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​Navigating the Complexities of Sustainable Finance: Insights from an Industry Expert

13 March 2024 by Max Forsyth


In the latest Comms Coffee Club podcast episode, I sat down with Charles Clarke, a seasoned communications expert in financial services and asset management, to delve into the intricacies of sustainable finance and the art of effective communication within the sustainable finance sector. Charles's journey, from his beginnings at JP Morgan to leading global communications at HSBC Asset Management and his current consultancy, Trinity Communications, has given him a unique perspective on the evolution of finance and the importance of sustainability in today's world.

Listen to the Episode

The Evolution of Communication in Finance

During our conversation, Charles reflected on his extensive career and the transformation of communications within financial services as a whole and sustainable finance. He underscored the critical role of clear communication, aligning individuals and teams with the company's overarching narrative is paramount, and Charles's insights shed light on the strategies that ensure everyone is on the same page.

The Shift Towards Sustainable Finance

One of the most fascinating parts of our discussion was Charles's transition into specialising in sustainable finance. He recounted his involvement in launching HSBC's first climate change index and how this initiative marked a shift towards "profit with purpose." The alignment of financial investments to build a better world is not just a noble pursuit but also a strategic one and critical for fund managers, client teams and communicators to be singing off the same hymnsheet.

Defining Sustainable Finance

Charles clearly defined sustainable finance as emerging from the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) framework. He emphasized the importance of governance as a catalyst for profitability and the ethical imperative for companies to invest in the future without compromising the well-being of upcoming generations.

Communicating Sustainable Objectives

We explored the challenges of communicating sustainable objectives in a landscape cluttered with information. Charles stressed the importance of focusing on meaningful details and being transparent about a company's actions and inactions about its values. The conversation highlighted the need for a broader focus that encompasses social and governance issues, in addition to environmental concerns.

The Art of Client Communication in Sustainable Finance

Charles shared his approach to client communication, advocating for speed and honesty over waiting for perfect information. He debunked the common misconception that all sustainable funds are impact funds and called for transparency in communicating the actual impact of investments.

A Campaign to Remember

Charles's favourite communications campaign was a joint venture between HSBC Asset Management and Pollination Asset Management, focusing on climate asset management. The campaign's success in providing scalable, investable solutions for climate initiatives showcased the power of trusted brands in making a real-world impact.

Leadership and Organizational Culture

The qualities Charles values in leadership—humility, purposeful decision-making, and empathy—resonate deeply with me. He highlighted how leadership behaviour influences organisational culture and the alignment of actions with communicated values.

Final Thoughts

Our conversation was rich with insights into sustainable finance, effective communication, and the importance of leadership authenticity. Charles's expertise added depth to our understanding of the financial industry's challenges and opportunities.

I'm grateful to Charles for sharing his wisdom with us, and I hope you find as much value in these insights as I did. If you enjoyed this exploration into sustainable finance and the power of communication, I encourage you to like, subscribe, and share this post. Your engagement is not only appreciated but also vital in spreading knowledge that can shape a more sustainable and transparent financial future.