Black History Month & COP 26

Black History Month begins today and ends on the opening day of COP 26. It may be a coincidence, but I believe the timing is apt.

We all know the statistics on diversity are poor when it comes to leadership right across society – and that the financial services sector urgently needs to address this unevenness.

At Brunel, we are certainly not where we want to be on diversity. Like so many others, we want to improve both for ethical reasons and to maximise our performance as a company.

Black History Month offers a way to engage with the UK’s black history, heritage and culture, through  TV programmes, online forums and physical events, including in Bristol, where our own office is located.

Changing finance

Brunel’s engagement on diversity has largely been at industry-level. Our Stewardship Manager is Co-Chair of the Asset Owner Diversity Working Group at the Diversity Project, which recently published the Diversity Charter, by which asset management companies can commit themselves to improved diversity and increased monitoring. In a linked initiative, we are also participating in the Skills Workshop, which seeks to ensure a more diverse pipeline of talent for the industry.

We already know that finance will be a major focus at COP 26 – the first full-day sector-based session will focus on finance. Besides, not only has COP 26 itself already come under criticism for a perceived lack of diversity but so, too, has the broader climate movement.

Moreover, we know that the transition to a green economy requires a special focus on social impact, to avoid hitting the most vulnerable hardest. This is why we were a founding signatory of the Financing the Just Transition Alliance (see the launch event), which aims to identify concrete steps the financial sector can take to scale up climate action while also delivering positive social impact.

Black History Month, then, should be a timely reminder for all of us in financial services – including those of us committed to achieving Net Zero – that the climate transition can’t afford to ignore ethnic inequality.

We can only hope that, come 31 October, delegates to the conference will have got the message, too.

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