Stories from the front lines of bank climate action

Reflections from climate concerned bankers on why the Climate Safe Lending Fellowship is needed in the banking sector right now.

In October 2021, our six-month Climate Safe Lending (CSL) Fellowship programme will begin. We will form a cohort of 25 mid-to senior-level banking professionals who are actively moving forward the climate agenda within their institutions, bringing them together as part of a powerful learning community with a skilled facilitation team to unlock radical thinking, new clarity and brave conversations. 

Unlike any other typical training course in sustainable finance, the CSL Fellowship builds on the technical aspects of climate strategies and supports participants to more effectively challenge colleague mindsets, navigate institutional power dynamics, break down organisational silos and advocate for bold decisions that can enable their banks to finance a more just and equitable low-carbon world.

Here is what past participants and CSL Fellowship advisors say about the value of this initiative.

What is the particular need that the CSL Fellowship is fulfilling at this current moment in time?

James Vaccaro, Executive Director, Climate Safe Lending Network: 

From my conversations with bankers, I’m seeing the technical aspects of climate finance – the different instrumentations and mechanics – are becoming more and more challenging. These aspects are keeping practitioners busy, but are also becoming a barrier for them to take action on deeper cultural transformation in their banks, and in client relationships, to move rapidly towards a climate safe world.

The CSL Fellowship works with these climate intrapreneurs to develop their confidence and energy to explore different ways to meet challenges, to share and learn from the experiences of peers in different contexts, and to allow new patterns and leadership practices to emerge. Participants have told us we’ve provide the opportunity to disconnect from the “story of why change is impossible” and to step back and see another pathway for change. This is a big part of the shift that’s required in the sector right now.

From your experience with the CSL Fellowship, what’s been most valuable to you and others? How has it changed your work?

Senior Climate Risk Professional, Multinational Investment Bank

As a practitioner, working in a small team within a busy fast-paced organisation, it has been really valuable to join a reflective learning space with like-minded people working in similar types of roles. By having conversations at a slower place, where peers listen and share honestly, I’ve been able to explore and better understand how others are working with the complexity and challenges in their roles. The access to greater diversity of thought across other institutions has been invaluable and enhances and enriches how I see and work in my own organisation.

Celine Suarez, Head of Corporate Sustainability and Reporting, Morgan Stanley:

One thing that came out of the programme last year relates to having conversations with senior level people. Before the programme I was feeling that I was up against so many challenges. Despite spending my entire career in sustainability, I was holding back from providing my input in strategic conversations around our climate work. After the programme, I changed my approach and proactively worked to add my voice into the conversation. Within months I became a key advisor on climate to a C-suite executive and now I’m part of the inner circle focused on this work at the highest levels of the firm. I attribute much of this change to the mindset shift I took on after the conversations that I had in the CSL programme. 

Tjeerd Krumpelman, Global Head of Advisory, Reporting and Engagement, ABN AMRO: 

What’s been most valuable from my personal experience attending is getting to know a lot of people in other financial institutions globally who are working on the same challenges as me – to share our experiences, reflect on them together, and learn from each other. Many of us are so focused within our institutions trying to shift the status quo, it’s been valuable to be able to zoom out and look at the underlying challenges, and explore possible frameworks and solutions that others are trying. It can be really challenging to find these spaces in your own day-to-day operations within the institution you are part of. I’ve found this learning through the CSL Learning Lab to be valuable and provides inspiration I can take back to my institution.

Why did you decide to participate in this initiative? What have you taken away?

Amara Gossin, VP Legal, Barclays:

When I first participated in 2019, I really didn’t think I belonged as I didn’t work in a sustainability role. But I had the support of a colleague who invited me, and I decided to be a bit brave. Being part of the discussions expertly facilitated by the CSL Fellowship team made the difference. I was empowered to speak and to hear from others and truly felt like I was meaningfully contributing and getting new ideas from a critical project. It’s something I would not have been able to experience at any other type of professional event or workshop and it gave me a sense of empowerment that I didn’t have before. I’ve since been better able to identify the assumptions, mindsets and structures that sit beneath the surface of this work and now have more confidence and a broader toolkit with which to contribute on sustainability issues.

How is the peer-learning approach of the CSL Fellowship key to advancing the broader climate agenda? 

James Vaccaro, Executive Director, Climate Safe Lending Network: 

Many banks are starting to move into the competitive frame in relation to their ambition and progress around the climate agenda. Participants tell us that they discover a deeper realisation that none of us can solve this by ourselves and there’s far more to be gained from actually being able to learn from others on the ground. The Fellowship programme is about navigating the relationships and hierarchies within and outside our institutions in a way that breaks silos. How do we join up with other institutions to build greater momentum, and expand the repertoire of pathways to change? 

Why should any climate intrapreneur working in banking apply to the CSL Fellowship?

Ivan Frishberg, Director of Impact Policy, Amalgamated Bank: 

For anyone who is feeling anxiety about climate change and wants to find a way to connect their day job with what they’re deeply concerned about – this is an opportunity to make a difference and engage more deeply in the work of climate action, regardless of whether you have “sustainability” in your job title or not. Joining the CSL Fellowship will allow you to be part of a bigger movement of climate intrapreneurs with the passion, knowledge, mindsets and skill sets to move the work of climate action forward in banking institutions.

Apply for the Climate Safe Lending Fellowship

To benefit from this kind of support in your work apply for the Climate Safe Lending Fellowship today. Applications close on 5 July 2021 (9am BST).

Find out more

The Climate Safe Lending Fellowship is a leadership development programme for banking professionals working to accelerate the climate action of their institutions from the inside, in service of a just and equitable transition to a climate safe world. The programme is jointly delivered by the Climate Safe Lending Network and Finance Innovation Lab.

For more information, visit the programme website and register for our two-hour Fellowship Taster Workshop on June 16. 

If you have any questions about the CSL Fellowship please contact the team at