By Naomi Rive, Group Director
Many financial services businesses are already committed to finding ways to minimise their impact on resources by contributing to sustainable development, but as we emerge from lockdown we will see a marked acceleration in that direction. One of the lessons from the current COVID 19 crisis has surely been that it is possible to shift entrenched working practices into new ways of working. That same approach can be harnessed when we appraise how we manage resources.
In the fiduciary sector we have seen an increasing number of seminars devoted to social impact investing and there is no doubt that this is a key consideration for many entrepreneurs and next gen investors. It is often where the sustainability discussion starts for them but as momentum grows it certainly won’t stop there. Operating within a framework committed to environment, economic and social sustainability is likely to be the ultimate goal for many clients and, as is often the case, client expectation and demand will undoubtedly serve as the basis for greater change across the Industry and more widely across global commerce. Crucially, all businesses have a part to play, large or small and so do our governments.
Taking a Lead
Responding to increasing public demand for action in protecting the environment and its resources, promoting socially responsible investment and helping businesses to develop sustainably focused governance, creates an opportunity for those who take a lead. In a jurisdiction such as Jersey, which has the ability to bring government and industry together to accelerate sustainability focused initiatives and policies we have already seized the opportunity to become ‘a market leader’. This is through initiatives such as the Jersey Good Business Charter, which encourages Jersey businesses to sign up to shared values relating to sustainability, and also the recent announcement that Jersey will take part in the United Nations, ‘United 4 Smart Sustainable Cities’ (U4SSC) initiative as one of only seven pilot cities/territories. This latter initiative is focused specifically on encouraging information and communication technologies that improve quality of life and more efficient urban environments. If the Island can continue to lead by example, collaborating closely with businesses that share the same vision, then we will surely improve quality of life for our own residents as well as attract high-quality clients and their businesses to the Island.
Building a sustainable chain
Of course firms in the finance sector have not been slow in addressing many of the issues already, frequently forming project teams among their staff with responsibility for different aspects of working life, from saving energy whenever possible, abandoning the use of certain plastics, improving re-cycling efforts and formulating policy so that measures become ingrained in the running of the business. Having appraised their actions internally, firms have then reached out to suppliers, advisers and other third parties to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.
A chain has been created that will only grow as the pressures mount for more action. Each of us can be a link in this chain. For some it may seem like baby steps amid the giant strides that we expect from governments and global institutions, but every contribution creates a stronger link in the chain.
The challenges that have been overcome since the lockdown have given business a new outlook on how to operate and it is interesting that some of these measures also cut across the sustainability agenda. For example, there is already a consensus that individuals will no longer need to be present in the office as often and that ‘remote’ working from home will become a fixture of our working life, a shift in approach that should also benefit our environment. In a recent EY survey of financial services firms in the UK, 87% of those polled claimed that working from home during lockdown will result in firms transforming their technology faster than anticipated. Tellingly in answer to a wider question, more than half of the respondents also believe their firms will want to focus more on climate change. It is an illustration of this fresh thinking which will help to drive change and serve to strengthen the links in the chain toward a more sustainable future.