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March 1, 2022

Dr Vian Sharif: Technology can scale sustainable solutions

Dr Vian Sharif, Head of Sustainability at FNZ shares her own views as part of a team driving the development of innovative technology solutions to catalyse the shift to a more sustainable world.

A new guest blog from Dr Vian Sharif, Head of Sustainability at The Big Exchange's technology partner FNZ shares her own views with The Big Exchange. She is part of the team driving the development of innovative technology solutions to catalyse the shift to a more sustainable world.

The hidden sphere of influence... Our savings.

We’re aware of the concept of conscious consumerism directing our resources to the companies who we want to support and endorse, but what about the hidden influence of our other sphere of influence – our savings? 

Every year, trillions of dollars are invested globally – either directly or on behalf of global citizens via mutual funds or pensions – in companies to help them grow through mutual fund investments. Our money might be invested in companies that take their responsibility to the environment seriously, that aim to offer equal pay and opportunities to all gender and ethnic groups, and that produce products we feel are building healthier societies. Or we might unwittingly be investing our money in companies that are destroying our future and that of generations to come. 

Now, evidence suggests that investors care about the environmental and societal standards of their portfolios more than ever. In fact, 85% of the population is interested in sustainable investing (Sustainable Signals (Morgan Stanley, 2019)), a 10% rise in only four years. Morgan Stanley also found that over 90% of millennials want to track the environmental footprint on their investments. By simulating real life investment decision scenarios, a Cambridge University study showed that people want more from capital than returns. Given the right information, investors will avoid investments which harm people or the environment. These findings show that the expectations of end investors are changing. They want both a broader range of sustainable options and up-to-date information on the environmental impact of their portfolio. 

3 powerful developments

Critically, we stand today at the nexus of three powerful developments:

  1. There is a heightened awareness of the issues we face as a generation, as a society and as a planet.
  2. Attention is being afforded to the current environmental emergency and the need for companies to take on expanded roles in generating environmental and social value.
  3. Finally, and what is transformational, is the rapid digitalisation of our economy means that technologies are developing fast to tackle crucial sustainability challenges. 

Technology helps scale solutions

At FNZ, technology enables us to scale solutions for revealing a spectrum of environmental and societal outcomes to millions of savers – from apps which enable us to understand the carbon footprint of our lifestyles, to the very technology which is enabling all of us to become investors.  Our mission is to open-up wealth, empowering all people to create wealth through personal investment, aligned with things they care about the most, on their own terms.

This centres on providing global citizens – whose savings make up around half of the $120 trillion invested in global capital markets – with the visibility and autonomy to mobilise their savings and pensions towards sustainable investments. We’re able to show end investors at scale the actual impact of their investments in terms of carbon footprint, air pollution, waste production, deforestation and science-based nature impact. Our ultimate vision is for all to have a personalised pension or long term savings account that is tailored to how and when they're going to retire, combined with individual preferences around how their funds should be invested, according to their interest in key themes, such as sustainability and diversity. Through FNZ Impact, we’re able to reveal the carbon footprint of 100s of billions of dollars’ worth of investments, enable switch or offset decisions at the touch of a button, or measure impact aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

Using technology to transform

In this mission, we’re aligned with The Big Exchange. The Big Exchange exemplifies the revolution we’re witnessing, harnessing increased market awareness of, and responsiveness to, sustainable investing. By curating technologically-enabled platforms which drive uptake of sustainable investments, we can in turn enable the shift to a more sustainable planet. 

Today more than ever, we’re poised for a second revolution in investment management through providing global citizens with the visibility and autonomy to mobilise their savings towards sustainable investments. 

The ability of technology to catalyse system-level change in this area means that potential impact of platforms like the Big Exchange and the technology powering FNZ Impact could be immense; research has shown for individuals switching to sustainable pension savings indirectly saves 2,222 CO2 tonnes over a lifetime, for scale – that is greater than 80x the savings of switching to public transport for commuting and greater than 60x the savings from reducing meat consumption; the solution also addresses water, waste, air and nature impacts. 

Equip. Access. Empower.

Whilst we are collectively faced with the defining challenges of our time, these are met by the defining transformation of our time – technology. Equipped with access and information, empowering retail investors to make the change they want to see in the world is no longer a hidden gem, but a powerful lever for influence.

 Dr Vian Sharif

Please remember that when investing, making money is not guaranteed and your capital is at risk. The value of your fund can go down as well as up. Tax treatment depends on an individual’s circumstances and may be subject to change.

The Big Exchange (TBF) Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Big Exchange Limited. The Big Exchange (TBF) Limited is an Appointed Representative of Resolution Compliance Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 574048) (6768)