Close article 30th November 2016

What I Have Learnt: Richard Burrett

Richard Burrett is a Partner at Earth Capital Partners LLP, a sustainability focused investment group. He has spent over 30 years working in international finance and at ABN AMRO played a key role in developing the Equator Principles. He is a Fellow at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

I’m relatively optimistic about the future of green finance. In the finance sector people are starting to think how can they have positive impact. The UNEP FI Positive Impact initiative is looking at how investors can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is only in the last few years that we’ve seen real discussions emerging on the threat to financial security of, for example, climate and inequality. The issues that we were talking about a few years ago are now part of the mainstream discussion. It is encouraging that the Carbon Tracker Initiative and others are thinking through systemic risk of climate change. The fact that climate risk is on the Financial Security Stability board is important.

I think the Paris Agreement was remarkable. As evidence mounts about the danger of extreme weather events happening it will become more and more difficult for decision makers to ignore it. Acting on climate is not a political choice, it is the underlying reality.

I would advise CEOs to look at these issues through their enterprise risk management lens. Look at macro drivers that will impact their business over time. These are real issues with economic consequence.

The Governor of the Bank of England has been very smart at accepting the Carbon Tracker stranded assets thesis and adopting it in his own rhetoric. It is critical that we start to talk about these issues as systemic risk issues.

Big global problems need global action. So, Brexit was the wrong thing to do and not helpful for resolving issues like climate change and migration.

The media rhetoric is very opinion based and lacking evidence, which worries me. NASA can put a man on the moon but when they tell us the global climate is changing people ignore it, which is scary.

I would like to see economies that work for society and provide longer-term value and inclusive approach. I have tried to move the compass in the financial sector to take a more responsible approach to better understand finance in society and the broader economy.

On many indicators, like income equality, it is getting worse. These are issues that should be addressed by the business sector and government. The finance sector has to understand this and be a steward ensuring that finance moves to activities that have more positive social outcomes.

Some big corporations are still only worried about their performance over the next one or two years. They are not thinking about how they will preserve value for the future. It also angers me that governments are so self-serving and not acting in the long-term interests of the society they represent.

Originally posted on SustainAbility’s Radar Magazine – Issue 12.

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