Jan 18, 2022

Taking the lead in sustainable finance: A case for developing critical financial skills and competencies in Canada

Taking the lead in sustainable finance: A case for developing critical financial skills and competencies in Canada

Toronto, January 18, 2022 – A new report released by Toronto Finance International (TFI), the United Nations-convened Financial Centres for Sustainability (FC4S), and Deloitte Canada finds there is a need to address the growing gap between the current skills in sustainable finance and those that will be needed in the future.

“With Canada committing to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the demand for professionals skilled in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues will continue to rise, but this demand is outpacing the current availability of talent,” says Jennifer Reynolds, President & CEO, Toronto Finance International (www.tfi.ca).

The report, Taking the lead in sustainable finance: A case for developing critical financial skills and competencies in Canada, surveys over 100 professionals in Canada’s financial services sector and finds Canada’s financial services sector is aware of the importance of having a workforce skilled in sustainable finance. For example, all survey respondents agreed that developing sustainable finance skills and talent within their organizations is important, while 90 percent indicated that sustainable finance is either already central to almost everything they do, becoming integral to much of what they do, or playing a growing role.

Concurrently, the report shows that ESG skills are scarce. Approximately two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents’ organizations are currently impacted by sustainable finance skills shortages. Of those experiencing skills shortages, 85 percent indicated the impact was moderate or significant to their organizations.

“With growing stakeholder pressure and regulatory expectations on the horizon, it will become increasingly difficult to meet the demand for sustainable finance skills with the current supply and pipeline of talent,” said Usha Sthankiya, Partner, Sustainable Finance & ESG, Deloitte Canada (www.deloitte.com/about). “Resolving this imbalance is essential to the future viability of the Canadian financial services sector and health of the Canadian economy.”

In addition, challenges exist with recruitment, as 43 percent of respondents experienced difficulties in recruiting experienced staff for sustainable finance roles, which can be multidisciplinary in nature spanning expertise in law, political science, business, environmental science, engineering and more. The recruitment challenge is why almost all (95 percent) respondents expect that existing employees will be upskilled to contribute to sustainable finance mandates. However, many organizations currently do not have any formal internal upskilling programs and are not aware of external training opportunities.

“The lack of sustainable finance skills extends beyond Canada – it’s an international challenge,” said Stephen Nolan, Managing Director of the FC4S Network (www.fc4s.org). “Addressing this talent gap is key to the success of the global financial services system’s climate transition and that’s why FC4S is pleased to support this critical work.”

The report proposes several recommendations to develop sustainable finance skills at a faster pace with each pillar of the ecosystem playing a key role:

  • Financial services organizations should seek to better understand their current and future sustainable finance talent needs, plan to upskill their current employees accordingly and work with post-secondary institutions and industry associations to establish programs that are adaptive and responsive to the sector’s changing requirements.
    • Financial services organizations should also work with peers to publish a classification system, or taxonomy, of sustainable activities; a disclosure framework; and investment tools to provide consistency and comparability across sustainable finance. This will provide greater clarity around which specific sustainable-finance skills are required.
  • Governmental and regulatory bodies should consider not only how to formulate policies to drive the transition to a low-carbon future but also how to provide funds for job creation, training and development, and support for upskilling.
  • Post-secondary institutions – including universities, colleges, and technical institutes – should consider how to weave sustainable finance into their educational programs across a variety of disciplines. They should also integrate sustainable finance into professional education and continuous professional development courses and explore the development of micro-credentials to address the urgency.

“While some financial services institutions, professional training and education organizations are taking steps to close the sustainable finance talent gap, more needs to be done for Canada to harness its world-class financial sector to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy,” added Reynolds.


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