Lise Pretorious has left World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Singapore, where she was vice president of the environmental group’s Asia sustainable finance team, to join a Danish financial technology firm that was behind the country’s first green pension.
Pretorius joins the Copenhagen-headquartered fintech startup Matter as head of sustainability analysis.
Matter, which launched in 2017, enables retirement savings to fund sustainability projects. The firm uses an artificial intelligence tool to assess the sustainability performance of investment portfolios.
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Pretorius will be leading the development of Matter’s sustainability insights. She said her ambition is to bring about “a step-change” in understanding the sustainability credentials of investment portfolios.
She joins the firm just over half a year after the European Union introduced a new classification system to clamp down on greenwash in the finance sector.
“Ultimately, we want to see robust portfolio-level impact reporting become something that all institutional investors adopt, and see a measurable shift in capital to support the transition to the Sustainable Development Goals,” she told Eco-Business.
Reflecting on her time in Asia, Pretorius said that when she joined WWF in 2017, most of the training sessions she ran were on sustainable finance 101. “We still very much needed to make the case [for green finance] and got many questions around whether sustainability sacrifices returns.”
Now, there is broad acknowledgement that investors in Asia need to up their sustainability capacity and commitments, noted Pretorius, who led the WWF finance team’s engagement with Singapore’s investment community.
Though there are still some in the region who question the logic of sustainable finance, the competitive drivers for developing robust sustainability expertise “are too strong to ignore”, Pretorius said.
She noted that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has deepened the city-state’s green finance ecosystem, 10 regional central banks and supervisors have joined the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, and banks and investors are slowly upping their commitments on issues such as climate change.
“But we don’t have all the time in the world,” Pretorius said. “We are on our way to reaching climate tipping points and crossing planetary boundaries, and nature will not wait. Asia is in the centre of this all. With growing populations and economies, the region will make or break the sustainability transition.”
During her time at WWF in Singapore, Pretorius was part of the team that launched the Asia Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI), a multi-stakeholder forum for greening the finance sector. She laid the groundwork for an e-learning programme for ASFI, which is due to be launched before the end of 2020.
Pretorius moves a few months after the head of WWF’s Asia-based sustainable finance team, Jeanne Stampe, left the conservation group for a job at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where she is a senior fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Finance.