Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services launches

Global finance leaders, including representatives from the UN and both the UK and Scottish Governments, set out the role Scotland’s financial services can play in the fight against climate change.

On the day UN climate body the IPCC issued its starkest warnings to date, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance and former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney; Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes and HM Treasury Economic Secretary, John Glen came together with David Pitt-Watson and Dame Susan Rice to highlight how Scotland can become a world-leading hub for climate finance through the launch of a new Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services, chaired by the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.

Launching on Monday 28th of February, the Taskforce, initiated by Scottish Government with GEFI appointed as Secretariat, presents a unique opportunity for Scotland’s financial services sector to build on the legacy of COP26 by working together to demonstrate global leadership in implementing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) roadmaps. The taskforce opened with, and was underpinned by, a realisation that participants were facing unique opportunity for Scotland’s financial services sector to build on the legacy of COP26 by working together to demonstrate global leadership in implementing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) roadmaps.

At the launch event, Taskforce Chair David Pitt-Watson reflected on the progress of responsible investing in the last 20 years, from setting up the UN PRI in a basement to the 4,000 leading financial institutions taking part now. Following him, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes set out her vision for a sustainable Scottish economy, and explained how the Taskforce can contribute to both this vision and Scotland's Net Zero success more broadly. It will include representatives from across the Scottish financial industry, building a world-leading cluster and deepenening Scotland's existing strength in responsible finance.

UN Envoy for Climate and Finance and former chair of the Bank of England Mark Carney shared a similar sense of optimism. He evoked the spirit of Adam Smith and memories of a Burns’ night supper spent with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeonm at which the pair spoke about how Smith's insights could contribute centuries later, a theme picked up by GEFI's Wealth of Nations in the 21st Century essay series at COP26.

He went on to explain some of the core goals of the Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero, including:

  • Implementing best-practice transition plans and mapping those into mandatory approaches
  • Phasing down stranded assets responsibly
  • Establishing rigorous offset markets, driving investment into the Global South

The process of aligning core financial market benchmarks with the aims of this transition will not be as simple as flicking a green switch, and nor does it mean only investing in already green companies. It requires mobilising new investment into developing countries, and essentiall - yet polluting - industries such as steel or cement. A coordinated approach, which the Taskforce could provide, has the power to help deliver this investment.

Citing the specific example of climate stress testing mechanisms, Mark Carney reminded us that the mechanisms for broad-scale transitions needed to be embedded into corporates. The critical point to remember, he argued, was that the finance sector is in a position coming out of Glasgow where we are broadly orientated to Net Zero and is beginning to develop the tools necessary to achieve this. As UK Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen echoed in his intervention, the challenge still facing regulators and government is how to provide a clear vision to get there.

One solution, argued Dame Susan Rice, lies in the ability of culture to provide both a top down and bottom up approach. The Taskforce presents a unique opportunity for Scottish financial services to work together and create a globally recognised centre for sustainable and green financial services. Culture is conventionally thought of in terms of single organisations - how can one company improve its own culture - but what the Taskforce could achieve is embedding a culture of environmental responsibility across Scotland's financial sector.

Wrapping up the Taskforce launch, David Pitt-Watson quoted Margaret Mead, who said that one should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. As the Taskforce launch poignantly highlighted, the small group of citizens determined to deliver the legacy of COP26 is becoming bigger, and the need to change the world ever more acute. The Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services represents a critical juncture in making sure that the necessary changes are enacted, and relies on a collective effort to fully shift the societal dial towards Net Zero, and to a sustainable, more prosperous future on earth.

To find out more about the taskforce, and to look at the ways that you can get involved, please visit https://www.globalethicalfinance.org/taskforce/


PRESS RELEASE | UN joins forces with UK & Scottish Governments to Launch Green Finance Taskforce

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE GLOBAL ETHICAL FINANCE INITIATIVE

EMBARGO: IMMEDIATE

UN JOINS FORCES WITH UK & SCOTTISH GOVERNMENTS TO LAUNCH GREEN FINANCE TASKFORCE.

