An interview with Elisa Moscolin

Elisa Moscolin is a sustainability professional with a track record of driving this agenda in global blue-chip organisations. She advises Boards and Executive teams on sustainability strategy and execution. She has worked in the ICT and Financial Services sectors. Elisa is currently Head of Sustainability at Santander where she is leading the transformation towards responsible and sustainable banking. Prior to that, she worked for Vodafone Group in Italy, the UK and more recently in Kenya, which is the home of M-Pesa, the iconic mobile-based money transfer and banking platform. Based on the work of her last role, she co-authored a Case Study in partnership with KPMG on how businesses can engage with the SDGs in a way that makes business sense. She is an alumni of CISL and holds a Master’s Degree in International Studies and Diplomacy. Elisa also has experience in corporate foundations and charities management. Her professional ambition is to contribute to shifting the business community toward more ethical and responsible business practices.

We sat down with Elisa to ask her a few questions about the Sustainability landscape and her involvement in Consilient Health’s sustainability journey.

What interested you in getting involved with corporate sustainability?

“When I started my career in the corporate world, I saw an opportunity for businesses to enhance their performance by delivering value to all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. I quickly realised that sustainability is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do for a business. I got excited by the vision of a world where positive commercial performance is not at odds with positive social and environmental outcomes.  That’s how I became passionate about helping companies to shift towards more ethical and responsible business practices while enhancing their commercial performance.”

Any achievement so far that makes you proud?

“I feel proud anytime my team and I manage to get a company to take a decision based not only on commercial impacts, but also on social and environmental ones. It’s a long journey and it takes a great deal of resilience to drive change, but it’s also very rewarding. I am particularly proud of the progress we’ve made at Santander UK, in few years we’ve really transformed our business: we have built a high-performing and skilled team, boosting the bank’s capability and capacity to deliver on its sustainability ambition, reviewed all legacy Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, designed a new Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) – Sustainability strategy, established a sound governance and operating model, engaged the business from shop floor to C suite and establishing an active dialogue with top investors on these topics. I am really proud that Sustainability is a top priority for our bank.”

What trends do you think we need to be embracing?

“I wouldn’t advise to embrace trends but rather do a robust materiality matrix assessment that takes trends into account along with other insight to identify the most material topics for your own organisation. I think that a sustainability strategy, like any business strategy, should be based on facts, analysis and insight as opposed to opinions. A materiality assessment is an evidence-based process to establish priorities, I have used it to inform and drive our strategy, set priorities and drive engagement with business and key stakeholders and I would advise other companies to do the same.”

What are the key barriers and how might they be overcome?

“Different organisations will face different challenges depending on the industry, geography, regulatory pressures and level of maturity in its Sustainability journey of that specific organisation. I think one of the common challenges at the beginning is getting the board and senior leadership to buy-in and establish a mandate from the top. In my experience, in order to achieve this, it’s important to articulate the business case for embracing sustainability, explaining with clarity and where possible numbers, what are the risks and opportunities. Speaking the language of the business and tailoring the sustainability strategy to the company’s business strategy is also key. Once the business case is clear and compelling (i.e. you’ve answered the ‘why’), establishing a good sustainability strategy is not very different from any other business project: one need to have the right skills and resources in place, establish the right governance, use robust analysis, insight and tools to establish the strategy, etc. (i.e. focus on the ‘how’). At this stage companies often encounter common challenges such as resources constraints, prioritisation struggles, skills gaps etc. these are all part of the journey, and they can all be overcome if you have a strong business case, continuously engage and collaborate with your key internal and external stakeholders and gradually build awareness and expertise in the organisation on Sustainability.”

Any other comments?

“It was great to reflect with Consilient Health leadership team on how you would need to evolve the business to make it more sustainable and therefore, fit for the future. I think it’s fantastic that the CEO and leadership team are willing to engage on Sustainability. The pandemic has reinforced the need to build more sustainable and resilient systems. There is a growing expectation from stakeholders that we ‘build back better’ i.e. put sustainability at the heart of the recovery plans, in order to foster a fairer society and more resilient businesses. I believe that a sustainable and responsible pharma and life science sector can play a key role in helping us getting out and staying out of systemic crisis like the pandemic.”

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