Anita McBain: Spreading the Gospel of ESG to the Investment World in Clear, Honest and Understandable Terms

Head of EMEA ESG Research at Citi: Anita McBain

Head of EMEA ESG Research at Citi: Anita McBain

Anita McBain is no ordinary asset manager. She’s one of a new breed which believes the industry must focus on the ecological risks of an inter-connected world — and find solutions, fast.

As the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread across the globe, McBain was one of the first to warn of the consequences of unsustainable behaviour, financial and non-financial. Head of responsible investments at London-based management firm M&G at the time, she wrote a blistering report on the risks of failing to recognise these dangers.

McBain drew attention to the fact that deforestation, generally caused by human population growth, displaced animals which shed viruses due to the stress inflicted upon them — often in or near human settlements.

She also maintained that the Covid-19 pandemic was not entirely unexpected. “For years scientists have warned of the spill-over of viruses from animals into humans,” she wrote. “Today we are experiencing the consequences of the inextricable link between human, animal and ecosystem health.”

As the world’s population is expected to balloon from 7.8 billion today to 9.8 billion by 2050, the supply of food — often in the form of “wild” meat — will become critical. And it will inevitably lead to more viruses leaping the species barrier, she believes, unless an integrated global response is devised.

Anita McBain has been a champion of ESG criteria for the past 15 years, persuading investors of the need to be socially conscious. A growing number of industry experts believe ESG should be a core principle for all businesses. The pandemic, McBain says, has amplified the need for action.

In September, she was recruited to head EMEA ESG research at global investment bank Citi, where she crusades for sustainability. “Globalisation has lifted millions of people out of poverty,” she says, “but there are also downsides.

“Competition to meet global demand has resulted in over-exploitation of natural resources and unsustainable practices, with rising population growth and socio-economic trends linking into biodiversity loss, climate change and the emergence of new communicable diseases.

“The asset management industry should consider a ‘nexus approach’ to investing, which examines different interactions and links among multiple sectors.” McBain believes investors have a role to play in directing capital towards companies that demonstrate resilience and offer long-term solutions.

“Responsible investment involves encouraging investee companies, and pushing for the development of consumption and production models that are sustainable over the long term,” she says.

At Citi, she is responsible for leading the integration of ESG into the process, advising on climate change and broader sustainability themes. Her award-winning research, Citi believes, will significantly strengthen its ESG presence.

Anita McBain earned an MBA at Edinburgh University before going on to post graduate work at Cambridge University, where she studied leadership and sustainable business. Her colleagues describe her as knowledgeable, passionate, engaging and constantly full of ideas.

Those who have worked with her believe McBain is a leader who truly understands the link between people, planet and profit. She has a deep knowledge of the issues at stake, which she communicates in a determined, tenacious and engaging manner.

Identifying risks and coming up with solutions is her speciality. As one of her former colleagues put it: “She has a motivating and positive voice, one that anyone would be grateful to have on their team.”


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