Global finance leaders, including representatives from the UN and both the UK and Scottish Governments, set out the role Scotland's financial services can play in the fight against climate change.

On the day UN climate body the IPCC issued its starkest warnings to date, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance and former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney; Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes and HM Treasury Economic Secretary, John Glen, came together to highlight how Scotland can become a world-leading hub for climate finance through the launch of a new Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services, chaired by the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.

They emphasised how Scotland can build upon the legacy of COP26 in Glasgow through its intellectual capital, history as a centre of financial innovation and existing strengths in green finance to lead on the transition to a net zero economy.

Kate Forbes, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, said:
"We know the transition to a net zero economy will be a monumental undertaking. It is going to be the single greatest social and economic transformation required in history, and it is going to impact every sector fo the economy. No part of our economy, no part of our society will be immune to the impact of that transformation. It will be hard: it is going to require the reallocation of trillions of dollars of capital."

Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, said:
"The more credible and predictable government climate policies are, the more investors will pour money in, in anticipation, driving large-scale investment, faster decarbonisation, more jobs and greater growth."

ENDS
NOTES TO EDITORS

See pre-launch press release:
https://www.globalethicalfinance.org/2022/02/28/press-release-scotland-stakes-its-claim-to-be-a-leading-centre-in-finance-for-a-net-zero-and-sustainable-future/

Speakers at the event included:

David Pitt Watson, Cambridge Judge Business School
Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy
Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance
John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to HM Treasury
Dame Susan Rice, Chair of the Banking Culture Board

The Taskforce will report on progress and policy recommendations to the First Minister’s Financial Services Growth and Development Board, thereby remaining aligned with existing Scottish Government and industry structures for government-industry collaboration.

Over 160,000 people are employed in finance related jobs and £9.5 billion of responsible funds are already managed in Scotland.

The Global Ethical Financial Initiative has become the hub at the centre of the ethical finance movement. Curating independent conversations among a broad coalition of financial services stakeholders, as well as delivering practical projects.

Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Scottish Government

Kate is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency (which includes Dingwall, the Black Isle and the Great Glen) and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy in the Scottish Government.

Kate is from Dingwall, although she spent part of her upbringing in Glasgow and India. Until she was elected as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate was employed as an accountant in the banking industry. Prior to that she studied History at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

As a backbencher, Kate served on the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, the Health and Sport Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. She also served as Parliamentary Liaison Officer for Finance and the Constitution. As well as leading a campaign to ban plastic straws, Kate has participated in several cross party groups at Holyrood including Crofting, Gaelic, Human Trafficking, Palliative Care and Rural Policy.

A fluent Gaelic speaker, Kate made history by becoming the first female MSP to give a plenary speech entirely in Gaelic in the current Scottish Parliament chamber.
Kate was appointed as Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy in June 2018 and appointed into her current role on 20 May 2021.
Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance; Former Governor, Bank of England

Mark was appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance in December 2019. From 2013 to March 2020, he served as the Governor of the Bank of England and Chair of the Monetary Policy Committee, Financial Policy Committee and the Board of the Prudential Regulation Committee.

In addition to his duties as Governor of the Bank of England, he has served as Chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) from 2011-2018, First Vice-Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board, a member of the Group of Thirty and the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum.

Mark was born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada in 1965. He received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard University in 1988. He went on to receive a master’s degree in Economics in 1993 and a doctorate in Economics in 1995, both from Oxford University.

After a thirteen-year career with Goldman Sachs in its London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto offices, Mark Carney was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada in August 2003. In November 2004, he left the Bank of Canada to become Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Finance. He held this position until his appointment as Governor of the Bank of Canada on 1 February 2008. Mark Carney served as Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of its Board of Directors until 1 June 2013


PRESS RELEASE | Scotland Stakes its Claim to be a Leading Centre in Finance for a Net Zero and Sustainable Future

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE GLOBAL ETHICAL FINANCE INITIATIVE

SCOTLAND STAKES ITS CLAIM TO BE A LEADING CENTRE IN FINANCE FOR A NET ZERO AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

The Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) will chair a Taskforce being launched today by the UN Special Climate Envoy and former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney; Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes and HM Treasury Economic Secretary, John Glen.

