Connecting campaigns for gender diversity and climate action to multiply their effects Investment industry moving from pledges to action

Business leaders, investors and global policymakers came together today to agree a collective way forward to tackle climate change, harness the parallel efforts of the campaign for gender equality to speed up progress, and warn that the investment industry “cannot afford” to stand by and watch events passively.

The initiative is being led by Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, part of BNY Mellon and founder of the 30% Club, and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Christiana steered the climate change negotiations that culminated in the historic Paris Agreement in December 2015 (COP21), achieving consensus among nearly 200 countries for a single agreement on tackling climate change for the first time.

The ‘Two Degrees of Change’ conference discussed the similarities between driving change on climate action and gender equality, with the aim of forming a more joined-up approach and creating a “compounding effect” to accelerate headway in both areas.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “There is a clear parallel between the progress we’ve seen on gender equality and climate change over the last six years. Evidence suggests that a greater presence of women in the boardroom and in senior leadership roles can help increase the corporate focus on climate change. Just as political will brought an agreement in Paris, so the collective will of the right people in business can create momentum around the actions needed to tackle climate change. The UNFCCC has taken steps to recognise the critical leadership and participation of women in addressing climate change through its Momentum for Change: Women for Results initiative.”

The conference also focused on how the investment industry can play a leading role in addressing the financial implications of COP21, setting out both the scale of the challenge and practical steps that investors can take to help protect clients and society from the financial risks associated with climate change.

According to Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management: “As an industry we were a concerned but largely inactive bystander as the financial crisis unfolded, and we must not make a similar mistake on this issue. While the timing is uncertain, the financial risks associated with climate change are clear. The investment community has an opportunity to take a leadership stance, working with others to address the challenge ahead. Today’s conference explored some of the practical steps investors can take to move from awareness to action.”

Following the event, an action plan is being developed to drive this compounding effect, focusing on leveraging the increasing proportion of women on boards and significant presence of women in ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’ investment teams to prioritise climate change action. It will be focused on three themes: women as agents for change, investors as agents for change and millennials as agents for change.

The keynote speaker was Nigel Wilson, Group Chief Executive, Legal and General, talking on the topic of ‘From two degrees of change to two percent more growth: how diversity and clean energy investment can drive productivity for future economies.’

The panellists who participated in the event to lead the debate, create momentum and action included:
Jane Ambachtsheer, Partner and Chair of Global Responsible Business, Mercer Kevin Bourne, Managing Director, FTSE Russell Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice President. Veolia Julia Dawson, Managing Director, Credit Suisse Equities Division Tony Hayward, Chairman, Glencore plc and Genel Energy plc Rachel Kyte, CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Sustainable Energy for All Nancy Pfund, Founder and Managing Director, DBL Partners Curtis Ravenel, Global Head, Sustainable and Finance Group, Bloomberg LP Mark Thompson, Chief Investment Officer, HSBC Bank Pension Fund Trust (UK) Limited.