Nick Spencer, the new Chair of the Sustainability Board (previously Resource and Environment) provides an update.

Names Matter. Confucianism has the concept of Rectification of Names which means that things ”should be made to accord with the implications attached to them by names the prerequisites for correct living and even efficient government being that all classes of society should accord to what they ought to be1.  

After a year spent reviewing our strategy, mission and objectives, it was natural for us to consider whether “Resource and Environment” truly reflected the purpose of our Board.   There was an obvious replacement and one that we had considered before.  As a name, “Sustainability” better fits with our purpose, our growing focus on issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals and whilst offering a better fit with global conventions.  We proposed a change and, earlier last week, Management Board agreed.

Going forward the Resource and Environment Board will now be known the Sustainability Board.  We continue to see the purpose of the Board as an agent of change as well as source of expertise. Our purpose is clear:

to create meaningful engagement by all actuaries, their clients and wider stakeholders in understanding, and then in addressing, the risks and uncertainties for economic and financial systems arising from climate change and other sustainability issues. The Board seeks to be a centre of expertise and leadership for the IFoA in climate change and other sustainability issues and aims to help identify, educate and raise awareness of the need for such issues to be addressed.

Reflecting on the past year, I am blown away by how much progress we have made.  We have increased our Board membership from 10 to 16 and probably doubled the number directly supporting the Board.  We also have many more volunteers in working parties and the ICAT workstreams, also working to support the Board’s goals.  So, in taking over as Chair, I have to thank Simon Jones and note what a tough act to follow.  The ask over the coming year is to maintain this momentum but focus on implementation.

But it is also an exciting time to step into this role. We are living in a time of change.  The IFoA through its CEO, its President and President-Elect and its Management Board Chair are all ready and actively seeking change.  Carpe Diem.  We can still want more, still want to move faster, but we'll never have a better platform from which to deliver change than this.  The next year is going to be a period of experimentation, of pilots, of courage, of boldness and of ambition.

On a personal level, in addition to driving forward the Board’s work, I also want to use my time to provide focus on three themes. These are themes that I personally find important and believe connect to greater change.  These cover the integration of sustainability risks into the actuarial thinking, championing biodiversity, human rights & diversity and reinvigorating the IFoA’s thought-leadership. These are outlined below.


2020 Sustainability Board Chair’s Key Themes:


NULL1. Make climate-related & sustainability risks part of the actuarial DNA

Ensure these considerations are integrated into every piece of actuarial work as naturally as interest rate or mortality risks;

Champion implementation of the Climate-Related Risk Taskforce recommendations and delivery of the Green Finance Education Charter commitments.



Null2. Champion biodiversity, human rights & diversity

Being a force to realign the financial system from unsustainably exploiting the planet and society to a financial system that sustainably supports the planet and society.

Drawing attention on biodiversity (including improving agriculture & soil), human rights and diversity.




3. Renew the IFoA’s focus on thought-leadership

Working to amplify the IFoA’s voice across the financial services industry and beyond.

Drawing attention to thought-leadership in sustainability (the challenge), new economics (how the challenge impacts finance) and financial systems-thinking (how to find solutions within finance).



Delivering the Board’s goals and these three themes will require time, energy and enthusiasm. It will also require the help of many others and we are always looking for volunteers to support both the Board’s activities and future working parties. 

We’re are piloting a new approach to building our volunteer base. If you are interested in being involved and wish to be kept informed of the opportunities ahead please visit the volunteer vacancies page for more details. 


[1] Steinkraus, Warren (1980). "Socrates, Confucius, and the Rectification of Names". Philosophy East and West. 30 (2): 261–64. doi:10.2307/1398850. JSTOR 1398850