In a recent session facilitated by NeuGroup for treasurers from the healthcare sector, Wells Fargo moderated a panel discussion on ‘ESG and the Role of Treasury’. On the panel were Michelle Edkins, a managing director at BlackRock, Kirby Brendsel, sustainability initiatives lead at Welltower and Scott Krohn, treasurer of Verizon.
The panel was moderated by Genevieve Piche, head of ESG solutions at Wells Fargo, the meeting’s sponsor. While moderating the session, Ms. Piche was able to jump in and share some of her perspective as well, as the company recently issued an inclusive communities and climate bond.
- What made the session special was the unique role each of the panelists had at their respective companies and the perspective each had on the topic of ESG – namely from an asset manager, a sustainability officer and a corporate treasurer.
BlackRock. As the largest investment manager in the world, BlackRock’s Michelle Edkins highlighted and discussed topics such as their stewardship and fiduciary responsibility to look after clients’ assets, which were articulated in the 2021 letter to CEOs from BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink.
- Ms. Edkins provided insight into how BlackRock seeks to have an engaged dialogue with companies and encourage them to embrace the concept that sustainability will create long-term value for shareholders and stakeholders.
Welltower. As a real estate investment trust that invests in healthcare infrastructure, Kirby Brendsel from Welltower highlighted how critical it is in his role to be communicative and coordinated internally.
- Having a multi-pronged approach and ESG narrative are important, as is communicating clearly and concisely to shareholders and stakeholders.
- In a company already geared to have a positive social impact, being coordinated with areas such as legal and audit ensures that the best level of expertise will be available to drive the best outcome.
Verizon. As a frequent issuer in the global debt capital markets, Scott Krohn from Verizon discussed how treasurers are empowered to drive ESG initiatives at their companies.
- For Verizon, the company was not only able to access the debt market with green bonds, but they have also made a meaningful and material effort to use minority and diversity firms in the underwriting on their capital market transactions.
Expanding what’s possible. All panelists agreed that having the commitment of senior management is critical. Knowing you have this support not only encourages internal communication, but also drives people to ask, “What’s possible?”
- ESG initiatives can also have a positive impact on employees, encouraging pride in working where they do. As public awareness of ESG-related issues increases, these companies have found that being able to point to tangible results leads to motivated workers who wear their employer as a badge of honor, increasing retention and engagement.
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