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Keynote speakers announced for 2021 Impact Investment Academy

The line-up for this year’s Impact Investment Academy, run by Worthstone, includes Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction and DWS Head of Sustainability turned whistleblower Desiree Fixler.

Best known for its robust rankings of financial actors’ sustainability credentials and mobilising institutional investors to accelerate corporate action on climate, Share Action is the UK’s leading authority on responsible investment.

Catherine is also a member of the UK government’s asset management taskforce and is named by the BBC as one of 30 women making the greatest contribution to planetary health.

Desiree Fixler is former head of sustainability at DWS, turned whistleblower. She accuses the German asset manager (a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank) of misrepresenting how it used environmental, social and governance metrics to analyse companies across its investment platform. As recently reported in the Financial Times, the greenwashing claims are now being investigated.

Fired after eight months into her role, Fixler says: “DWS has said ESG is at the heart of everything they do. How can any asset manager make such a claim?

“The world of ESG lacks definition and reporting standards. There are conflicts and challenges everywhere. While it’s understandable that firms are struggling to cope with the demand for ESG products, it’s entirely another matter to deliberately misrepresent capabilities, products and numbers. That’s where you cross the line.”

The theme of the Impact Investment Academy 2021 is ESG vs Impact – what’s in a name, tapping into the increasing scepticism and scrutiny of ESG claims.

Founder of Worthstone and originator of the Impact Investment Academy Gavin Francis explains: “When a client says they want to do good with their money, how do you make sure it happens? With the profile of sustainable investment growing significantly in recent years, clients are increasingly looking for ways to make their money do good. But how do you know what ‘good’ is being generated in these funds?

“The market is a minefield and it’s difficult for advisers to know what’s under the label of each fund, and how they compare.”

Alongside the keynote speakers, the event will feature a range of panel discussions and talks with advice on how to avoid being greenwashed, a warts-and-all look at how to embed impact investing in your firm, and how to manage diversification alongside impact.

Murray McEwan of Flowers McEwan attended the Impact Investment Academy last year, he said: “As ESG goes mainstream, it’s important that we keep pace with thought leadership in this area and there is no better event to do so.”

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