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Wednesday, 23 September 2009, 12:00AM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Will Sustainable Investing Survive the Recession?

Nick Robins

Sustainable investing has come of age, demonstrating a combination of compelling returns and the ability to anticipate new systemic risks, such as climate change. But the financial crisis has generated a flight from risk, affecting many clean tech investments.  Some politicians and businesses are now questioning the wisdom of further action to improve environmental performance as austerity looms.  Will it be paradise postponed or a great New Deal for sustainable investing?

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Nick Robins joined HSBC in late 2007 to launch and direct its newly-established Climate Change Centre of Excellence, whose aim is to analyse and communicate the long-term commercial consequences of climate change for the HSBC Group and its clients. The strapline they use for work in this area is 'Financing Change, Changing Finance', which they believe neatly captures the dual role of financial market participants in the face of climatic disruption and wider sustainability threats: first, to direct finance towards assets that sustain and enhance financial as well as human, social and natural capital; and second, to engage in the reshaping of capital markets themselves so that they reward sustainable choices.

Nick Robins has worked on the policy, business and financial aspects of sustainability since the late 1980s, with time spent at the Economist Intelligence Unit, the European Commission's Environmental Directorate, the Business Council for Sustainable Development, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Henderson Global Investors, where he was head of SRI funds prior to joining HSBC.

His interests particularly lie how we translate the 'soft consensus' around climate change and sustainability among investors into 'hard action'. Halving global greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, while providing for a 50% larger world population in the context of intensifying water stress and a depleting resource base, suggests that fundamental rethinking is required of investment strategies, fiduicary duties, ownership actions and policy engagement. Here, Nick Robins is interested to explore how the dynamic between voluntary initiatives (such as CDP, EAI, PRI...) and market norms/rules can become more effective.

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Nick Robins is Head of the Climate Change Centre of Excellence at HSBC in London. Since joining HSBC, Nick has co-authored research on long-term energy prospects (Energy in 2050), the investment opportunities in low-carbon growth through to 2020 (Sizing the climate economy, September 2010), and the links between climate change and fiscal stimulus (Building a green recovery, May 2009). In the 2010 and 2011 Thomson Extel awards for Pan-European investment research, HSBC was rated the #1 firm for integrated climate change and renewable energy, and in 2011, Nick was ranked #1 analyst for climate change.

Nick has more than 20 years experience in the policy, business and investment implications of sustainable development and corporate responsibility. In 1990, he authored Managing the Environment: the Greening of European Business (translated as L’imperatif ecologique, Calmann-Levy, 1992). Nick is also author of The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational (2006) as well as co-editor of Sustainable Investing: the Art of Long-Term Performance (2008). He co-chairs the UNEP Finance Initiative’s Climate Change Working Group, and is a member of BT’s CSR Leadership Panel as well as GE’s Corporate Citizenship Panel.

Before joining HSBC, Nick was head of SRI funds at Henderson Global Investors. He has also worked for the International Institute for Environment and Development, the Business Council for Sustainable Development, the European Commission and the Economist Intelligence Unit. He has a BA in History (First Class) from Cambridge University and an MSc in International Relations (with Distinction) from the London School of Economics.

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23 September 2009

Will Sustainable Investing Survive the Recession?
Nick Robins

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