Speaker’s Corner: Featuring Dr Vian Sharif, Head of Sustainability at FNZ
Dr Vian Sharif is the Head of Sustainability at FNZ. She is part of the team driving the development of innovative technology solutions to catalyze the shift to more sustainable investments, and ultimately a more sustainable world. Prior to this, she spent over a decade at global asset manager Investec. As part of a number of governmental and international sustainability advisory groups, she is also a Member of the Taskforce for Nature Related Disclosures Technical Experts Group. She is the co-founder of ’Benchmark for Nature’, an Oxford University research project to evaluate the impacts on nature of investment decisions, recognizing the gap which currently exists in investor portfolios and metrics.
What, according to you, is the role of technology and finance when it comes to building a sustainable world?
We have reached the nexus of three convergent and powerful trends which technology is amplifying. First, prominent figures from Sir David Attenborough and Leonardo DiCaprio to HRH The Duke of Cambridge are raising awareness about environmental and social issues. Secondly, in the business world, companies are voluntarily – or under pressure from consumers, investors, governments, and other stakeholders – committing to ambitious environmental and social goals, whether this be planning a program of carbon emissions reduction or fashion conglomerates choosing responsible sourcing or recycled fabrics. Finally, the rapid digitalization of our economy means that technologies are developing fast to tackle crucial sustainability challenges. These range from apps which enable us to understand the carbon footprint of our lifestyles, to the technology which is enabling all of us to become investors.
Technology enables us to scale solutions for revealing a spectrum of environmental and societal outcomes to millions of savers, including revealing the carbon footprint and societal impact of 100s of billions of dollars’ worth of investments, enabling switch or offset decisions at the touch of a button or measuring impact vs the UNSDGs. Increased market awareness of, and responsiveness to, sustainable investing helps to drive uptake of sustainable investments, in turn enabling the shift to a more sustainable planet
Tell us a little about your role at FNZ and the importance of building sustainable businesses.
Every year, trillions of dollars are invested globally – either directly or on behalf of global citizens via mutual funds or pensions – in companies to help them grow. These companies are either building a future world we might actually want to live in, for example, a solar power company, or doing the opposite, for example, a company with a track record of irresponsible deforestation. Our money might be invested in companies that take their responsibility to the environment seriously, that aim to offer equal pay and opportunities to all gender and ethnic groups, and that produce products we feel are building healthier societies.
FNZ aims to create a second revolution in investment management by providing global citizens with the visibility and autonomy to mobilize their savings towards sustainable investments. FNZ’s ability to catalyze system level change is enabled by its differentiated positioning at a critical intersection of retail capital markets. For example, FNZ Impact will reveal the carbon footprint of global savers’ investments, and enable the decision to switch/offset. The potential impact of this is immense; research has shown for individuals switching to sustainable pension savings saves 2,222 CO2 tonnes over a lifetime, >80x more effective than switching to public transport for commuting and >60x more effective than reducing meat consumption; the solution also addresses water, waste, air and nature impacts.
What is your biggest objective as a speaker?
In considering our role as consumers in powering positive environmental and societal change, we find ourselves at an unprecedented moment in time. You can now choose whether not just the money you SPEND is invested in the companies building the future you want, but also the money you SAVE.
Take us through the core points of the panel(s) you are participating in at UK FinTech Week 2021. What are you hoping to accomplish via your session(s) there?
As a follow-up, do you feel that digital events give you a similar level of feedback/result vis-à-vis the live versions? What would you say were the biggest pros and cons of both formats?
The transition to digital events has democratized access to events – the quality of content and speakers to which we have had access is unprecedented. This has accelerated the delivery of knowledge and interaction to global participants, offering many more people access to events and encouraging content creation. Yet, the value of relationships and the depth of experience that comes through actual connection with our fellow human beings is still crucial to interactions.
As you know, our start-up, Eventible.com, is a review platform for B2B events. Given how review-driven our lives have become today, do you think reviews will bring in a level of transparency to the events industry? Would you rely on event reviews from other speakers if you had to make a speaking decision?
Reviews can be helpful, but word of mouth from other speakers would also be valuable.
Finally, do you have a favorite/go-to book? What is it?
The Power Of Myth by Joseph Campbell; in fact, the audio recordings of Campbell himself speaking as a six-part series are perhaps most powerful. It reminds us of the universal themes that shape all of our lives by exploring the world’s oldest indigenous cultures and traditions – the relationships we have to each other and the connection we have with our environment are interwoven in our role as stewards of the earth. It’s a timeless and magical reminder.