03 Jul INTRAPRENEUR PROFILE | Anders Langworth: Bankers for Climate
Finance Matters supports finance professionals who are putting society and the environment firmly in the heart of business as usual. We call them systemic intrapreneurs. In this series we’re sharing the stories of those who have charted a path of change within their institutions to encourage more finance professionals to play a role in making finance serve people and planet from the inside.
Meet Anders Langworth, founder of Bankers for Climate a climate change movement for employees in the global financial industry.
What is your intrapreneurship project?
The initiative Bankers for Climate, launched in March 2019, is a climate change movement for all employees in the global financial industry. It addresses the knowledge gap surrounding sustainability in the industry and enables all bankers to get engaged and have an impact, no matter what they do in their daily job.
How did you come up with the idea and get started?
I attended the Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018 and was inspired by the strong commitments from leaders of countries, large companies and academia. I believe that colleagues in the financial industry want to act but feel that they don’t know how, so if we can unite and collaborate, I know that we’ll have great impact. This was when the idea for Bankers for Climate was born.
Literally at the same time as the idea hit me at that event, I went ahead and registered www.bankersforclimate.com. At that point I thought the initiative could be something that my organisation was the global driver for. However, I rather quickly realised that I wanted to make sure it is independent and something all finance professionals can join without feeling that they are promoting another bank’s idea. Bankers for Climate is something I do completely on the side as a non-profit organisation, but there is a constructive marriage between both my roles, where the knowledge and experience I gain in each one gives strength to the other.
Due to that decision I of course encountered the first big obstacles: time and money. My gut feeling was strong, so I decided to ignore these obstacles and started communicating the idea “in a nutshell” to people. During that period, I got valuable feedback from close colleagues, friends and family. Through this I decided on the model – a call to action where finance professionals sign up. I then established the two main things I needed to go live: a website (built pro bono by a friend) and a number of high-level climate advocates as official endorsers. At present, the gender diversity of these advocates is awful and embarrassing (100% male) and the geographical spread is weak. Anyone reading this who can help out with influential connections – please reach out to me.
After the launch, the idea landed well with great feedback from the sector and lots of activity in the media (mostly Swedish). Now, a couple of months after the launch I can conclude that the idea is strong and I am back facing my initial two obstacles – time and money. Making Bankers for Climate grow through connections, media and other channels is time intensive. Since it is a side project for me it will have to grow at a sustainable speed, but I am confident it can very quickly be scaled with rather few resources. Main focus now is:
- Building a tribe / close network to support with hands-on work
- Building awareness through social media, media interviews etc.
- Building collaborations with industry associations, UNEP FI and other relevant stakeholders to spread awareness through their channels
- Utilise existing educational platforms about sustainability and finance, such as e-learning from leading universities
At Finance Matters, we see a difference between social innovation (making change on the side) & systemic innovation (changing business as usual). More on this here. How do you see your project creating systemic change within finance?
I see Bankers for Climate as a clear systemic innovation as it is shifting mindsets and mental models within banking. Bankers for Climate is about shaping finance professionals’ view of what finance can do in the world (narratives); changing norms of behaviour (culture); influencing underlying beliefs of what matters (values and mindsets); and addressing the lack of connection between individuals and global groups (relationships). With this approach it has the potential to create transformational change with long-lasting sector impact.
Initiatives like UNEP FI, UN PRI, IIGCC, CDP, Climate Action 100+, the new Principles for Responsible Banking and the EU Commission Technical Expert Group are all fantastic platforms. But in reality, very few of the employees in financial institutions know about them and it is difficult for bankers to get involved at the individual level. To be able to engage the entire financial industry and the roughly 66 million people it employs, the gap between high-level initiatives and individual action needs to be closed. The message must be simple and barriers to get involved must be eliminated. By increasing banker’s awareness and engaging them at the grassroots to drive change from within, Bankers for Climate could be the much-needed bridge to close the gap.
From a systemic perspective I think that these bigger collaborations will do the work on the policy and metrics level. But if we look at individual companies, the structural change must be that sustainability resources are deployed within core business processes and operating models. More products must be forward looking and sustainable. Sustainability must move from communication and a very small number of niche products into mass market products. Bankers for Climate will ideally be both an enabler and a turbo-charger to increase the speed of these structural changes within banks. Increased knowledge = increased engagement = increased offerings = impact.
In your experience, what skills and capabilities are most important for an intrapreneur to develop?
Being an intrapreneur demands a lot. The best idea is not enough. The best knowledge about the subject and company will not do the trick. The best planning skills are not what will make you succeed. Just relying on your relationship skills will not be enough. You need to have a little bit of everything and be able to identify the closest people who can help you succeed. Here is a list which I heard many years ago and have adapted to make my own:
- Be a rebel – but with diplomatic skills
- Many people will hate the new. Accept it.
- Build a tribe
- Be friendly
- Only break the rules you understand
- Make other people shine
What advice do you have for aspiring and existing intrapreneurs in finance?
Find something you are passionate about, that challenges you, your organisation and sector. Focus on the win-win-win (society & customer – company – yourself…..in that order!). Continually reflect on your own approach. Reflect on stakeholders’ perspectives. Reflect on the importance of timing. Always ask for help. Go for it!
Our Key Takeaways:
Thank you Anders for sharing your journey with us. Our three key takeaways from it are:
- There will always be barriers (especially time and money). Just get started. Do the minimum you can to test the concept.
- Develop a clear understanding of how your initiative fits into the broader ecosystem of initiatives addressing the same problem.
- Find your tribe. A problem shared is a problem halved!
To share your story as a purpose-driven intrapreneur in finance email firstname.lastname@example.org.