Ethical Investing & Responsible Capital: Building a purpose-led tech ecosystem
12th April 2021
From ESG investments to scaling innovative companies that will solve the world’s most pressing problems, Level39 have been exploring the risks, challenges and opportunities for responsible capital as well as speaking to the entrepreneurs and business leaders who are seeking a brighter future for the planet and its people.
On the 30th March, Level39 hosted a virtual panel looking at: Ethical Investing & Responsible Capital: Building a purpose-led tech ecosystem
Joining us were three leading figures from the ESG community; Martin Gettings, Canary Wharf Group‘s Group Director of Sustainability who has established and embedded the Group’s long-term sustainability plan.
Dama Sathianathan also joined the panel – she is a partner at Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe’s leading early-stage tech for good VC, backing ambitious founders using technology to tackle pressing social and environmental challenges at scale.
The discussion centred around how coronavirus has changed the way businesses view their environmental and social impact, with the pandemic accelerating a shift towards a more sustainable economy, and investment ecosystem.
It also focused on how ethical investing is not a new concept but as London holds one of the deepest pools of impact funding anywhere in the world and with issues of climate change, deforestation and carbon emissions strengthening in their urgency, there has been an accelerated need for organisations to reflect the deep concern held by many on the future of our environment.
The panellists started by discussing how tech can be used to advance the ESG agenda. Dama stressed the importance of building technologies, products and services that are geared towards achieving sustainability goals from the outset, and ensuring they are fit for purpose. She pointed out that whilst there is huge potential for technology to solve global issues, if a product is not diverse by design, it will be unequal in outcome, and the positive impact will not be felt on a global scale.
The discussion then moved onto why London is one of the biggest hubs of impact capital globally. Sam explained that, in comparison to the US, there is a cultural orientation towards more sustainable, environment-conscious business, which creates a foundation for impact investing in the UK. Dama added how the main branches of Government are all based in London making the Capital a perfect environment for innovation.
Next, the panellists discussed what needs to take place to encourage more responsible investing over the next few years. Sam pointed out how it is impressive that 1/3 of all of the world’s capital is now committed to investing sustainably. Moving forwards, we need to make it easier for asset managers to make sustainable and impactful investment decisions and to make sustainability mainstream, we need to make purpose as effortless as profit.
The role Government and policy play in the ESG business agenda was also discussed. Martin proposed that whilst we often look at the influence of leaders within their own company, we must also examine the role they are playing in driving the agenda across the sector, and whether they can do more to encourage other companies to act more sustainably.
The panellists agreed that a range of incentives and penalties from Governments and regulators should be in place, but beyond this, larger organisations should be policing themselves more, and championing greater transparency and accountability through technology.
The panellists moved on to discuss the role of representation at board level, and how this impacts decision making. There was agreement that diversity at board level is essential for companies to achieve their potential, as without it, certain perspectives are not considered and not all markets are tapped into. Dama noted that research into diverse workforces has found that companies with good governance practices prosper over companies that do not prioritise these factors, so we need to do more moving forwards to implement this practically.
The panel ended by discussing whether companies should have a team member or department solely focusing on maintaining good ESG practices. Whilst it was agreed that they should, Martin highlighted that we need to see sustainability goals embedded across businesses and supply chains. Essentially, the ESG team should be the catalyst for change but the responsibility to encourage sustainable practices need to be owned collectively, not just by that organisation, but also its community.
You can re- watch the panel here.