Connect with us


Nicole Notat, Vigeo: we must take action to achieve gender equality in finance



As the first French woman who managed a trade union, as the chairwoman and founder of the CSR Rating Agency Vigeo, Nicole Notat has played a leading role in the progression of corporate social responsibility (CSR) through her political and business career. She is also an inspirational figure for many in the sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) world.

Following on from this year’s National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW), which took a closer look at the role of women in responsible finance, Lindsay Smart, manager of Vigeo London, caught up with Notat to ask about her opinion on the state of equality in finance and business.

They also spoke about the next watch topics for responsible investment, including a look at another key topic for NEIW: stranded assets.

Do you think there are gender barriers for women wanting to enter the industry?

For gender equality in any profession, the percentage of female employees is not the most relevant indicator – the percentage of female managers is more significant. For instance, when we examined the European banking sector in 2013, only 34.7% of managers were woman.

If you consider other sectors, our research shows the North American hotel leisure and goods sector has the highest percentage of female managers at almost 50%. Other sectors with over 40% include North American insurance, North American and European luxury goods and cosmetics, and North American specialised retail. The worst performing sectors, with less than 30% of female managers, are presently European tobacco and European supermarkets.

We have also identified the top 10 companies with the greatest percentage of female managers. North American companies held seven of the top 10 positions, with the only European presence from LMVH and the UK publishers Pearson. In the finance and insurance sectors, MetLife (insurance) and Hang Seng Bank (banks) appear in our top 10.

There are indeed gender barriers in this sector. All industries, not just ours, have and continue to pose challenges for women looking for positions of responsibility in sectors or functions usually occupied by men. We must constantly take action to achieve this objective, including legal action. There are often some gender barriers present when starting a job, but of greater impact are the future career opportunities and questions of remuneration equality. Pregnancy also still tends to be a criteria of discrimination.

However, we are on the right track. Some changes have been made. We can think that they are quite slow to happen, but we can see them.

With some progression on the topic of gender equality, are there other legislative challenges facing, in particular, the finance sector, such as executive remuneration?

Indeed, executive remuneration has become a sensitive matter in our society. We noticed that some investors showed an increased interest in this topic, which sometimes led them to file resolutions during shareholders’ general meetings. This is the so-called ‘shareholder spring’.

However, when shareholders vote upon executive remuneration, they generally approve the suggested salaries, except when executives have obviously made management mistakes or have shown unethical practices. Some states have adopted laws on executive remuneration, such as France.

It is a matter of culture, but it is also linked to the financial crisis. The financial sector is considered a primary catalyst in the problems associated with excessive executive remuneration. Consequently, it is now becoming clearer for everyone including regulatory authorities that we need to better regulate these practices and prevent their risks. The EU bonus cap applying from 2014 is an example of this growing awareness. It is now obvious that transparency on the criteria determining executive remuneration is becoming more common place.

What about outside of finance; do you see some legislation or regulation that you consider to be the next big challenge companies must embrace to secure their position as responsible actors in business and society?

Indeed, I do. I think that companies need to implement integrated reporting of sustainability drivers within financial statements as key influencing factors for company performance and risk management.

The European Union parliament is to examine a bill soon. Should the directive be adopted, it would boost the reporting on actions and results linked to CSR, a practice already visible in companies’ growing communication.

The extra-financial aspects are becoming increasingly important to investors and represent a valuable material for extra-financial assessment and responsible investment.

Finally, there is a lot of discussion at the moment on the topic of stranded assets for pension funds. What role do you think CSR can play in helping to alleviate this potential problem?

Investors are increasingly raising concern over the possible implication of stranded assets on their portfolios. Environmental externalities can lead to asset devaluation. It is also the case for some social externalities.

We have noticed that there were more and more legal litigations including financial compensation for environment degradation, misleading advertising on products and services and corruption or human rights violation cases.

By integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into their investment decisions, responsible investors manage these risks as well as their own reputation. Pension funds, sovereign funds, foundations with long-term strategies increasingly want to know to what extent companies are exposed to these risks. This can be noticed in the evolution of their expectations towards our agency.

At the moment, two sectors in particular have been highlighted for their increased risk of stranded assets: energy and agriculture.

Within the energy sector, the stranded assets risk is made visible through the fact that we must switch to a lower carbon economy and develop strategies including diverse sources of energy.

Within agriculture, environmental risks throughout the supply chain could lead to stranded assets. Consequently, when we rate a company, we closely check if it complies with norms related to greenhouse gas emissions, land use, competition in water rights, water scarcity, changing trade laws, biofuel policies, and the protection of ecosystems in order to inform asset managers and help them make investment decisions.

Further reading:

Percentage of female City managers has doubled in the last year

Global gender gap getting narrower, as women seek equal footing

Fifth of FTSE 100 board members now women – up 52% over two years

The gender pay gap: female managers paid 25% less than men and given smaller bonuses

More female entrepreneurs could boost economy by 10%, says researchers


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


Continue Reading


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

Continue Reading