This week, we spoke to Clare-Marie Dobing, who joined Infospectrum in March 2022 as the company’s first Head of ESG Desk.
Based in our Oxford office, she provides practical and actionable insights for market participants looking to understand the potential and growing impact of ESG regulations and norms on their business operations, financial position and reputational standing.
You are six months into your new role, how has the experience been so far?
I am happy to be here! Ever since meeting Infospectrum’s Analysts in 2019, I have long admired the company’s exceptional work, original and distinctive approach, and absolute commitment to long-term value creation. Working to bring all these qualities to my new role has so far been both a great privilege and a complex challenge, not least because the war in Ukraine has created multiple new E, S and G considerations.
My first six months have been a period of discovery. For many years, Infospectrum has been synonymous with delivering clarity from complexity, and our intention is to extend this approach to include ESG in a holistic way that is integrated with other risk management considerations. In support of this aim, I have dedicated time to laying the groundwork for the ESG Desk; methodically developing my understanding of Infospectrum, its markets, products and technology capabilities, while completing a client outreach programme to explore the various approaches and stages of development of ESG within the shipping, energy and commodities markets. We have also been studying what ESG risks and opportunities may soon come to bear on market players, and when and how they may materialise. This includes examining considerations for newer ESG-specialised entrants such as environmental technology firms and established entities undertaking new risks in evolving markets.
ESG can be quite a broad topic. How are the market players in shipping, energy and commodities sectors approaching the subject?
Our market feedback and research so far have uncovered common themes and diverging approaches. The current ESG eco-system is complex and inefficient, with businesses moving in many directions to shape and refine their approach. These behaviours could be attributed to increased stakeholder pressure to address ESG considerations at a time when a lack of consistent globally-acceptable standards means it’s often down to individual businesses to determine their priorities and report back on progress. Notwithstanding this, there are some topics that offer a degree of commonality. These include climate action (particularly the new International Maritime Organization regulations), sanctions risk, the changing needs and expectations of customers (and their customers) and the opportunity to capitalise on emerging commercial opportunities. Today’s fuel inflationary environment has spurred interest in “E” considerations, such as energy efficiency technologies. This is one example of so-called dynamic materiality; the idea that ESG topics can become material – either gradually or very quickly. For more information on how we believe the maritime sector is responding to the evolving drivers of ESG compliance, disclosure and commercial opportunities, please see Infospectrum’s article in the latest edition of Bunkerspot magazine.
What is your core focus right now?
Our current efforts to monitor and document approaches to ESG suggest larger and well-resourced players, with the financial and operational wherewithal to absorb the risks associated with being first movers, will have the capability to drive a broad-based ESG agenda forward. However, we are also mindful of how the large number of small to mid-scale businesses are responding to ESG, and what assistance they will need to deliver positive returns in this area incrementally, consistently and cautiously. With particularly these players in mind, we are working on a simple and functional approach to rating ESG that provides an unbiased, high-integrity analysis that takes in the intrinsic characteristics of the shipping, energy and commodities markets. This includes current technological limitations and the practical realities of implementing ESG considerations within an industry with emissions that are hard to abate, and where regional variations in cultural differences create distinctly different interpretations of “S” and “G” considerations.
We are also committed to informing clients on emerging ESG trends that have the potential to create material risks and opportunities for market players, their businesses and stakeholders. To that end, we will shortly be launching a new whitepaper on the voluntary carbon market and its current application in shipping, including buyer and seller transaction examples and due diligence considerations. The paper also includes an Annex on shipping’s likely inclusion within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
Finally, we are examining Infospectrum’s internal approach to ESG. There is an enormous amount of material available regarding generally accepted principles, guidelines and frameworks for organisations to follow. We are looking to cut through this noise with an approach that’s true to our values, demonstrates market leadership and sets the stage for long-term success, while providing sufficient transparency and accountability in a bid to avoid the cynicism and suspicion associated with greenwashing.
What is the best thing about working for Infospectrum?
One of the key things that appealed to me about Infospectrum was the opportunity to work with some of the sector’s best and brightest minds. The company’s Analysts are committed to doing what’s right and not what is easy or popular, even if this requires overcoming numerous hurdles in pursuit of answers to questions that are difficult to answer or perhaps deliberately concealed. The management team draws on individuals from diverse backgrounds, which leads to greater innovation and more thorough vetting of a proposed business strategy and/ or client brief. All this translates into greater job satisfaction.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
One of my greatest passions in life is gymnastics. However, a recent injury has set back my return to pre-lockdown form. While I recover, I am fortunate to have the wonderful distraction of planning my 2023 wedding, by which time I hope to be fully fit to enjoy the celebrations to the full.
Clare-Marie will be presenting at the Infospectrum London Forum in London on Thursday 29th September. For more information, please contact the ESG Desk via firstname.lastname@example.org
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