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ESG leader Jack Lee on making the climate crisis personal

We speak with Jack Lee, Head of ESG and Product Development Director with MUFG Investor Services Ireland, about his ESG career journey, the benefits of volunteering and making the climate crisis personal.

Jack Lee recently won the ESG award at the IOB Future of Finance Awards. When Jack first began working in ESG, the term itself wasn’t widely used. “At that time, the topic of ESG wasn’t the hot topic that it is today,” he says.

He began working in ESG with Deloitte, supporting clients in diverse sectors such as financial services, asset management technology, transport and food. “A lot of the work I did was specifically around clients’ ESG reporting frameworks. Some clients had initial ESG frameworks based on some of the voluntary ESG frameworks that were out there,” Jack says. The area was changing rapidly as mandatory ESG regulation, reporting requirements and frameworks were introduced starting with listed companies. These frameworks include the Taskforce for Climate Related Disclosures, EU Taxonomy, Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation and the proposed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive.

As he began to specialise in ESG, it resonated with him as a field where he could make a big impact. “On a personal level, I’ve always been very focussed in on this – recycling, understanding my carbon footprint etc,” Jack explains. “I began to get more into the meaning of ESG and ask myself – how can I really make a difference?”

Jack Lee 2

Volunteering for impact

Jack sought out opportunities to volunteer with not for profits making a positive social and environmental impact. He joined the board for the Housing Association for Integrated Living (HAIL). “They are a mental health charity focussed on helping individuals with mental health difficulties integrate back into society,” Jack says. “Working with that charity has given me a different view on what we mean by the ‘S’ in ESG.”

He also began volunteering as a director for the environmental charity Global Action Plan Ireland. Jack explains, “their mission and value is focussed on providing education and awareness to schools, groups and businesses on how you can understand your environmental impact and change behaviours.”

Jack’s nominator for the IOB Future of Finance Awards said that ESG was “not just a product for him. He embodies it in every way he can and encourages and educates us alongside him.” In his work with MUFG Investor Services Ireland, Jack is passionate about advancing ESG progress. He says, “I’m tasked with looking at our organisation’s ESG footprint. I work with a lot of internal stakeholders around developing our ESG policy and our ESG strategy.”

Part of Jack’s focus is also supporting the HR team with internal ESG initiatives. “We’re looking at how we can engage our people in being more aware of their impact from an ESG perspective.”

Driving ESG investment

On the commercial side, Jack is developing ESG product offerings for clients. “Our clients are deploying capital into specific companies and sectors. As an industry, we have the power to make significant change. If we deploy more capital into sustainable businesses, or sustainable projects – as a whole, we as a planet will be more sustainable. We have a real core focus on that.”

Jack believes that, as an ESG leader, it’s important to have a personal understanding and commitment to ESG. This year he launched the Funds Industry Climate Challenge with the Green Team Network. “ESG has been such a hot topic in the asset management industry – but everyone has been looking at it from a client perspective…The whole premise of the challenge is focussed on trying to get people in the asset management industry understanding and talking more about what their impact is, and creating a behavioural change. As individuals in the industry, can we make a difference and make an impact? Absolutely, yes we can.”

When it comes to advancing progress towards a zero-carbon economy, Jack explains that consumers hold significant power. Consumer behaviour drives what companies manufacture and produce. “Consumers count for approximately two thirds of the consumption of CO2 that gets produced each year…If we all continue to buy goods and services from companies that have a large CO2 footprint then they will continue to produce goods and services. As consumers if we change our behaviours, then the companies will have to change their strategies to meet our new demands. For example, some companies are moving away from plastic packaging or compositable containers."

Collaboration in the funds sector

Jack is also actively involved in collaborative initiatives within the broader funds sector and has co-authored several papers for Irish Funds. He has participated in Irish Funds ESG Servicing and Data working group and presented at several industry events. “The great thing is with collaborating; you get insights from others. You’re not going this alone. You have people to lean on,” he says.

He also really enjoys the challenge of keeping up to date with an area that is in a constant and rapid state of evolution and change. “I live and breathe this. It’s something I’m really passionate about. If I can learn something new, I will absolutely do that.”

IOB Future of Finance Awards

Jack Lee won the ESG award at the IOB Future of Finance Awards 2023. Learn more about the IOB Future of Finance Awards the 2023 winners here.