“ESG is fundamentally not understood by the finance industry”
It’s not easy working in ESG (environmental, social, governance) jobs. It’s even harder when no one around you knows anything about it.
Understaffing is a huge problem in the industry (I worked an ESG role in a bank). Everyone should have a climate change aspect to their jobs now. When the work is ascribed only to specialists, it makes the workload impossible.
Senior management talk about ESG, but they don't know what’s going on the ground. They want the job done, but don't add the resources. And even if resources are allocated for recruitment, the skills are hard to find.
The general lack of skilled people stretches those capable very, very thin. Burnout is common. ESG professionals need to be everything for everyone: engaging with climate activists, raising green funding, reporting, and a thousand other things. It doesn’t help either that budget allocations are minimal, and processes are non-existent. How do you spread an already-thin workforce even thinner? Making them process simple things by hand.
This is all coupled with the really, really uncomfortable reality that a lot of people don’t care. There's a lack of buy-in at the core. Some believe climate change isn’t real, so they have little to no incentive to change or fix anything.
How could things be better?
Well, senior leadership needs to have an honest and frank conversation about what they want to achieve, and to allocate talent. There is a massive problem with education around ESG, climate, and sustainability – that needs training, which needs investment. Strategy timelines need addressing, too.
Most importantly, banks need to start partnering with the right people. No more expensive consultants that don’t really understand the business and want to apply “new” legislation. They need Individuals with ample experience and independent initiatives but are hamstrung in some way (usually a lack of funding). Banks need to pick them up before they give up on ESG and are forced to go back to “other jobs”.
Emma Leclerc is a pseudonym.
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