Westpac rolls out ESG training program for institutional staff

Westpac is to provide 800 employees with “practical summaries” to advise clients on environmental, social and governance issues as more companies seek help in moving to a net zero future.

Developed by the bank in collaboration with Monash Sustainable Development Institute and ClimateWorks Australia at Monash University, the initiative is driven by growing customer demand for information and practical help.

“We see the growing importance of companies with strong ESG strategies in securing funding from investors,” said Anthony Miller, managing director of institutional bank Westpac. “In the decade, we can anticipate that it will be a staple.”

He adds that ESG cannot be something that a few people in the bank “do on the side”.

“We need to make sure that every banker understands it and immerses themselves in it – that they have the language, the science and the intellect not just to help clients, but to do so by debating and testing them,” says Miller. .

One of the program’s first participants, Jody Mitchelmore, says he sees a change in the way companies approach ESG and that it was more than the “E”.

“This training gave a good overview of how climate change affects clients, but it also took a broader view – it also brought social impacts,” says Mitchelmore, head of institutional and corporate credit at the Bank.

“For example, a company that builds solar farms aligns with our climate change ambitions, but you need to look a little deeper and consider the ESG impacts related to building, operating and the supply chain.”

Miller agrees that social and human rights risks are also becoming increasingly important, even with the world’s massive task to tackle climate change.

“Companies will need to change the composition of their portfolios and adopt new business models to support net zero, particularly for emissions-intensive sectors – for example, those in the energy, manufacturing and agriculture,” Miller said.

“But ESG is a large and growing field – and we have an important role to play, which is also an opportunity.”

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