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Green Finance Interview Series

Our Green Finance Interview Series brings you the leading voices of sustainability and responsible investment

Andrea Di Turi - SRI Journalist and Blogger

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Tell us about yourself

For some time I've called myself a "sri-aholic storytweeter". Of course it's a bit of a joke, but not entirely since in these two neologisms there's much of what I'm doing from a professional point of view. The first term tells about my genuine and great passion for sustainable finance, that started more than twenty years ago. The second one regards my beloved Twitter, an incredibly valuable and also fun tool - actually an entire world, to say it better - I could hardly do without in my work. Essentially I'm a freelance journalist, I think I was among the first in Italy to follow the sustainable finance space when the industry, 20-25 years ago, was not even a niche but almost just a wish in my country. A long time ago (unfortunately, I'm a seasoned guy) I graduated in economics at Bocconi University in my hometown Milan, then I started working on the web and on sustainable finance, and I have never stopped. I run a Twitter-based blog fully dedicated to sustainable finance. With pleasure I engage with young people by participating in the CSRnatives network that I co-promoted in 2015 and by trying to explain the importance and the magic of sustainable finance as a Faculty member of Italy’s first second level postgraduate course focused on sustainable finance, promoted by ALTIS-Cattolica (the second edition started in October 2018). Also, I tell the story of events on sustainable finance through Twitter @andytuit and in particular through my dedicated Twitter handle @SriEvent: I'm proud it recently became Twitter media partner of the Italian SIF (Forum per la Finanza Sostenibile) and of the Italian National Advisory Board on Impact Investments (Social Impact Agenda per l'Italia).

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I follow the sustainable finance industry on a regular basis and in particular I'm following a number of issues that I think are crucial: the global fossil fuel divestment campaign, business and human rights, green bonds, fintech, the European action plan on sustainable finance. I'm mostly interested in how all of these issues are being narrated, how they reach (or not) the general public, how therefore they can affect our daily lives, both in a "micro" and in a "macro" perspective. Ah, and I'm also following very closely the climate strike movement started by Greta Thunberg, something really unbelievable and hugely inspiring.

 

How did you get started in the green finance space?

It happened by chance, I have to say I was lucky. I joined the editorial staff of one of Italy’s very first financial web magazines. At that time I'd never heard of sustainable, responsible or ethical finance, as it was once called preferentially. I asked: "What is it about?". They gave me the answer. It was love at first sight. And I'm still in love.

 

How has the sector changed since you started?

It's quite difficult to make a comparison between today's sparkling and hyperdynamic scene and the sustainable finance industry of twenty years ago, when simply it wasn't an industry. I mean, at the time as a journalist I felt blessed to find out some things on sustainable finance - I'm not sure you could have called them "news" - to write about once or twice in a week: don't forget we were in the pre-Dow Jones Sustainability Index, pre-Ftse4Good, pre-United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, pre-almost everything era when it comes to ethical, responsible, sustainable investing. It was a matter for specialists, for the initiated, addicted or aholic, precisely. Quite the opposite today, when it's almost impossible to catch up with the daily flood of news and tweets regarding new initiatives, products, reports, surveys, awards, controversies in the sustainable finance space, and from the whole world. The biggest risk today is green washing, of course: if everything is sustainable, or green, nothing is sustainable. Sustainable finance is now mainstream and even beyond, it is the norm if you think about the EU's action plan. But there's still a long way to go, because we all know that the financial sector and in general our economic development model are still far away, unfortunately, from being really sustainable. Think about the climate crisis: we are losing the most important war in the history of humanity. But we must keep on fighting, we cannot do anything else.

 

What in green finance excites you?

At the risk of sounding trivial, my answer is: everything in the green and sustainable finance space. However, to be more precise I say: everything about sovereign green bonds. In that respect, I hope Italy will soon join the not so long for now list of countries that have already issued a sovereign green bond. Another issue I'm most focused on is the fact sustainable finance today is considered almost exclusively as green finance: no doubt that's wrong, because there's no sustainability if you don't take into account also the social side, even though I understand the underlying reasons for such a situation. I hope and expect over the next years that the "S" of ESG would be put center stage along with the "E" and the "G", first of all with regard to human rights issues. Consider that we have to think in terms of SDGs also with regard to sustainability in finance, and human rights issues represent one of the fundamental pillars of the SDGs.

 

Regulation vs innovation: which is more important right now? 

In my view those two aspects, or driving forces, are not rivals. They're indeed allies. There's an abundance of evidence that sustainable finance has entered the policy-driven era, with laws, regulations, standards becoming increasingly widespread. This doesn't conflict with innovation, unless you think innovation may flourish only in a do-what-you-want or do-it-yourself context. You need to establish a common language, set a few common rules and create a level playing field if you really want to stimulate a useful and impactful innovation, I mean something that makes sense in a truly sustainable perspective. Otherwise, as I said before, everything can be called sustainable and nothing really is sustainable in the end. Morevoer, I don't think we need to pursue the myth of innovation at any cost: we have now everything we need to make finance the greatest driver of the urgently needed ecological transition of our development model. More than innovation, we must look at a deeper integration of sustainability principles and criteria into each and every part of the investment process and, more importantly, of the financial system: let's go hunting for the unsustainable "black holes" and loopholes in the financial system, which are still many. In my opinion that's the main battle we must engage in.

 

How do you see the green finance space evolving?

To quote Mr. Dombrovskis, vice-President of the European Commission, from the speech he made at the launch of the Eurosif SRI Study Report, an event I had the chance and the pleasure of attending last November in Brussels: «The sky is the limit for sustainable finance». We are just at the beginning of the sustainability revolution, in finance too. I'm so curious to see where it will take us and I look forward to telling the story of this journey. On Twitter first, of course.

Geilan Malet-Bates