Sustainable Summer with Natalie Kenway: Bees, Brownies and bugbears

ESG Clarity's global head of ESG insight shares her daughter's love of nature and an unpopular opinion on the ESG industry

Welcome to a new series from ESG Clarity where investment professionals from the responsible investment space share their habits and summer activities that are contributing to a more sustainable world.

For these light-hearted pieces, we ask about summer plans and holidays, and charitable work.

Here, global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity Natalie Kenway shares her excitement at having a new garden, lazy holiday plans and her one bugbear with language used to promote ESG by investment firms.

To view the full Sustainable Summer series click here.

How has your year been so far? Have you stuck to any sustainable New Year’s Resolutions?

Up and down. I set myself ambitious targets for this year, and I have to admit the pressure I put on myself was too much – anxiety has been high. There have been some great times career wise – a trip to New York for ESG Clarity US, the Global ESG Summit in Asia and Europe/UK, the ESG Clarity Awards, and some lows – also New York (which I talked about in our mental health feature). But I feel like I have bounced back from that point, and I feel I know how to better manage those emotions and feelings of anxiety now.  

How are you connecting with nature this summer or protecting biodiversity near to where you live or work?

For the first time in around five years we have our own garden, which has been a great pleasure to us all. I have started to plant my own herbs, strawberries and tomatoes (success so far with only coriander and tomatoes, any tips?) and plants and flowers to encourage more butterflies and bees into the garden. We also have a bird table and an insect hotel.

My youngest daughter is obsessed with nature – Iris is even named after a flower! We have recently signed her up as a member to the Wildlife Trust and have been exploring the Herts and Essex conservation areas – yesterday we saw foxes, bats and caterpillars, she was very pleased. She has also built her own nature reserve in the garden and has plans to make a nest box with her grandad.

What do you find are the benefits of spending more time in the great outdoors?

To be honest, it takes a lot of convincing to get me up and out, but once I do I really enjoy it. I volunteered to help at my daughter’s Brownie club this week and we went on the bike ride around the local nature reserve. Despite being an incredibly hot evening, I thoroughly enjoyed it (my daughter didn’t, she doesn’t like cycling). I also take my two pooches out for walks with my headphones on listening to my favourite podcasts (ESG Out Loud, Law of Attraction Changed My Life and Happy Place), which really helps me reset.

Are you planning a holiday? How will you make it ESG-friendly?

We visited Brixham, Devon at Easter as we do every year, which was somewhat more eco-friendly than our summer holiday in Spain. I do feel guilty about the environmental impact of our flights, and I will donate to a charity to offset this. I have justified this trip with the fact we haven’t been abroad together as a family for around seven years, so this is an adventure where memories will be made to last forever.

Are you taking part in any charity events or initiatives benefitting the climate or society?

I have recently been asked to be a trustee for a charity my friend is setting up in memory of her son. It will help financially support parents of stillborn babies, and hopefully give them one less thing to worry about at one of the most devastating times of their lives. I look forward to raising as many funds as we can.

I am also participating in the One Million Step Challenge for Diabetes with my sister. We did this a few years ago and it was great, but it will be challenging on a lazy, beach holiday in Spain this August.

Has your employer got any sustainable activities planned this summer? What does it do in the workplace to ensure it mitigates its impact on the environment? 

As the publisher of ESG Clarity, Bonhill plays a huge part in raising awareness around how investors and savers can have an impact on climate on society through their portfolios.

There aren’t any dedicated activities planned (something I am going to suggest!)

Aside from that, our London office, run by the Boutique Collection, is a former bicycle factory in the beautiful Clerkenwell Green Conservations area. It was renovated with preserving the architectural history and reducing waste and emissions in mind. There are no single-use cups, there is bicycle storage facilities and ethically-sourced (and excellent in taste) coffee. The office management is also working towards implementing electric car charge points to encourage the use of electric vehicles.

What would you like to see more of in the investment industry from a sustainability perspective?

This is going to be an unpopular opinion among marketeers as I read it so many times from lots of different investment managers.

‘ESG is in our DNA’ is a complete bug bear of mine! I said this a few years ago and it is still being used, even more so now, in fact. It has been so widely adopted it has essentially become ineffective. Those that can genuinely prove this should do so without using a term the rest of the industry is using and to me is quite soulless.

There is a crackdown on greenwashing going on right now. Investors, wealth managers and regulators are asking more and more questions about the authenticity of firms’ ESG claims. There is nowhere to hide and simply saying ‘ESG is in our DNA’ is nowhere near enough.

What do you do authentically? What sets your ESG team apart from competitors? Whether that is giving ESG analysts veto rights on stock decisions or demonstrating how you work with brown industries to transition to a greener future – shout about this rather than that very annoying catch-all term.

In a bid to leave this on a more positive note, it has been great to see businesses talk about initiatives like those mentioned above. Since I started in this role just over two years ago, the investment industry has really stepped up and I am excited for what we will be covering over the next few years and the differences that will be made.


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...