Sustainable Finance for Breakfast (21): An open discussion on recent developments in the ESG area

Held on Wednesday, October 23rd, at Ruffer


  • Ben Caldecott (Oxford Smith School)

  • Franziska Jahn-Madell (Ruffer)

  • Chris Vernon (MSCI)



The last meeting of our SF4B group was on September 9th – which (as always) seems too long ago. Since then, we have been treated to the spectacle of Greta Thunberg wowing the world at the Climate Action Summit in NY. Plus, I note (rather randomly):

-       The continuing search by a number of hedge funds for the ‘ESG factor’ (Robeco is apparently even recruiting a PhD student);

-       A decision by Moody’s and S&P to assign formal ESG ratings to companies;

-       A surge in use of the term ‘ESG’ in second quarter S&P 500 earnings conference calls – doubling the rate from the first quarter (who measures this kind of nonsense?);

-       Establishment of a Sustainable Finance Advisory Team at Unicredit;

-       The first ever ‘Sustainable Finance Policy Conference’ organised by PRI, the ‘first theme’ of which was that sustainable finance policy matters (surprise);

-       a new Global Commission headed by Bill Gates and Ban Ki-Moon, calling for a ‘revolution in finance’ and for US$1.8 trillion in investment from 2020-2030;

-       that Action Summit included Mark Carney, who called for climate-related financial disclosures, climate-based risk analysis, and better measures of ESG; and

-       an announcement of a new ‘Climate Investment Platform’ run by the UN;

And so on. The past month and a half has seen a lot of hot air concerning climate change, and the ways in which finance might help stem the tide. Gas and oil companies are fighting back, with slogans of their own claiming to be socially responsible - which is evidence at least of mounting pressure to adapt.

 This has been a whirlwind month and a half, and I’m sure there will be much to discuss. All the more reason to find out what our regular guide, Ben Caldecott – the founding director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme and Associate Professor at the University of Oxford – has to say.

This month, he has back-up from:

-       Franziska Jahn-Madell, Director of Responsible Investment at Ruffer. She has written on corruption and sustainability ratings, and worked in Ruffer’s Responsible Investment department for over five years.

-       Chris Vernon, Senior Associate at MSCI – which seeks “to bring clarity to dynamic and increasingly complex financial markets”. He specializes in financials and extractives industries as part of MSCI’s global team that research and rate company performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.

 Frankly, I am stunned at how much is going on in this area. Not even Ben can cover it all, but there is no one in the business better able to offer a regular tour d’horizon. If you would like to join us (and, perhaps, share your own thoughts) please let us know by emailing or by calling the Centre on 0207 621 1056. As usual (thanks to the hospitality of Ruffer), there will be lots of coffee, tea, and buns.


Many thanks,

Andrew Hilton




*We will try to start (and finish) on time.