ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues are becoming increasingly high on the agendas of businesses and wealthy individuals. We are hearing about ESG all of the time, but our clients have expressed concern that while they know it is important, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Helping us navigate our way through everything ESG related is Victoria Gillespie who joined JTC following the acquisition of INDOS Financial. Victoria is responsible for the management and development of the ESG service offering for clients and we asked her to share her ESG background and passion with us.
What made you want to focus on ESG within your career?
From college, I started my career in accountancy with an audit firm. Governance, integrity and ethics have always been a solid foundation for the accountancy profession. Environmental has been somewhat of a personal interest and volunteering has always played a part in my life. Helping by giving my time has always been important to me on a personal level.
Having worked within financial services for over 20 years, I’ve held different roles working with a wide range of clients and witnessed the evolution of investor intention. Often requests now encompass additional positive returns as well as financial.
I’ve been extremely lucky to meet many inspiring individuals whose focus has been to create more than just financial returns. Measurement of social and environmental factors supports more informed decisions, or instigates behaviour changes, resulting in better awareness of working and living conditions for all. For example, encouraging employees to only print where necessary. This reduces waste, supports clear desk policies and reduces print, paper and cost of machinery. It’s hard not to be inspired and take action; especially when quick wins have multiple benefits.
What was your pathway to focusing on ESG?
As covered above, my audit/accountancy background highlighted the importance of good governance. But governance is underpinned by behaviour, which links into the social practices within a company and culture. Environmental considerations were always present, but usually via the risk assessment on the ongoing operation of the company or the potential negative impact to asset value. The treatment of ESG as standalone factors or behaviours has been a more recent development.
During my career I’ve pivoted several times within financial services, but the fundamentals above have always played a role; as has professional study and volunteering. Last year, I completed the CFA UK’s Certificate in ESG Investing. There’s always more to learn.
Do you think that within businesses ESG will become a support service in the same way that marketing, HR, Compliance and IT are?
ESG should be imbedded within the strategy of the business, being owned at board level but cascaded to everyone with clearly defined operating practices. How that manifests within each company will depend upon demographics, size and ultimately culture, with some deeming a separate department as appropriate. ESG frameworks and practices work best when they’re weaved into the day to day operations, allowing employees to support the company for the longer term, working for all companies regardless of size.
What is the first thing a business should think about when it comes to consider ESG?
Before undertaking any work, we ask companies to perform a self-review of their intentions and goals. Simply look at the rationale, purpose and any timeframes
How are you working with JTC’s Private Client Services division to help their clients?
JTC has recently launched a range of practical ESG solutions to support family offices and family businesses in aspects such as training, policy writing, carbon reduction and efficient philanthropic structuring. We can then work to identify and present workable practical solutions for clients – we have the flexibility to offer bespoke solutions by listening to what the client wants to achieve.
Are there aspects of ESG that you have adopted in your home life?
We actively recycle and try to reduce excess waste for clothes, toys etc. Volunteering and helping others is also encouraged. Having moved house this month, we’re keen to set up vegetable patches to experience growing vegetables, and we take many long walks together to balance the demands of everyday life.
I’m pleased to see environmental and social factors being integrated into the school curriculums. My youngest has been the elected Environmental Rep at school for his year group – something I’m really pleased children are encouraged to do. Due to the use of technology, schools often work with other schools from around the world, and children have had the opportunity to talk to their peers about flooding, food and how they live.