A conversation with our Task Force Climate Action Leads

Climate Action is a current hot topic, with the United States back in the Paris Agreement and COP26 going ahead in November, it is no wonder that the FinBiz2030 Task Forces have chosen to incorporate Climate Action into their workstreams.

In celebration of World Earth Day on April 22nd, this article features two Climate Action workstream leaders, who are at different points in their FinBiz2030 journey. We ask them about the impact of their work so far, how they see their workstream progressing through 2021 and how you can incorporate small steps to make a difference.

Kim Brink

South Africa Task Force, Climate Action workstream leader

I am a Business Analyst in the Digital division of Investec Bank, specifically for the Cryptocurrency and Life products. In 2019-2020 I was an ambassador for Investec for the United Nations Young SDG Innovators Programme (YSIP) – finding viable business solutions with sustainability at its core.

Fiona Smiddy

Ireland Task Force, Climate Action workstream co-leader

My name is Fiona Smiddy, I’m a Chartered Accountant and the Founder and CEO of Green Outlook. At Green Outlook we are passionate about supporting local, sustainable, natural and plastic free alternatives. We sell a curated range of personal hygiene and household products to help people reduce their environmental impact.

How and why did you get involved in FinBiz2030?

Kim: My sustainability journey started when I was elected to represent Investec in the United Nations Global Compact’s Young Sustainability Innovators Project. Investec hosted South Africa’s first FinBiz2030 conference at the head office in Grayston. It was immediately clear that present at the event were a group that, together, would be powerful in creating a strategy for sustainability innovation and development.

Fiona: I was invited to join the Irish Taskforce by Michael Walls and Sinead Fox-Hamilton. We had met previously through events with Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) and they knew that I was a big advocate for the SDGs. After attending the introductory session and meeting some of the attendees I jumped at the chance to get further involved. We have a diverse group, bringing different passions with one goal in mind, a better world for all.

Can you describe your work/ workstream?

Kim: Our team has been committed to both direct and indirect climate action.

Directly: we are investigating the idea of an actual carbon offsetting plant in South Africa, and how we might be able to make tangible difference in our communities that are affected most.

Moreover, we are working with a number of partners on knowledge-sharing for people in their individual and professional capacities. The aim is to make information readily available, in ways that are engaging, easily understood, and relatable to people’s contexts.

Fiona: I am co-lead of the Climate Action workstream. Our workstream is focused on creating awareness of the importance of SDG 13 Climate Action. We want to educate and empower finance and business professionals to take ownership of the climate crisis in their role from trainee to C suite. We would love to see more proactive work on Climate Action within the Finance and Business community.

What has been the impact of your work in Climate Action to date?

Kim: The team has been incredibly committed to researching the different avenues and partnering with corporations on successful solutions. We created a Change.Org campaign, calling to action South Africa’s Minister of Finance and National Treasury to build back a resilient, sustainable nation prior to the annual budget speech.

The SDG 13 team has also partnered with SustainableSA, creating videos, podcasts and articles for knowledge sharing on Climate Action, which are available to the public, but specifically SAICA’s members.

Fiona: We have just started working together as a group but everyone has a story of their own. Aileen is completing a masters in sustainability, Martin is driving sustainability from his Internal Audit role in pharma, Derek is leading his Finance team through a company carbon calculation and offset programme. Others are trying to get green initiatives off the ground in their workplaces. Personally, I support the customers of Green Outlook to look at what they can do better in their homes.

What achievements do you hope to see in 2021? What are your aims for the future?

Kim: Over the last year the team has grown from strength to strength. We have gained so much information that even we were not familiar with! The team’s mind-set is exactly where it should be: we will never know “enough” – we are, and will continue learning.

There is a balance that has to be achieved between our ‘quick wins’ and long term projects. It’s important to go back to the drawing board and ensure that we are keeping up to speed with our goals, but agile enough to adapt to new findings.

Fiona: We have shared some brilliant brain storming sessions to date. We really want to create a tangible offering that will spark a flame in those who may not have heard of the SDGS or be that extra fuel for those already championing SDG 13 Climate Action. We need to get hot on this topic if we are going to cool the planet down.

We are playing around with some different ideas about ebooks, seminars or online training programmes in the area of Climate Action. We are also very keen to put structures in place to measure our impact.

Are there any obstacles that you have had to or will have to overcome?

Kim: Absolutely! We are all working professionals that need to prioritise our 9 – 5. Everyone’s schedules are entirely different. However, this was something that the team has been transparent about. Additionally, while Covid-19 had impacted a lot of what we had expected to take place, it has made the team more agile in our approach to our tasks and projects.

Fiona: We’re at the early stages of our project, having only started up in the last month, but with our contacts and the support of OYW, CAW and CAI we plan to make real change.

What role would you like to see current and future leaders take in driving forward change on the UN SDGs?

Kim: It must be noted that focussing on one SDG in isolation would not be an effective way to address change. Our achievements require full commitment to sustainability at large: the intersectionalities are where real innovation lies.

Leaders must drive the message that sustainability is in the best interest of everyone. It is a mind-set shift that both requires and cultivates creativity, wellbeing, success and resilience. Without having a sustainability mind-set, those aspects cannot be fully achieved.

Fiona: We need to think global, act local, plan for the long term and implement today. Leaders in Government and business have a responsibility to take positive action today. The world will be a much better place for all, if leaders look to the UN SDGs as a guide.

How can others take tangible actions and make a small difference?

Kim: Focus on what is in your power today. This might seem like a non-event, but once that is achieved, you will notice how rewarding it is to do so, and learning more becomes easy.

And in doing so, remember that in acting together we are stronger than the sum of our parts.

Fiona: I always say we have so much power in our pocket. We have a wealth of information in our phones and as consumers our purchasing habits are impactful. Buy less and buy better. Support the businesses and companies whose values align with your own. You can start to have an impact today, we need progress over perfection to meet the SDGs.