Building on the long heritage and deep pool of expertise in responsible finance in Scotland, aligned with the global connections built over a decade of work in ethical finance by GEFI, presents a unique opportunity for Scotland to position itself as a leading hub for green and sustainable finance. The Taskforce builds on the momentum and legacy of COP26 as governments and financial institutions work together to raise the private sector capital needed for a successful net zero transition and to fund the UN's Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Chair of the Task Force and Global Steering Group Member for GEFI David Pitt Watson said:

"Scotland has a long heritage of leadership in finance from the first public savings banks to the outstanding concentration of expertise in sustainable finance. The momentum and legacy of COP26 presents an opportunity to make Scotland globally competitive as a green and sustainable finance centre.

GEFI has been supported by the Scottish Government and Scottish Financial Enterprise to bring together the leading experts and leaders in the Scottish finance sector over the next three years to ensure that Scotland maximises the opportunity to grow this important finance sector in global markets, creates the skills pipeline and jobs to support this and positions Scotland at the forefront of sustainable finance. GEFI has just completed a two-year Path to COP26 campaign with over 60 global financial partners leading to the Glasgow climate summit and has been working with state banks, financial institutions and asset owners in countries as diverse as the US, Nigeria, Malaysia and the UAE.

GEFI has also announced a partnership agreement with University of Edinburgh to collaborate and use the University's outstanding resources and knowledge to drive forward the development of ethical finance.

ENDS

Click here to read the press release from the Scottish Government

NOTES TO EDITORS

The public launch of the taskforce is at 15:30 on the 28th February. Speakers at the event include:

  • David Pitt Watson, Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy
  • Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance
  • John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to HM Treasury
  • Dame Susan Rice, Chair of the Banking Culture Board

The Taskforce will report on progress and policy recommendations to the First Minister’s Financial Services Growth and Development Board, thereby remaining aligned with existing Scottish Government and industry structures for government-industry collaboration.

Over 160,000 people are employed in finance related jobs and £9.5 billion of responsible funds are already managed in Scotland.

The Global Ethical Financial Initiative has become the hub at the centre of the ethical finance movement. Curating independent conversations among a broad coalition of financial services stakeholders, as well as delivering practical projects.

David Pitt-Watson, Visiting Fellow, Cambridge Judge Business School

David is a leading thinker, campaigner and practitioner in the field of responsible investment – with over 20 years’ experience he was working in ESG before the term was coined! He was a co-founder, and former CEO, of Hermes Focus Funds and Equity Ownership Service, which became the largest responsible investment group of any institutional fund manager in the world.

David was closely involved in the setting up of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment and he chaired the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative in the run up to the Paris Climate Conference.

David has been involved in policy making in the UK, Europe and around the world, particularly in the field of corporate governance and financial market regulation, and has written extensively on these subjects. A graduate of Oxford and Stanford Universities he is currently a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, where he teaches a course on “The Purpose of Finance”. His books have been translated into five languages.
David currently sits on GEFI’s Global Steering Group.

Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Scottish Government

Kate is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency (which includes Dingwall, the Black Isle and the Great Glen) and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy in the Scottish Government.

Kate is from Dingwall, although she spent part of her upbringing in Glasgow and India. Until she was elected as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate was employed as an accountant in the banking industry. Prior to that she studied History at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

As a backbencher, Kate served on the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, the Health and Sport Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. She also served as Parliamentary Liaison Officer for Finance and the Constitution. As well as leading a campaign to ban plastic straws, Kate has participated in several cross party groups at Holyrood including Crofting, Gaelic, Human Trafficking, Palliative Care and Rural Policy.

