Morningstar Fund Awards 2024: 'We're Uncowed by ESG Doom and Gloom'

As the politics of climate heat up, Impax Asset Management's Shabano Soomro says she isn't put off by the doom mongers

Ollie Smith 11 March, 2024 | 9:41AM
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Ollie Smith: Shahbano Soomro joins me from Impax Asset Management, having just collected the coveted overall Morningstar Fund Award for Best Asset Manager in the Sustainability category.

Shahbano, congratulations on the award. Talk to me a little bit about some of the challenges faced by sustainable or sustainability asset managers in 2024. What's a concern, what's a challenge and what's an opportunity?

Shahbano Soomro: Thanks. Well, I think understandably after the last two years, the macroeconomic environment has obviously been a challenge, both higher inflation and higher interest rates, but we are looking forward to seeing that change in the next year. What remains a challenge, however, is making sure the political will for the transition stays strong, particularly in the year of elections where I think the climate agenda is getting politicised.

Thankfully, though, the sustainability challenge remains strong, which I think creates a lot of opportunities for companies providing environmental and social solutions. And most importantly, the public are actually very supportive of greater action on climate change, I think something that is often far too infrequently talked about. And so, whatever happens with the elections in the next year, I think, and whatever uncertainty that's created, the momentum definitely is still there.

OS: I was sort of expecting you to say that it's easy to get frustrated, but it sounds as though that's not the case. Would that be correct?

SS: Frustrated with whom?

OS: Perhaps the changing nature of the conversation and the discourse about sustainability, some of the media opposition even to climate change reporting, the woke agenda perhaps. But you seem quite optimistic.

SS: I think it's very easy to get frustrated, but that's probably not a productive way to look at it, in the sense that, the frustration that's coming is coming as a result of the competing challenges of the time, whether they be geopolitics, misinformation from AI, or just cost of living concerns. And I think for climate policy and the overall trend to be successful, you need to balance those concerns effectively. And so, what's interesting is you're just entering a new phase of the transition. It's no less strong, but we're entering a phase of implementation, and naturally, you're going to have lots of thorny debates about what does a just transition actually look like now, which weren't happening five years ago.

OS: So, bring it on. Thank you very much indeed for spending the time with us and congratulations on the award. Thank you very much.

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Ollie Smith

Ollie Smith  is editor of Morningstar UK

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