A Sustainable Xmas with Hannah Simons: Net zero, inequality and Zoom carols

Schroders head of sustainability strategy talks flexible working, afforestation and knitting

It has been an astonishing year, one that none of us could ever have predicted and the remainder doesn’t look much more appealing with the festive season with our extended family and friends in jeopardy.

To lighten the mood, we wanted to find out from ESG investment professionals the achievements and lessons learned in 2020. We also asked how they will be making their festivities sustainable and their New Year’s resolutions to protect the planet and society.

In this article, we speak to Hannah Simons, head of sustainability strategy at Schroders.

What are your biggest personal and professional achievements this year?

Finding balance in what has been an exceptionally busy year has been my biggest achievement. At the beginning of the year, I transitioned into a new role in our sustainable investment team. As head of sustainability strategy, a newly created role recognising the growing importance of sustainability for our clients, I work with our clients to understand their sustainability goals and ambitions and ensure our range of sustainable investment funds meets their needs.

Despite being on a steep learning curve, I’ve still managed to find time for lots of physical activity with my family. We also introduced a puppy to our family. I felt a huge sense of personal achievement when I managed to get her to ‘sit’ on command.

In ESG, what has had the biggest impact this year?

It’s fair to say that over the past few years, the focus has been on ‘E’ considerations. Covid-19 has brought about a shift in focus on the ‘S’ part. Social inequality and how companies treated all of their stakeholders, in particular their employees, were put under the spotlight. As we look forward, companies that are able to manage uncertainly and risk effectively across the full E, S and G spectrum, while supporting their wider stakeholders, are more likely to be long-term winners.

What is a major positive change your business has introduced permanently as a result of the pandemic?

Covid-19 has accelerated the trend that was already in place toward more flexible working arrangements. Schroders has embraced this by empowering all of its employees to find the working practices that best suit us as an individual, our clients and the business overall. For me this means I will continue to work from home at least a couple of days a week, even after life returns to normal (although I’m still not sure what the new normal will really look like). The investment Schroders has made in technology over the past few years made the transition to home working an easy one.

Since the onset of the crisis, Schroders has increased its support for charities with a focus on assisting those most impacted by Covid-19. We established a company-wide ‘collective action’ scheme to enable all employees to voluntarily donate up to 25% of three months’ salary, this action raised £4.3m for the most vulnerable people affected by the virus.

How will you be having a sustainable festive period?

A pre-pandemic hobby of mine was knitting so a number of my family will be receiving knitted head bands and snoods as a gift, perfect for keeping warm when meeting up outdoors. This year all of my presents will be wrapped in recyclable gift paper.

What is your go-to winter holiday routine and what’s your back-up plan for this year?

Christmas in the Simons’ household is normally a very social affair, so this year we are having to be a little more imaginative about spending time with family and friends. We will, of course, be having carols over Zoom but also wrapping up in our hats and gloves to meet up with people outside, socially distanced of course.

What’s your sustainability New Year’s resolution?

Covid-19 has meant much less travel this year. Next year I will continue to limit the amount I travel by car and airplane but when I do use these forms of transport I will be offsetting my carbon emissions. Schroders has made a similar commitment and in addition to reducing our carbon footprint we are also offsetting the remaining unavailable emissions and investing in international afforestation and forest protection projects.

What’s your big prediction for next year in the ESG space?

2021 is likely to see another record year of inflows into sustainable investment funds. As more people seek to invest in this way, our ability to measure impact and report on this is critical. We’ve been busy this year developing a reporting framework to support our clients. Using the outputs from our proprietary ESG tools we will be helping our clients understand the impact their investments have on our people and planet.

With COP26 taking place towards the end of 2021, we also expect a continued focus on climate risk. Climate change is arguably the most pressing long-term issue that we face. As an active manager, we play a fundamental role in encouraging companies to plan, execute, and transition towards a lower carbon world.

To further encourage the transition, Schroders has joined 29 other global asset managers representing more than $9tn of assets in launching the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. This leading group of asset managers commits to supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Through a collaborative and concerted effort we will both improve the sustainability of profits and help mitigate the risks climate change poses.

See also: – 

A Sustainable Xmas with Yuko Takano: Games, electric cars and diversity

A Sustainable Xmas with Diane Earnshaw: Flexible working, last-minute wrapping and embedding ESG

A Sustainable Xmas with Caroline Langley: PT puppy, 1970s wrapping paper and greenwashing

A Sustainable Xmas with Bev Shah: Homemade decorations, food waste and measurable metrics

A Sustainable Christmas with Eilidh Duncan: Agile working, Disclosure Regulation and meat-free meals

A Sustainable Christmas with Jean-Jacques Barbéris: Baby news, China’s game changer and reduced travel

A Sustainable Christmas with Patrick Thomas: Staycations, veggie diet and panic buying