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Sofia Usman: Pioneering Climate Strategies for Thriving Businesses

Sofia Usman | Eight Versa
Sofia Usman | Eight Versa

In an era defined by the urgent need to address the challenges posed by climate change, the recognition of climate risks within businesses’ investment processes has become more critical than ever before. Leading the charge in this pivotal arena is Sofia Usman, an exceptional ESG and Sustainability Analyst at Eight Versa. Her unwavering dedication and expertise in climate risk management have secured her a well-deserved position among the top three leaders in this field for 2023.

Climate risks pose multifaceted challenges to businesses, encompassing both financial and reputational implications. Sofia’s keen understanding of these intricacies has positioned her as a catalyst for change within the industry. With a holistic perspective on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors, Sofia helps organizations effectively integrate climate risk considerations into their investment processes.

At Eight Versa, Sofia has emerged as a guiding force, empowering businesses to navigate the intricate landscape of climate risk management. Her strategic insights and analytical prowess enable companies to identify, assess and mitigate climate risks, safeguarding their long-term sustainability and profitability.

Recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, Sofia actively engages with stakeholders across various sectors, advocating for the adoption of sustainable practices and the incorporation of climate risk management into corporate strategies. Her visionary leadership inspires others to embrace climate-conscious investment practices, fostering a collective effort to build a resilient future.

In an interview with Insights Care, Sofia elaborates on her unwavering commitment to addressing climate risks head-on and driving sustainable change that makes her an exemplary trailblazer, leading the way towards a more resilient and sustainable business landscape.

Following are the excerpts from the interview:

Kindly brief us about yourself and shed some light on your source of inspiration for venturing into climate risk management.

I work as an ESG and Sustainability Analyst at Eight Versa. The company focuses on sustainability in the built environment. I work mainly in advisory, strategy and regulatory compliance. My source of inspiration for venturing into climate risk management in infrastructure and built environment stems from recognizing the urgent need to address the challenges posed by climate change, including climate risks in your investment processes.

Tell us about your academic background.

With a background in development studies for my Master’s degree, along with work experience at UNDP and a bachelor’s degree in business and finance, I have gained a diverse academic foundation that has significantly contributed to my knowledge of climate risk management.

The development studies provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, including the complexities of climate change and its implications. This multidisciplinary approach equipped me with the necessary analytical skills to assess climate-related risks and their impacts on various stakeholders.

Brief us about your approach when interacting with clients who desire to improve their standards and sustainability practices aligned with climate risk management.

As an ESG analyst, my approach when working with clients to improve their standards and sustainability practices aligned with climate risk management involves several key steps. I begin by assessing their current practices and goals, followed by collecting and analyzing relevant data to evaluate climate-related risks and opportunities.

Together with the client, I establish clear sustainability goals and develop a roadmap to achieve them. I assist in implementing the strategy, monitoring progress and providing tailored recommendations for measures such as energy efficiency, renewable energy adoption and integrating climate risk into decision-making. Throughout the process, I support the client in developing comprehensive sustainability reports to transparently communicate their progress and commitments. This approach ensures that clients receive targeted guidance to enhance their sustainability practices and effectively manage climate risks.

You have been a key part of the United Nations Development program, which focuses on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Tell us about your journey there.

During my tenure at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), I had the privilege of contributing to the global effort of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). My journey at UNDP was an enriching experience that allowed me to develop a range of skills and insights.

Working at UNDP provided me with a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of the SDGs and the need for a holistic approach to sustainable development. I learned to appreciate the importance of addressing environmental, social and economic challenges in an integrated manner. This perspective has been invaluable in my current practice as it enables me to consider the broader implications and interdependencies of sustainability initiatives and climate risk management.

What projects are you currently working on? How are they aligned with your goals and objectives?

I’m currently involved in exciting projects that align with our goals and objectives. One of them focuses on helping clients achieve regulatory compliance with TCFD, enhancing their climate risk disclosure practices. Another exciting project involves managing transition risks, and guiding organizations through the challenges and opportunities of transitioning to a sustainable and low-carbon economy. Additionally, I’m thrilled to be getting involved in TNFD and biodiversity projects, integrating biodiversity considerations into financial decision-making.

As a keen learner, I constantly seek new knowledge and ideas, ensuring I bring fresh insights and innovative solutions to our projects. These endeavors not only contribute to our clients’ sustainability goals but also keep us at the forefront of industry trends and best practices.

What decision-making processes are involved when choosing a specific sustainability practice?

When choosing a specific sustainability practice, several decision-making processes come into play. It involves conducting a thorough assessment of the organization’s goals, values and priorities through a gap analysis and materiality assessment. This includes considering their commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Secondly, evaluating the potential impact and feasibility of various sustainability practices is crucial. Factors such as resource availability, cost-effectiveness and alignment with industry standards and regulations are considered.

Finally, stakeholder engagement plays a vital role, as the input and perspectives of employees, customers, communities, and investors can influence the decision-making process.

What are some of the challenges you face when conducting operations and how do you turn them into opportunities for growth?

Challenges in conducting operations, such as limited resources, resistance to change, governance problems, regulatory uncertainties, and supply chain complexities, can be turned into growth opportunities. By leveraging innovative solutions, fostering stakeholder engagement, adapting to changing regulations, improving supply chain resilience, and aligning sustainability practices with stakeholder expectations, organizations can overcome challenges and drive positive growth.

Being an industry expert, would you like to give advice to budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the sector that you are catering to?

As an industry expert, my advice to budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the sector I cater to is to prioritize sustainability from the start of your journey. Embedding sustainability into your business model and practices will not only contribute to a better future but also provide a competitive advantage.

Educate yourself about the latest trends, technologies and regulations in the field of sustainability. Build a strong network of like-minded individuals and organizations to collaborate and learn from. Embrace innovation and consider the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—in all your decision-making processes.

Finally, never underestimate the power of passion and perseverance. The journey may have its challenges, but with dedication and a clear vision, you can make a meaningful impact and contribute to a more sustainable world.

How do you envision scaling your services and operations in 2023 and beyond?

I aim to understand transition risks and how to capture them for different industries. In terms of scaling our services and operations, we plan to expand our team of experts in transition risk management, ensuring we have the necessary skill sets and knowledge to provide tailored solutions to our clients. We will invest in technology and data analytics capabilities to enhance our risk assessment and monitoring processes.

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