Oikos, an international, student-run organisation that aims to fuse sustainability and economics, held a speaker event featuring St Andrews alumnus Kenneth Robertson, who spoke on sustainable investing. Robertson studied business management and sustainable development, and after graduating in 2013, he soon began work for a leading, international sustainable investment firm, Robeco, which not only has offices in seventeen countries but also created the world’s first sustainable water fund.
As someone who personally knows truly very little about investing and does not study anything relating to finance or sustainability at university, the talk was very understandable and easy-to-follow. Robertson started by outlining why the financial market should be concerned about sustainability, explaining how the impacts and effects of climate change are affecting investments and businesses. For example, Robertson mentioned that climate change inflicts uninsured damages on businesses and industries. As a result of such risks becoming increasingly prevalent, organisations such as the WEF (World Economic Forum) are shifting their focus towards more sustainable measures, emphasising the importance of factoring in the environment and society in business decisions. Robertson explained how they assess the sustainability of a company during the investment process in order to value it: the higher the sustainability mark, the higher its valuation. As the sustainability of a business increases, the more likely it will be a better long-term investment.
After discussing the brief ins-and-outs of sustainable investments, Robertson opened up the floor to questions, to which there were many. In summation, the best advice that I can pass on from this segment is that all investments are risky so whatever you do, be careful. Robertson emphasized the importance of individual research; companies will put out data that is much more beneficial to them, so value data points over opinions. He also added to stay off Reddit! Not only was Robertson a very informative speaker but he was also a very personable one too. In the beginning, whilst we were waiting for more people to join the talk, Robertson made the effort to get acquainted with his audience. He asked us questions about what subjects we take or what year of study…the down-to-earthiness that talks can sometimes lack. His friendliness created a very relaxed environment which made us want to engage with the talk even more!
Overall, I came away from the talk feeling more knowledgeable about sustainable investing. Will I will be buying tens of shares anytime soon? Probably not, but it was a very enjoyable talk and I will certainly be going to one again!
You can find Oikos St Andrews on Facebook and Instagram by searching ‘Oikos St Andrews.’