Enticing finance leaders to incorporate ESG factors into investment decision-making globally

Campaigning and advocating for the incorporation of ESG factors into investment decision-making is the colossal and arduous task undertaken year in, year out by the HRH The Prince of Wales’s A4S (Accounting for Sustainability Project) team.

The A4S team – comprising only 15 people – originally focused on CFOs of large corporations trying to inspire them to adopt sustainable and resilient business models. However, over time they came to the realisation that CFOs were only one element of the puzzle and that their advocacy activities should be broadened to the whole finance community in order to have more impact.

As a result, they started to consider other functions and organisations within the financial services landscape. A new communications strategy was devised starting with a stakeholder mapping and analysis exercise in order to truly understand which areas, functions and types of organisations within financial services should be targeted by A4S’ advocacy activities.

I must say that this exercise was crucial to the success of this campaign since it enabled A4S to better understand the personal interests of individuals – and subsequently their customers – depending on their function and type of institution and therefore carry out more targeted actions. It also helped identify which people should be targeted within each organisation.

A4S identified eight types of stakeholders within the financial services community: 1) CFOs of large corporations 2) CEOs of investment banks 3) CIOs of investment management companies 4) Chairs of pension funds 5) CEOs of insurance companies 6) CEOs of rating agencies 7) CEOs of financial exchanges 8) Other types of stakeholders which also form an intrinsic part of the financial industry such as the CEOs of accounting professional bodies and associations, financial regulators, governments and policy makers as well as business schools and universities offering finance degrees.

Tapping at the top of organisations by engaging with the most senior people within these stakeholders (at C-Level) and prioritising the largest organisations and financial institutions also helped make this campaign a success. For instance, only the investment management companies or pension funds with the largest assets under management (AUMs) were targeted.

A4S also understood the crucial role played by accounting professional bodies, business schools and universities in driving change and actively promoted the incorporation of sustainability within their syllabi.

A communications campaign focusing on digital media such as Twitter and LinkedIn as well as financial print media helped reinforce the message within the financial community and beyond.

Nevertheless, this is not the end of the road for the A4S team since a huge amount work needs to be done. Therefore, it is constantly trying to devise new communications strategies to drive effective change within the global finance community.

NB: Both the terms “campaigning” and “advocacy” are used here to define A4S’ activities since the project’s team is trying to influence primarily corporations, financial institutions and ultimately society (which rather falls under the campaigning umbrella) but also governments (which falls under advocacy).


3 thoughts on “Enticing finance leaders to incorporate ESG factors into investment decision-making globally

  1. Thanks for your post. It’s such an important area that has to be ‘done right’ if its going to succeed and achieve the desired outcomes. Customer service that addresses the customer’s concerns / needs will make for an easier platform to then have the discussion regarding ‘so why wouldn’t you want to support us?’. 15 people and knowing your target group for communications has obviously reaped outcomes – however the next area of challenge is how do those 15 people assist their target group sharing the message out wider ? I feel this is the challenge for the mass marketing teams where sometimes the message gets lost amongst all the other messages. I’d like to think though that if the CEO has had a positive experience with your team and supports the position that this would then flow down throughout their organization (with or without your team’s assistance ?). Has consideration been given to some pro-bono work where the team of 15 could assist some selected organization’s e.g. school parent groups to help educate on them on what they should be looking for so you have a bottom up approach working at the same time as a top down perspective (and hopefully meeting in the middle ?). I look forward to the day when you don’t need to run campaigns / individualise communications because it will just be how the finance sector does business.


    1. Thank you very much for this comment.

      A4S has adopted a top down approach since it hopes to mobilise larger amount of capital for social or environmental investments this way.

      However, I agree with you. A bottom-up approach is also crucial. Perhaps this is embodied by the work done by HRH The Prince of Wales when he goes on the ground and meets individuals in the community.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the excellent post. I know from experience how important and impressive the work of A4S is. Over recent years there has been a real awakening in the finance community to the importance of ESG and A4S has played a central role in this.

    A4S is especially important as it is one of the very few ‘NGOs’ that focus on the sustainability of the finance sector. To-date finance has escaped proper NGO scrutiny on its environmental credentials, due in large part to a lack of understanding of how the finance sector works and how central it is to sustainable development. This is a huge missed opportunity as finance is fundamental to facilitating the shift to a low carbon economy and pressure from civil society could help mobilise this shift at pace. However, I believe the complexity of finance deters NGOs from campaigning in this space, and this is perhaps just the way the finance sector likes it. A4S helps to fill this void, bringing its expertise and campaigning prowess to bear. It is also interesting to see how they skilfully harness the convening power of HRH Prince of Wales. A message from HRH carries real kudos and engages senior stakeholders in ways that a normal NGO would be unable to do. It is great credit to HRH that he chooses to use his convening power in such a positive way and both he and A4S have been instrumental in raising sustainability up the corporate agenda.


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