A fluent Gaelic speaker, Kate made history by becoming the first female MSP to give a plenary speech entirely in Gaelic in the current Scottish Parliament chamber.
Kate was appointed as Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy in June 2018 and appointed into her current role on 20 May 2021.
Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance; Former Governor, Bank of England

Mark was appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance in December 2019. From 2013 to March 2020, he served as the Governor of the Bank of England and Chair of the Monetary Policy Committee, Financial Policy Committee and the Board of the Prudential Regulation Committee.

In addition to his duties as Governor of the Bank of England, he has served as Chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) from 2011-2018, First Vice-Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board, a member of the Group of Thirty and the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum.

Mark was born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada in 1965. He received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard University in 1988. He went on to receive a master’s degree in Economics in 1993 and a doctorate in Economics in 1995, both from Oxford University.

After a thirteen-year career with Goldman Sachs in its London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto offices, Mark Carney was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada in August 2003. In November 2004, he left the Bank of Canada to become Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Finance. He held this position until his appointment as Governor of the Bank of Canada on 1 February 2008. Mark Carney served as Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of its Board of Directors until 1 June 2013


Diversity and Inclusion | Ethical Finance Round Table | Summary

Finance experts shared academic research, personal perspectives and technical expertise on the integration of diversity and inclusion concerns into finance. They emphasised the need for a process that goes beyond mere representation toward a deeper appreciation and integration of diverse voices. Watch now.

For our first Ethical Finance Roundtable of 2022, chaired by Amy Clarke, Chief Impact Officer at Tribe Impact Capital, we were delighted to welcome Prof. Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at London Business School, Gavin Lewis, Managing Director, UK LGPS at BlackRock & equality campaigner and Lynne Highway, Director of Colleague and HR Experience at NatWest Group to discuss Diversity and Inclusion in the finance sector and beyond. Whilst the discussion showed that the sector must strive to improve, there is a clear appetite for progress on diversity and inclusion from across the financial sector and beyond.

Opening the event, Prof. Alex Edmans explored the business case for diversity, showing that many claims are based on flimsy evidence that is accepted uncritically and emphasising the need to be aware of our confirmation biases when making the case for diversity. Ultimately, while the evidence doesn’t support a business case for boosting superficial diversity metrics, it does support a business case for diversity and inclusion – as Professor Edmans highlighted “it involves far more than putting a few token minorities on the board to tick a box. It is much harder to create a culture where everybody feels psychologically safe at work”. As he powerfully stated, after sharing some of his personal experiences with racism and age discrimination in the workplace, “maybe making more money is not the real reason to do this. Maybe we just agree it’s the right thing to do”.

The question about the moral case for action on diversity and inclusion carried over into a fascinating intervention from Gavin Lewis. Lewis, who co-founded the #TalkAboutBlack’ movement to break the taboo surrounding conversations about race, noted that whilst progress has been made to foster inclusivity, finance had not gone far enough. For example, while hiring practices have improved markedly, retention still lags behind for myriad social, cultural, and economic reasons.

One fundamental problem, he argued, lay with the tacit expectation that firms would do the right thing, and that there was a straightforward business case for doing so. If there was, he said, it would have been done by now, and as he aptly commented, “The right thing didn’t happen when George Floyd was murdered. The right thing has been here all along and it hasn’t worked”.

Lynne Highway shared some of the work that NatWest have done to foster an inclusive culture within their ‘organisational DNA’ in order to not just meet, but exceed, statutory requirements on diversity. She said that NatWest is proud to be nurturing a fair and inclusive bank where they champion potential, helping people, families, and businesses to thrive.

Having a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is essential to achieving our purpose, as it enables the Bank to work together to achieve great things with our colleagues, communities, and customers. Improving representation, Lynne argued, requires creating an inclusive environment where colleagues feel able to bring their whole self to work. One way that NatWest have done this is via reciprocal mentoring, to allow for an open dialogue between colleagues from different backgrounds, and at different levels of an organisation.

