Climate change is complicated. But that’s not stopping people around the world from making a difference. We’re lucky to have some brilliant people leading our climate work across the firm. In this series, we help you get to know them, their areas of expertise and why they’re passionate about sustainability.
Here, meet Katherine Lampen. From eco-inspiring handbags to a chat that saved a chunk of Indonesia, here’s a fascinating glimpse into the past, present and ideal future of this champion of all things sustainable.
“Since I was a kid I’ve had a passion for the natural world,” explains Katherine as she recalls her childhood in Cornwall spent rescuing wildlife from tanker spills.
She remembers her horror when she discovered that someone had chucked an oil can into a pond full of frogspawn. “I decided to save the frogspawn. So I put it in a baby bath, took it home, hid it under my bed and fed the emerging tadpoles with cat food – a little tip I learnt from a library book. Then one day they all grew legs and hundreds of frogs hopped out of the bath. I was not popular!”
Breaking new ground
Katherine went on to study environmental economics at university, and quickly realised the importance of valuing the environment. She was the head of sustainability for a global financial services firm, quickly realising the challenge on the ground. Integrating sustainability into financial products in the early 2000s was a new concept, and the concept of sustainability too commonly meant handing over giant size cheques to local communities to save their local park or hospital.
Next, Katherine took her many talents to Deloitte. That was 16 years ago.
Not another day in the office
“Here I work primarily with financial services companies, helping clients to manage their own climate impact, but often more importantly the decarbonisation of their investments and products,” she explains. “From green mortgage products to projects’ finance deals, it’s my job to help organisations mitigate the negative impact they have, and focus on the opportunities that decarbonisation presents.”
Compared to those of us who aren’t saving the planet as a profession, Katherine’s job satisfaction levels are stratospheric. “Every project is great because it’s in my job description to do good. When I finish work every day I can feel proud of what I’ve done or what I’m trying to achieve.” So, has there been a stand-out moment in her career to date?
"When I finish work every day I can feel proud of what I’ve done or what I’m trying to achieve."
A life-changing conversation
“It’s difficult to pick a highlight,” she muses, “but there was the time we were helping a bank to transition from investing in fossil fuels to renewables. When we arrived on the scene, the bank was at the final stage of building an oil pipeline in Indonesia. It was going to displace thousands of indigenous people and have a huge environmental impact.
Fortunately, we managed to educate the board and the bank’s risk committee – asking them to reconsider whether this was the right way to create value. And they decided that it wasn’t,” she adds with a smile. “The oil pipeline doesn’t exist because of those conversations.”
Heroes and handbags
And does she have a sustainability hero?
“I admire Gillian Tett from the FT. I’ve been fortunate to meet her before and feel like she is educating the masses with her Moral Money reporting. I remember reading the FT for years and cutting out anything that related to climate change to help reinforce my point. Today we are fortunate to have strong reporting in this space, which is critical in ensuring businesses understand the transition that is required and the implications for their future if they don’t change course.
My other hero is Anya Hindmarch, the handbag designer who was one of the first designers to really ‘get’ sustainability. She made the iconic reusable bag with ‘This is not plastic bag’ on it. I’m a massive fan.”
An opportunity for change
She also believes that Naomi Klein’s book This changes everything, about how economics can save the world by transforming the way we value the environment, should be compulsory reading.
As for the future, Katherine warns that climate change is only the first issue that we need to address. “Biodiversity and water are close behind. Companies are at last starting to take them seriously and understand how a sustainable business goes hand-in-hand with a sustainable environment. This is a great opportunity – both for them and for us as a generation.”
Meet the others
We hope you enjoyed finding out a bit more about Katherine. Our climate team are here to help, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to find out more. And if you want to meet the others, just keep reading below. We’ll introduce you to new people every month.
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