London Climate Action Week: Spotlight on Female Leaders in the City

Q&A with Jo Paisley, Co-President, GARP Risk Institute.

To celebrate the 1st London Climate Action Week, CDSB is profiling a select number of female leaders in the City who we consider to be at the forefront of taking action on climate change and related issues. In this Q&A we sit down with Jo Paisley, Co-President, GARP Risk Institute. 

1. What inspired you to embrace climate change in your current role? What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a similar path in their organisation?

I joined the Global Association of Risk Professionals in early 2018 to establish a new research and thought leadership arm called the GARP Risk Institute (GRI).   Our efforts focus on areas where GARP adds the most value – depth in diverse risk management issues, a non-partisan approach and a global network of risk professionals across industry, regulatory agencies and academia. 

Financial institutions have generally managed climate change through their corporate social responsibility teams.  That is now changing as the far-reaching consequences and risks of climate change are becoming more apparent.  My objective in building GARP’s Climate Risk program is to make it a mainstream part of firms’ risk management;  I believe that this is the best way for the financial sector to support the transition to a low-carbon future. 

To get up to speed on the topic, I have read many books and articles on climate risk, spoken to experts and now lead GARP’s work as the secretariat for the UK’s Climate Financial Risk Forum, supporting the risk management and scenario analysis workstreams. That allows us to actively support the regulators and act as a bridge to risk practitioners, as both sides must work together to achieve the right outcomes.

My advice to anyone wanting to become more knowledgeable on this topic is to read up on current approaches and follow the news on climate change.  It can be daunting to know where to start, but one must start somewhere!  If I worked in a financial firm, I’d want to know who on the Board and in senior management had responsibility for climate risk.  I’d be looking at the disclosures that the company was making so that I understood their vision and approach.  And I’d be asking for training to help me understand how I could make a difference. 

2. Why are climate and ESG factors so important for those working in your sector today?

It’s hard to overstate the importance of climate change for the world economy and the significant stakes for future generations if we don’t get the transition right.  But alongside risks, there are massive opportunities too.  From a commercial point of view, firms that develop expertise in climate and broader ESG considerations, are very likely to perform more strongly. 

We undertook a survey of financial firms to improve our understanding of the maturity of climate risk management approaches across firms and found a vast range of practices.  Many firms are at the start of the journey, but even the more sophisticated ones recognise that there is much more work to be done.

3. If you were in charge of London for a week, what climate friendly policy would you put in place?

Ideally, I’d like to see fewer people driving cars and lorries in London and more people walking, cycling and using public transport.  Could we have more pedestrian-only routes and clearer bicycle lanes?   I’d like to prohibit shops from keeping their doors open and wasting energy to lure more customers inside. I’d penalize taxis who sit with their engines running.  In fact, I’d welcome a faster transition to electric taxis.  I’d like to see a lot more fountains around so we don’t have to buy bottled water when it gets hot.  Finally, I’d hold a vegetarian food festival to encourage people to reduce their meat consumption.

4. What do you consider to be your biggest achievement to date?

On a professional level, completing our climate risk survey and publishing the ‘maturity’ model of firms’ practices has sparked enormous debate and interest.  We learned a great deal in pulling together the results and many of the participating firms have asked for additional insights reached on how they can continue to improve.  I plan to re-run it annually until climate risk management practices are broadly adapted and institutional scores demonstrate greater maturity and consistency.

Read more interviews with Female Leaders in the City.