The roundtable then moved on to a lively audience Q&A which included discussion on:

  • Whether we might see a TSFD (Taskforce on Social-Related financial disclosures)
  • The need to be aware of – and compensate – the emotional labour that might be expected of colleagues from underrepresented groups in the process of improving workspaces
  • Whether it is more important to focus within (on the internal operations) or outside (on investee companies or clients)
  • How the sector can learn from the relatively successful process of integrating climate-related concerns

Click here to sign up to our next event, the launch of the Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services, on Monday 28th February.


Launching 28th February: Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services

The Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services will help to capitalise on the opportunities of financing the global shift to net zero, setting out the actions we will take to promote and establish Scotland as a world‑leading centre for green and ethical finance, and leverage the potential of private finance.

We are proud to be joined by Mark Carney and Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes for the launch of the Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services on Monday 28th February from 15:30-16:30 GMT.

The Taskforce, initiated by Scottish Government with GEFI appointed as Secretariat, presents a unique opportunity for Scotland’s financial services sector to build on the legacy of COP26 by working together to demonstrate global leadership in implementing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) roadmaps.

Sign up now

Responsible finance is critical for a sustainable world. It has the power to support prosperity, climate action, employment, human rights and equality. That realisation is growing. According to Bloomberg, ESG assets jumped to $30.6 trillion in 2018 from $22.8 trillion in 2016 and may hit $53 trillion by 2025, representing a third of global AUM.

Many of the largest financial institutions in the world are signed up to global initiatives such as the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, which represents a collective $100 trillion in assets under management, and the UN Principles for Responsible Banking whose signatories have assets totalling $72tn, >45% of global banking assets.

Scottish finance should participate and benefit in these developments.

In A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22 Programme for Government (published 7th September 2021) the Scottish Government announced “a new industry‑led taskforce” that “will draw up Scotland’s action plan to capitalise on the opportunities of financing the global shift to net zero, setting out the actions we will take to promote and establish Scotland as a world‑leading centre for green and ethical finance, and leverage the potential of private finance.”

The Taskforce, led by Global Ethical Finance Initiative (Secretariat) in partnership with Scottish Government (Funding Partner) and Scottish Financial Enterprise (Industry Partner), will help to develop and oversee an action plan that will co-ordinate the local financial services to position Scotland as a leading global centre for green and sustainable finance.

The Taskforce will bring together industry leaders meeting 3 times per year, with separate working groups convening more frequently. The group will report to the First Minister’s Financial Services Growth and Development Board twice a year.

The Taskforce will look to:

  • Scope out the scale of the opportunity for Scotland within the UK and beyond
  • Develop domestic networks to enhance collaboration and position Scotland as a source of expertise in green and sustainable finance
  • Support the growth and development of Scottish green and sustainable financial products and services
  • Build capacity within the existing Scottish finance community and help develop a future workforce
  • Present Scotland’s “offer” to global markets to maximise green and ethical inward investment opportunities


VACANCY: Could you be a Youth Sustainable Finance Champion?

Are you interested in driving finance for positive change? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we would love to hear from you! 

We are excited to be launching our ‘GEFI Youth Sustainable Finance Champions’ initiative, and warmly invite you to apply. The programme, running between March-December 2022, has been designed to enable Scottish-based students to gain practical experience whilst completing their academic studies. If selected, Sustainable Finance Champions will have the opportunity to learn from experts in the field of ethical finance and help deliver genuine impact within a purpose-driven, globally focused non-profit (and be paid for their time). 

Our plan is to recruit up to 3 Sustainable Finance champions, each being assigned a dedicated sustainable finance theme. We do not expect applicants to have any prior knowledge or expertise as this will be developed over the duration of the programme. Our anticipated themes are as follows:  

  • Financing Nature 
  • Financing Climate and Net Zero
  • The ‘S’ in ESG (social impact) 

We will assign focus areas following consultation with successful candidates. 

