From Startups To The Stock Market: Why A Career In Finance Can Help Reverse Climate Damage

Sam Turner, Head of Responsible Investment at SJP, shares the three most common questions he’s asked about a role in responsible investment, exclusively for TechRound:

The fight against climate change is becoming more important than ever. We know we need to reverse the current trajectory of the planet everyone to play their part in tackling the crisis.

In fact, according to The Deloitte 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, 73% of respondents would take a pay cut to work for a company that is environmentally responsible’. But do you need to take a pay cut to do good? Asks Sam:

The urgent need for sustainability has become paramount, but you may not have considered that a role in financial services is a viable option for your career to create a positive impact and drive meaningful change.

Finance has the power to shape the future through responsible investment practices. As the Head of Responsible Investment at SJP, I am a firm believer that our investment decisions can contribute significantly to a more sustainable and inclusive world.

Films like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short have portrayed the financial industry in a negative light. However, the truth is that it has an incredibly important role to play in the transition to a more sustainable planet and society.

So, while there are obvious candidates for sustainable career choices – the charity sector, conversation projects etc., from impact-driven start-ups to the Stock market, a role in the financial sector, is a surprisingly effective way you can make a difference.

Sam Turner, Head of Responsible Investment at SJP, shares with TechRound the three most common questions he’s asked about a role in responsible investment, and his expert opinion on the subject:
 

What qualifications and experience do I need?

 
So, the good news is, there is a significant demand and a resource gap for sustainable focused roles within the investment industry. Even better news, firms are looking for much more diverse backgrounds and experience than traditional qualifications you would associate with working in finance.

Experience in marine biology, climate science, conservation projects – are all areas that are likely to catch the eye of a recruiter.

Depending on the role, there is going to be a degree of expectation that the individual has/learns the knowledge and skills needed, but where there is a significant knowledge gap at the moment in how sustainability actually works in practice i.e., really getting into the nitty gritty of the subject matter.
 

Can finance really be sustainable?

 
I’m the first to admit the finance industry needs to do be doing a lot more with regards the transition to a more sustainable economy.

However, it certainly does have a big role to play. Finance and investment are a much-needed ingredient in the sustainable transition – this can come about in many ways:

Investors can be large shareholders, therefore, can use their seat at the table with company management (often alongside other investors) to influence and drive positive change. You may have seen examples of this within the oil & gas industry over the past few years.

Investors can provide much needed capital for new solutions or technology which can help look to innovate and solve challenges, such as renewable energy or sustainable transport.

The finance industry is also responsible for looking after most people’s investments and savings, providing a bridge between a pension and the end company the money is invested in.

Therefore, the finance industry has a responsibility to manage this money according to client expectations, providing sustainable investment products and in developing a range of tools and to communicate clearly, openly, and effectively with their clients.
 

 

What kinds of jobs are out there, what does the role involve and how does it help?

 
The breadth and depth of sustainability roles in the finance industry would be far too long for me to list out here. But perhaps a few ways to think about the role and company:

One area to think about is do you want to work for a “Patagonia” of the investment world or a larger organisation that is at a much earlier stage of their sustainable journey.

What I mean by this, is some firms are seen as sustainable leaders, pioneers, and role models in their field, often providing highly sustainable products for their end client. They tend to be perhaps more specialist and smaller firms.

Or do you want to work for a firm who has much further to go on their sustainability journey, but perhaps is a big player in the market, where driving for change is likely to be at a slower place internally, where things are more complex and interconnected issues, but a small change here could have quite seismic shifts on aggregate.

The same concept applies to the world of sustainable investments.

The type of organisation within finance is also worth considering. I must admit, when I started out, I knew very little on the difference between an asset manager, investment bank, wealth manager, asset owner, accountant, insurer, consultant, bank.

However, it is worth doing some research as they all do play very different roles within the finance industry and therefore their role in the sustainable transition is also very different.

The roles within a financial firm are also very vast. Whilst most roles are likely the typical skills associated with the finance industry, there also plenty of roles which are far broader in scope that people might think.

Again, therefore something to consider if you are looking for a more technical analytical sustainable analyst type role or a more creative and relationship focused sustainable communications role.

Choosing a career in finance, particularly within responsible investment, allows individuals to be at the forefront of change.

At SJP the scale of our investment portfolio means we aim to engage and influence businesses to do better, while ensuring ESG principles are embedded into our funds. Our funds also include impact-driven start-ups alongside larger corporations.

By investing in both impact-driven start-ups and established companies, we create a unique blend of potential. Start-ups offer the excitement of untapped possibilities, while established companies provide the scale and reach necessary to effect systemic change.

While businesses and individuals all over the world take more of an active approach to their money, we aren’t seeing this translate as rapidly as it could when it comes to careers in finance.

I understand that the finance industry has a long way to go to be perceived as a “sustainable” sector, it does have a vital role to play.

By investing in environmentally sustainable projects and directing capital towards green technology and renewable energy, financial institutions can make a significant impact on reducing global carbon emissions.

A career in financial services provides an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the world while pursuing a rewarding and fulfilling career.