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Sustainability Board update – July 2021

Shyam Gharial - Sustainability BoardShyam Gharial provides an update on the latest Sustainability Board activities.

The meeting began with a reminder that the IFoA’s new president, Louise Pryor, had given a Presidential Address which contained big sustainability themes and would look to build off the excellent work done under Tan Suee Chieh.

Within the Sustainability Board, the outgoing Chair gave a recap of the huge amount of work the Board had been responsible for over the previous 12 months, including embedding sustainability issues in other practice boards. Some highlights included:

The new Chair’s Themes for the 2021-22 year were set out, including:

  • Developing the IFoA’s policy positions on climate change and, in particular, focusing on the importance of social issues in helping to achieve climate goals (through a just transition)
  • Continuing work on biodiversity, as it was felt that the topic was on the inflection point of becoming a prominent topic
  • Helping actuaries who understand sustainability topics to feel empowered to make decisions in this area

Related to a just transition, the importance of systems-thinking was emphasised throughout the meeting; making sure that the fight to limit climate change (or any other sustainability topic) isn’t focused on in isolation and, thereby, creating unintended consequences.

An exciting development for the Board is the forthcoming Early-Careers Sustainability Board. The proposal for this shadow board was presented, with its core aim being to provide a structured and meaningful engagement between early-careers actuaries and the Board.  Members of the new board would have the opportunity to learn about sustainability, address challenges within the Board and keep Board members on their toes!  Initially there would be 8-12 members of the shadow board, made up of students and/or actuaries with up to 5 years post qualification. Applications will be welcome soon – see IFoA volunteers vacancies board in the near future.

The deep-dive into the Research portfolio provided the Board with an opportunity to brainstorm future areas of research. Well over 30 topics were suggested – just a few of those are listed below:

  • pre-financed disaster protection
  • climate adaptation finance
  • analysis of climate scenarios produced by the Bank of England
  • how incentives in Solvency II influence investment in sustainable projects
  • toolkits for avoiding groupthink and engendering diverse thinking

At the end of the meeting, we heard from Roelof Coertze about the Actuaries Carbon Collaboration. This is a cross-industry group, bringing specialists from other professions together with actuaries to try and help actuaries understand climate issues and what the implications of climate change are. Among the other professions represented in the group is architecture. The group has been thinking about the life-cycle carbon in buildings, including creating rules of thumb for using different materials such as steel, wood and concrete. Another interesting project being undertaken is the examination of Nature-based Solutions to climate change and when they may reach a tipping point and become carbon emitters.

The Sustainability Board convenes again on 17 September 2021. We welcome actuaries across all practice areas to continue engaging and learning. Please reach out to the Board should you wish to make any comment or suggestion.

Find out more about the Sustainability Board.