Meet Els Ankum-Griffioen, Senior Manager Business Development & Investor Relations at Triodos Investment Management, the investment arm of Triodos Bank, one of the front-runners in sustainable finance. I visited Els at Triodos to hear her thoughts on the vital roles of education, investors and good governance to create a more sustainable future.
A state of mind for stability and fairness
Her vision of a sustainable future is one where there is peace, stability and fairness. It’s a world where everyone has access to basic needs like clean water, sanitation, food and energy; with education and financial services as key enablers. Sustainability is a state of mind, a pro-active intent to steer away from shortage, ill-health and conflict. It’s an essential skill we learn in elementary school, where teachers help us anticipate and avoid conflict. As adults, we should therefore be able to find alternatives before scarce resources run out and conflict arises. But so often we fail to scale this essential skill into the interconnected, international reality of our world today. We need a long-term perspective and transparency to enable a sustainable future. As the political system is based on short-term election cycles, we cannot rely on governments to lead the way. We need others to take the lead in repeatedly and clearly sharing why and which changes are needed.
Connecting people for positive change
My conviction to be part of positive change started early on in life. I come from a family of teachers and doctors and grew up in challenging times in Indonesia. Living through the rapid positive change in that region taught me how much of a difference an individual can make. People need to be inspired continuously in a way that is personally relevant to them. This is where I feel I can contribute as an agent of positive change; helping people connect to each other and to the challenges in new and more relevant ways.
Lost in translation
Investors are in a tremendously powerful position to drive positive change. Market results show that investing consciously and deliberately makes very good sense commercially. There are many opportunities to invest locally and in future-proof startups, but by positioning these as a green investments, we will not get mainstream investors engaged. Only when the sustainability jargon is properly translated into investor-relevant terms like risk and commercial viability, will mainstream investors understand and take steps that are beneficial from a financial and a societal perspective.
Increasing demands on pension funds
More and more people are asking their pension funds questions about how their money is invested. Their board members should also be much more demanding. As that requires new skills and awareness in board members, I helped initiate the Institute for Pension Education in The Netherlands (IVP). This institute trains current and future board members good governance. While providing solid skills and knowledge, it inspires curiosity, fosters a sense of urgency for change and provides relevance for sustainability topics like environment and social impact. The program has attracted a relatively large number of women, which is a real plus to driving diversity in boards.
Financing future-proof companies
For the world to progress towards a sustainable future, we need a change in business models. More than ever, companies have great opportunities to build their business by delivering real value to society, in the real economy. To fuel these opportunities, we need to speed up the development of alternative ways of financing business. As an agent for positive change, Triodos is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between innovative change entrepreneurs and the financial sector.
Being part of Triodos allows me to really speak out on what I stand for, on what I want to represent as a finance professional. In Asia we say you don’t want to lose face – this role actually gives face. And it allows me to create a sense of urgency and relevance for international investors – and to meet inspiring people, international leaders who have really made a difference, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California who instigated strict emission standards to curb severe air pollution, and Elon Musk, the inspiring visionary initiator of Tesla cars, Tesla Powerwall, Solar City and much more to come.
Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis)