Green.Org is focused on accomplishing a few major goals to help as many people as possible: help people make more money, and help people live more environmentally friendly. It is now a proven fact that investing in sustainability is good for businesses as well as makes money. We wanted to learn more about ESG’s and the future of sustainable investing, so we sat down with Brendan Walsh, founder of ESG Risk Guard, to learn more about what sustainable investing means.
Let’s get to know Brendan and what he’s been working on.
Brendan is the Managing Partner of ESG Risk Guard, a consultancy he founded in early 2020 providing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risk management services to businesses.
Most recently, Brendan served as Executive Vice President & General Manager (EVP & GM), Global Commercial Services for American Express from 2015 through mid-2019, based in New York, where he had responsibility for all customers in the US Small, Mid-Sized and Large Market segments, which combined represented a significant portion of the company’s billed business, revenue and income. In this role, he navigated the segments back to significant growth following a period of decline. As EVP&GM, International from 2013 through 2015, he was responsible for the Company’s Global Commercial Services businesses outside of the USA, based in London. which included full P&L responsibility across 28 proprietary markets and 200 franchise markets with approximately 2,000 employees.
Previously, he served as SVP&GM, Global Commercial Services, Europe, based in London where he had full responsibility across all European markets. In this capacity, he managed the European division through both the global financial crisis and its aftermath, and shortly thereafter the Euro crisis. Prior to his time in the Global Commercial Services division, he was SVP & GM of the Company’s international consumer travel business, where he had responsibility for approximately 3,500 employees across 27 proprietary markets.
He has a deep understanding of global business, having lived, and worked throughout the world in London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Paris, and New York. His passion for sustainable development was ignited through a critical non-executive role with the UK energy regulator (OFGEM, 2013–2018) focused on government energy emissions reduction programs. From there, he went on to successfully complete a master’s program, where he developed a sustainability plan (focusing on energy, water, and waste reduction) for the largest public health system in the USA and completed an evaluation of ESG reporting in the financial services industry. His focus within the Harvard master’s program was on sustainability finance, sustainability economics, carbon accounting (SASB), ESG risk and energy and water security. He intends to repeat his previous success in financial services at the intersection of financial services, risk management and sustainability.
During his tenure in London, Brendan was Chairman of American Express Services Europe Limited, the Company’s principle legal entity in Europe, and Chairman—American Express Bank, Russia during the same period (2010–2014). Externally, in addition to his work with OFGEM, Brendan was a member of the European Retail Payments Board (ERPB), a subsidiary of the European Central Bank (2013–2015). More recently, Brendan has served on the boards of two New York–based non-profits: Junior Achievement of New York (2015–2019) and British American Business Association (2018–2019). Before arriving at American Express, Brendan worked as an Analyst/Programmer for two years in the defense industry.
He is a 1981 Honor’s graduate of the University of Glasgow. He also received a postgraduate in Accounting & Finance from the Certified Accountants in the UK and a master’s degree in Sustainability (Harvard, 2019). He is a member of the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) and was awarded their Sustainability and Climate Risk certification (2020). He is married with one daughter, Giulia, and lives in New York City.
Brendan, let’s get to know you a bit better. What is a fun fact about you?
I have lived in the UK (London), Europe (Paris), Asia (Hong Kong), Australia, and USA (New York) and have learned and benefited from all of these cultural experiences. I have been diving with (real) sharks.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Climate change is the test of our time. It is about our survival on planet earth How many more scenes of climate-related devastation and destruction caused by climate-related events will it take to convince the world of the impending reality? We have all seen the record temperatures and recent wildfires in the northwest of the US, devastating floods in Germany or the terrifying scenes of subway riders in China with flood waters literally up to their necks. And, we have been warned by the scientists, the long list of climate-related catastrophes is increasing both in frequency and intensity.
Much has been written about climate change. Skeptics pass this off as alarmist, others are unsure. However, the facts remain. There is a growing awareness around the world of the increasingly concerning situation, not just restricted to the millennial population. When John Kerry spoke recently at the at Kew Gardens, London Chatham House event, he uttered the strongest words on this subject, appropriately characterizing the situation as being “the world’s current mutual suicide pact.” As we’ve locked-down to protect ourselves against a ravaging, global epidemic, it’s no coincidence that awareness and concern about climate change has increased. It is an important topic as the future of the planet depends on our actions today.
What do you envision sustainable investing looking like 10 years from now?
I believe the ESG space and most aspects related to this area will grow significantly over the next 10 years. Given the shift in energy sourcing from fossil-based to renewable energy, coupled with the lack of awareness of what it entails and the possible impacts across the entire value chain, I feel very positive about growth in the industry over the (short-term) next 10 years.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
I believe that the average person understands that climate change is real. They read the news, they see the photos of wildfires in the northeast of the USA, or the devastating floods in Germany or China. They are witness to the changes in extreme weather patterns in their local environment. It is difficult to ignore. The average person can make a difference by becoming even more aware and therefore more knowledgeable about climate change and its impact on people and communities and therefore enabling them to have more informed perspectives and opinions on how we best deal with climate change.