What exactly can the programme offer me?

Mentorship
Sustainable Finance Champions will be assigned their own mentor for duration of the programme. They will have regular catch ups throughout the year (in person or virtually) to discuss progress and personal development. Additionally, they will also be given the opportunity to shadow (e.g attend external meetings) GEFI team members throughout the year. 

Learning:
A 2-day long training and induction programme will be offered to all the Sustainable Finance Champions, as well as 2x 90-minute bespoke training sessions designed and delivered by members of the GEFI team. 

Insights:
Sustainable Finance Champions will have access to the full GEFI events programme (which features leading experts from around the world), our Efx.Global platform and (where appropriate) external industry events. 

Renumeration
:
All Sustainable Finance Champions will receive a £1,000 nominal fee for the year

Subject matter expertise:
Sustainable Finance Champions will be focused on a specific theme throughout the year-long programme and, using the knowledge developed, will have their content shared on GEFI’s social media platforms and across our global network. They will also prepare a mini report on their subject matter and deliver an internal training session to colleagues. 

What commitments are required?

We recommend that Sustainable Finance Champions dedicate between 2-4hrs a week/10-15 hrs a month to the Sustainable Finance Champion Programme although they are free to set their own schedule and working patterns to fit around other commitments.

In applying to the programme, Sustainable Finance Champions will agree to produce the following over the course of the programme: 

  • 3 blog posts over the year
  • 3 social media posts a week 
  • Host one event at their university over the course of the year  
  • Author/co-author one ‘mini’ report or ‘mini’ project on focus area

To apply to be an impact champion please send your CV and a 500-word cover letter to ellen@globalethicalfinance.org with the subject line ‘GEFI Sustainable Finance Champion Programme’. 


1.5 degrees is alive, but its pulse is weak: the finance sector must step up to save it

Unsurprisingly, COP26 president Rt. Hon Alok Sharma MP did not have much time for television in 2021. Yet, amidst the lull of the Christmas festivities, he too was able to join the billions of viewers who tuned into Netflix’s record-breaking film Don’t Look Up. Adam McKay’s climate change allegory sees a pair of scientists (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) catapulted into an impromptu media tour, as they try to warn the people of Earth that a comet is on course to obliterate the planet in less than six months. 

In his speech at Chatham House reflecting on COP26, Alok Sharma recalled the closing scenes of the film. As walls shake and flames engulf the landscape, DiCaprio’s character Dr. Randall Mindy tells his family who are gathered around him, braced for impact: “The thing of it is we really did have everything, didn’t we, in the end?”, echoing the fact that – as the COP26 President said – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is still a possibility, albeit a remote one now. 

The harrowing images of planetary destruction at the end of Don’t Look Up Now remain largely confined to cinematic representations and worst-case climate modelling scenarios, but the sense of urgency felt so acutely by McKay’s central protagonists was clearly visible in Alok Sharma’s speech. At the heart of it was a clear message shared by all of us at GEFI: now is the time to transform the commitments gained at COP26 Glasgow into tangible action and to deliver on the promises set out on the banks of the Clyde just over 12 weeks ago. Doing so, as Rt. Hon Alok Sharma reminded us, is our “last best chance” to mitigate irreversible climate change and avoid what Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley movingly labelled the “death sentence of 2 degrees” if we fail to keep the 1.5-degree target set by the Paris Agreement alive. 

Although the pleas for action underpinning Don’t Look Up are ultimately thwarted by political inertia, Sharma was key to emphasise both the wins achieved at COP26 and the broader reasons for hope. Central to the success of the Glasgow climate pact, he argued, was a sense of collective self-interest. Alongside this shared sense of global urgency to prevent the worst of irreversible damage to people and planet, Sharma was keen to stress that the commitments of the Climate Pact were also born out of the “economic case for climate adaptation and mitigation” shared by all leaders over the course of negotiations. Investing in warning systems and defences, for instance, could yield over 4 times the amount paid in damages, whilst failure to do so will restrain global economy’s ability to grow (the equivalent cost of wiping out 20% of GDP every year). 

