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UBS Leadership Changes Point To Net Zero Goals

Jackie Bennion, Deputy Editor, 6 May 2021

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The group has appointed a chief sustainability officer and is establishing a new sustainability and social impact organisation to steer its net zero commitments.

UBS has announced a new C-suite role and is launching a new “sustainability and impact “organisation in a bid to drive the firm’s sustainability agenda.

The new operation will report to UBS Asset Management president Suni Harford and bring together thematic experts and leaders from across the business to track progress on sustainability and reaching net zero. The term "net zero" refers to the balance between emissions produced and emissions removed from the atmosphere to curtail global temperatures from their current trajectory.

Climate risk has caused a flurry of "net-zero" pledges from across the asset management sector in recent months, but the real reporting of how to achieve this has barely begun.

UBS has named Michael Baldinger as chief sustainability officer in a newly-created C-suite role to focus on these efforts. Before joining UBS’ asset management division in 2016 as head of sustainable and impact investing, Baldinger was chief executive of European impact specialist RobecoSAM. His new responsibilities will be setting and driving strategy and providing oversight for all SI-related projects and activities, UBS said. The announced changes take effect from 1 June 2021.

In a second leadership change, Phyllis Costanza has been named head of social impact. She will continue to lead the firm’s philanthropy services, including the work she has achieved over several years developing the firm’s Optimus Foundation.

“By creating the sustainability and impact organisation with these senior appointments, we aim to extend the group’s leadership in sustainability and take another step towards meeting our net zero ambitions,” Harford said. She joined the group in 2017 as UBS AM’s head of investments, and spent 25 years before that at Citigroup.

“Helping clients mobilise capital in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals that matter most to them” is at the heart of the changes, she added.

In April, UBS announced that it would be working to achieve tougher environmental standards and would be developing a detailed map for achieving net zero emissions across all its operations by 2050.

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