Maitland/AMO Sustain – In the Hot Seat with Sophie Robinson-Tillett, Editor of Responsible Investor

by Zara de Belder | 28th July 2020

Welcome to ‘In the Hot Seat’, a fortnightly series where we tackle some of the biggest questions facing sustainability professionals across a range of industries. We’ll also explore what sustainability means and how it is interpreted across different sectors and geographies.

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This week, Zara de Belder, Head of Maitland/AMO Sustain catches up with Sophie Robinson-Tillett, Editor of Responsible Investor, the award-winning sustainability publication, to talk about the role of the media in tackling fake news and driving the sustainability agenda.

1. What role does journalism have in driving the sustainability movement?

Journalism has a couple of key roles, I think. The sustainability movement is fast-paced and increasingly complicated. I’ve been writing about it every day for years, and I still get confused all the time! So journalism’s role is to identify and explain key developments, and allow the growing number of newcomers to find their feet and cut through the noise. And, increasingly importantly, journalism should be calling out the nonsense in the sustainable finance world. Of which there is now plenty!

2. Where are the main knowledge gaps in the ESG market?

There’s so much more knowledge and understanding than there used to be, but I think there can be a wilful ignorance around impact in ESG. Reducing exposures in investment portfolios often has little or no impact on companies or the real economy, and that’s a dangerous knowledge gap to allow.

3. The UN and ICFJ have coined the term ‘disinfodemic’ to describe false and misleading information fuelling the COVID-19 pandemic. How can journalists help tackle fake news?

We can check our facts! I think journalists need to think about your earlier question – what role are we meant to be playing? – more often, because there is a tendency to forget that you are there to help people understand what’s happening, not just to generate hits. People at the top of news organisations have a big role to play in making sure that journalists aren’t under pressure to publish things that aren’t well-researched and useful.

4. If you have one piece of advice for someone considering a career in responsible investing, what would it be?

Find a place to work where the senior management is genuine about sustainability. If one arm of the organisation is doing sustainability, while the rest of it is carrying on as if it’s business-as-usual, you’re not in the right place.

5. Finally, what does sustainability mean to you?

Big question! It means trying to create a world in which it is normal to consider the impact of what you are doing/buying/financing on people and the planet. In investment terms, it means saying no to a financial system that competes with the needs of society and nature, and building something that enables all three to be on the same team.

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About the Author

Zara de Belder

Zara is Head of Maitland/AMO Sustain and specialises in ESG communications and strategy development

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