At GEFI, we echo Rt. Hon Sharma’s sentiment that finance (and mobilisation of the finance sector) is key to ensuring that the economic gains of a sustainable transition are not lost or left as merely promising words on paper. Alongside what Rt. Hon Sharma cited as a “need to turn our focus to loss and adaptation finance to develop the dialogue started in Glasgow”, his speech also highlighted a further three steps that the finance sector must deliver on, as global attention turns to COP27 and COP28:

  1. Show we’re on track to deliver £100 bn goal 
  2. Encourage firms to deliver with integrity to unleash public and private finance 
  3. Work hand in hand with COP27 Egypt and COP28 UAE to learn from success of Glasgow whilst also engaging with civil societies and young people 

Over the course of our Path to COP26 campaign, we have echoed Rt. Hon Sharma’s call to bring together stakeholders across finance and beyond to raise ambition and drive climate action. Through our Strategic Campaigns, Research & Advisory, Capacity Building, and Practical Solutions we will continue to inspire change and mobilise the finance sector throughout 2022 to deliver the promises of COP26 Glasgow. 

A failure to do so brings us dangerously close to the dramatic scenes of Don’t Look Up. We will have, to quote Alok Sharma, “mitigated no risks. Seized no opportunities. We will have fractured the trust built between nations, and the 1.5-degree target set out in the terms of the Paris Agreement will slip from our grasp.” 

As Sharma ultimately reminded us, “1.5 is still alive but its pulse weak.” If we do not want to look back on a life of abundance that we allowed to willfully slip through our fingers, then the finance sector must be the ones to step up and deliver on the solutions needed to save it. 

Ellen Davis-Walker
Digital Content Executive


EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT | Ethical Finance Round Table: Inclusion and Diversity

Our next Ethical Finance Round Table, taking place on the 22nd February from 14:00-15:30 GMT, will focus on the issue of inclusion and diversity; sign up now. While climate has broken past being a "niche" issue in finance, social issues are frequently neglected in the industry. We will ask whether the finance sector has done enough on inclusion, when it comes to race and ethnicity, as well other social issues including gender and sexuality.

8years on from the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, we still seem no closer as a society to resolving the tensions which brought them about. While these issues pervade society as a whole, the finance sector is a part of society, and this event aims to ask the tough questions of those in finance.

Is the sector doing enough, and what is its role?

Should it focus internally (on its own operations) or externally (on the assets it holds or manages on behalf of clients)?

We will be joined by moderator Amy Clarke (Tribe Impact Capital & GEFI Global Steering Group), Gavin Lewis (BlackRock), Lynne Highway (NatWest Group) and Prof. Alex Edmans (London Business School).


The Path from COP26: Implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact | Ethical Finance Round Table

We heard from a varied panel during this Ethical Finance Round Table who delivered their thoughts on COP26, COP27, finance for nature and more, with a series of interesting presentations followed by a lively panel discussion. Click here to watch a recording of the full session now, or click on the names of each of the presenters - Hakima El-Haité, Ashley Hamilton Claxton, Sefton Laing & Jamie Ervin - to see their opening remarks.

Hakima El-Haité, President of Liberal International kicked off by asking how COP26 has succeeded in meeting the hopes of the global south. She emphasised the need to ask ourselves what we achieved and what is next. This COP26 was meant to show progress in CO2 emissions reductions and ambitions for next 5 years and show trust. The developed world was expected to fulfil its promises, and we missed an opportunity to be on the correct side of history, said Hakima.

