impactful. We also created a carbon management strategy for our offices across the UK, setting reduction targets based one energy efficiency and purchasing renewable energy. Currently I have started working on how to market and develop “transition bonds.” This means companies who may not necessarily be ready to completely invest in green infrastructure, however they require funds to get themselves closer to being able to do so. When we look at the energy transition, we have to be very conscious that it is a transition. We want to support as many organisations as possible who are truly committed to this transition to find ways to disengage from traditional technologies at a pace which is fair to their business and also to the communities who they serve. The energy transition is so much more than just renewable energy, and being able to focus on areas like energy efficiency, smart grids, storage, distribution, etc, allows us to ensure that we are attacking all the infrastructure shifts that will be required to drastically change the way we power our planet.

What would you say is the biggest/greatest satisfaction you get from your career?

My career has been very fluid, and I was able to work in private, public and not for profit sectors around the world. I have worked in villages in Africa and India marketing solar lighting for rural communities when I headed Communications at Greenlight Planet. I have presented on climate change to politicians, school children, business leaders, and in local community centres across the world through Al Gore’s Climate Reality charity. I have researched climate policies at the International Energy Agency in Paris and listened to concerned citizens talk about bat diseases in the Midwest when I worked at the Obama Administration in Washington DC. I have advocated to global policy makers to mandate reporting on climate change when I was part of team which developed IT software to track and measure carbon emissions for Tata Consultancy Services. The subject is vast and pervasive, and therefore, so can your career be should you make it your focus.

Why you think what you do is important in relation to clean growth/the green economy?

Why wait until tomorrow what you could start solving today? I am too impatient not to be a problem solver. That’s how I approach my professional goals, my relationships, and my personal commitment to climate change and gender equality.  To any woman considering a career in sustainable finance, I would say: we need you!”

Rongrong Huo

Executive Director, Head of Investment Institute at Investec Asset Management

My role allows me to meet and be in contact with a wide range of talented people from different walks of life, ranging from CEOs and fund managers to leading scientists and even fashion designers!

Qualifications: Visiting Fellow at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and MSc Management (Banking & Finance), Cass Business School, London, UK

What exactly do you do?

I head the strategic Investec Investment Institute for the firm. The Institute provides thought leadership in identifying long term trends that matter to our industry and our clients. We look for differentiated investment insights that can help us provide solutions to our clients’ investment requirements across various asset classes and investment strategies. Sustainability and long-term responsible investing are at the core of our thinking and analysis. In addition, I also help drive several strategic initiatives that are directly led by our CEO.

How did you get into the field you are in?

I am a big believer in the role that financial services and capital markets can (and should) have in creating positive impact.  Before moving to the buy side, I spent a few years of my 12 years as an investment banker in a global bank setting up and co-leading their Sustainable Finance team. Being able to take a more strategic and long-term view was important to me. Moving to the buy-side and working in a company with long term capital backing is an enabler. Responsible stewards of long-term capital have a key role to play in the transition to a more sustainable financial industry, and I want to be at the driving seat.

What do you find exciting about it, what do you get out of it, why do you enjoy it?

Investec Asset Management has demonstrated strong leadership and has a positive approach and culture in this area, and that provides me with a great platform to learn, influence and make positive changes happen. I’m in the empowering position of making a positive difference to future generations. My role allows me to meet and be in contact with a wide range of talented people from different walks of life, ranging from CEOs and fund managers to leading scientists and even fashion designers!

Why might you encourage others into it/consider it as a career or a career in the ‘green economy’?

You have to follow your heart, but going sustainable and green is not only the ‘right thing to do’, it is also a sound business decision, strategically and commercially. And it is a smart career decision too. It is the future and, frankly, you don’t want to be left out and miss out on the excitement.

What are some of the really interesting things you’ve worked on and how do they ‘fit’ with clean growth?

I am very lucky to be one of the founders of two high profile Green Finance initiatives in the UK and China. We work with central banks, governments, regulators and a group of leading financial services companies to come up with ideas, develop work streams and help provide industry guidance. As a result, we have brought many green finance and investment related solutions and products to the market that are increasingly becoming mainstream. We continue to drive innovations and are now busy working on how to connect green and sustainability thinking with the real economy’ and are currently working on developing a Green Technology Fund concept with China to support UK green technology companies grow and expand. I am also enjoying the work on exciting initiatives in relation to greening the Belt and Road and promoting sustainable infrastructure in emerging markets.

What would you say is the biggest/greatest satisfaction you get from your career?

One of my biggest satisfactions has been helping to shape the green finance revolution, but ultimately what I find most rewarding is being able to inspire and empower myself and people around me to do the right thing and make positive changes. Feeling that you are doing the right thing gives you the confidence and satisfaction to take on greater career challenges.

Emily Murrell

Head of Sustainable Finance and Future Cities Policy at HSBC
Masters from the College of Europe in Belgium, BSc from London School of Economics

I’m half-French and where my family are from in the French Alps the scenery has changed dramatically as a result of climate change. The famous Mer de Glace glacier has retreated every year and the short walk I used to do to see it as a child now involves a hike up hundreds of steep steps.

What does your job entail?

I identify and help the business and our clients manage the key risks and opportunities relating to the transition to the low carbon economy. This involves monitoring and where possible shaping UK and international sustainable finance public policy to create an enabling regulatory environment.

I also develop policy positions for HSBC on emerging sustainable finance issues, helping coordinate input and action from across the business. In doing so I support HSBC with the implementation of its impressive international sustainable finance targets and strategy. I regularly draft briefings and speech content before public appearances and announcements at important climate milestones like COP. I represent the bank in numerous internal and external sustainable finance forums, chairing working groups and speaking on public platforms to offer HSBC’s perspective on important issues.

What made you go/get into the field you are in?

I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to witness the consequences of climate change from a young age. I’m half-French and where my family are from in the French Alps the scenery has changed dramatically as a result of climate change. The famous Mer de Glace glacier has retreated every year and the short walk I used to do to see it as a child now involves a hike up hundreds of steep steps.

I’m a big believer that we should all try and use our valuable time, skills and energy to make the world a better place. Without solving the financing challenge and finding the trillions of investment needed for green infrastructure, a low-carbon world will not be possible.

What do you find exciting about it?

Working in this space is exciting because it is fast-moving and dynamic! The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement are no longer a ‘nice to have’ and instead are being actively integrated into business models. Most companies recognise that early action can offer them a competitive advantage and help them manage climate risk. Being in the heart of a large organisation adapting to the challenges and opportunities associated with climate change is fascinating.

Why might you encourage others to consider this as a career?

No two days are the same, you are constantly learning and it is full of dedicated and interesting people. There is also huge potential for anyone who can see the bigger picture and/or who has an entrepreneurial mindset.

What would you say is the biggest/ greatest satisfaction you get from your career?

I enjoy working on sustainable finance because success requires cross-organisation and cross-sector collaboration. This means you work with a multitude of stakeholders and consistently learn from other people and organisations. Sometimes it can be frustrating identifying what ‘you’ achieved because there are so many players and initiatives, but it is very reassuring knowing you are part of a global network working towards a common goal. Like many people, I get my happiness and confidence from seeing the value I add to an organisation or cause. Working in this space makes me feel immensely proud that I’ve at least tried to have an impact on one of the most serious issues facing our planet.

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