Sunday Brunch: getting financial people to listen
(Image by Nick Youngson on CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sunday Brunch: getting financial people to listen

Understand who your customer is, what they care about - that is the way to think about innovation - David Robertson, MIT Sloan

This might seem a strange way to start a discussion about how sustainability professionals can get finance people to listen. But if you think about it, as a sustainability person who is trying to get the private sector to invest in a more sustainable economy, then the finance world is the 'customer' you need to understand, and in return you want them to deliver financial innovation, ways of delivering both sustainability and a fair financial return.

Now, to be clear, this doesn't mean the financial sector can dodge responsibility. We think there are compelling reasons why they should think differently about sustainability. We will be exploring these, including the concept of a Universal Investor (someone whose financial return comes from the health of the total economy), in a later Sunday Brunch. But for today, it's about how do we sell sustainability messages to financial people. And this is based on 30 years of experience of getting financial people to listen and act.

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What gets financial peoples' attention?

My professional life has largely been spent persuading financial people to listen: as a corporate finance adviser and banker, as a broker to investment funds, and as an investor: persuading companies to listen and act.

I have found there are broadly five ways that work. And they all have applications to sustainability finance. Today I want to set out the five approaches, and dig into the first three. I will tackle the rest, and how we can lever them all to advance the case of sustainability investing, in a future Sunday Brunch.

The five are profit now, future profit, technological pressure, regulation/social pressure, and the wild card, industry stability.

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