Ashley Hamilton Claxton, Head of Responsible Investment at Royal London Asset Management followed, and explained that getting commitments from financial sector is easy; action is the hard part. COP26 has inspired more conversations with clients about climate in the past 3 months than RLAM have had in the prior 8 years. Ashley suggested that we need a bottom-up approach (carbon metrics, bonds etc.) but need to develop a high level plan as to how we are going to achieve NZ and the terms of the Glasgow Climate Pact. She cautioned that there is a risk that finance can become a distraction for policy makers - a panacaea for all of our problems around the environment. Finally, she explained that perfect data is a distraction; data will never going to paint a full picture or be complete and can tell a skewed side of a story but is vital for building tools and systems needed post COP and beyond.

Sefton Laing, Senior Climate and Environment Specialist at Baillie Gifford pointed out that COP26 was the first COP at which Big Finance truly arrived. The commitment to trillion dollar funds is a massive step forward, however there is a gap between allocated finance and practical action on the ground - money is not always regulated or properly allocated if you listen to NGOs. He echoed Ashley’s point about the need for strong governance and shifts towards policy to support the individual commitments we have seen particularly from financial services.

Finally, Jamison Ervin of UNDP highlighted 7 trends from the past year on financing nature and 7 predictions for the coming year, looking at how nature has contuined to shoot up the agenda on both climate and finance, and predicting that it will continue to do so.


GEFI spoke at the Edinburgh Futures Conversations to discuss the future economy

GEFI spoke at the Edinburgh Futures Conversations to discuss the future economy. GEFI founder & managing director Omar Shaikh appared alongside former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Chinelo Anohu, Head of the AfDB’s Africa Investment Forum.

Omar emphasised that the SDGs must be at the heart of the future economy. They go beyond technological advances (no doubt important) to fundamentally reshape the way we conduct ourselves, placing purpose at the centre of the economy. Profit and purpose, the triple bottom line, conscious consumerism are all terms increasingly prevalent in financial markets. Paul Polman’s work at Unilever was a great ambassador for such.

Purpose, he argued, gets us to the ontological question – the question of being, of what the economy is and what it is for. If it is to provide the essentials and comforts of life, then that immediately leads to the question of what is the good life, and how much is enough? This chimes with Adam Smith’s challenge of reconciling between his two great mentors Hutchison and Hume – balancing innate goodness with self interest.

At GEFI’s flagship annual Ethical Finance Summit, Prof John Kay illustrated in his presentation how social purpose had been slowly stripped out of the narrative within annual reports of multinational Plcs since the 1960s towards a nearly exclusive focus on return on equity and financial performance – in effect shareholder primacy.

We now stand at a point in time where the pendulum appears to be swinging the other way: financial markets and the economy are placing purpose alongside profit. This incorporation of ethical values was historically a maligned practice, seen as the domain of ‘tree-huggers’, but that has changed via the demands of staff, shareholders, regulators and customers.

For example, we now see a total of:

  • $35.3 trillion USD in sustainable investment
  • Over $100 trillion USD managed by members of the Principles for Responsible Investment
  • $1trn+ USD in impact investing

Omar concluded by reflecting on the many more areas where the future economy can improve upon the past, especially with fintech readdressing the fundamental intermediation role of traditional financial institutions. Challenges remain, be that around nature and biodiversity or around social issues, from poverty, to inclusive growth, to addictive products such as tobacco and gambling.

Gordon Brown followed, highlighting the importance of recognising global interdependence, suggesting that “global problems require global solutions”, from the financial crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has completely exposed the limits of individualism. There must be a break from the 40-year-old Washington consensus, building a new relationship between state, market and society. In particular, there needs to be a reevaluation of the need for fiscal policy.

He focused on the global failure to distribute vaccines equitably around the world, emphasising that this is not simply an unjust policy, but a self-defeating one, asking what this means for the fight against climate change. We can clearly identify both the problem and the solution, but the ‘us versus them’ ideology of political nationalism prevents us from reaching a mutually beneficial solution. Brown suggested that, in the words of Adam Smith who had been mentioned earlier by Omar Shaikh, there needs to be a “circle of sympathy”.