In her new corporate board role as Switch Mobility Limited's Independent Non-Executive Director (iNED), Dr. Miranda Brawn talks about being able to bring together her passion points – creativity in the electrical vehicle space while championing diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and environmental, social and governance (ESG). Miranda has a financial services background spanning more than 25 years and she brings with her extensive experience as a seasoned investment banker, hedge fund sales trader and financial corporate lawyer to her new role. Additionally, she is a seasoned non-executive director with over 10 years' experience across public, private and non-profit boardrooms in different sectors such as finance, law and STEAM, notably within the technology and engineering spaces. Her main areas of focus include corporate governance, regulatory and risk management, while leading the DE&I and ESG agenda in the corporate boardroom.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) are underpinned by humanity's need to address two of the biggest challenges of our time: climate change and social/racial inequality. In fact, DE&I is embedded within ESG under the "S", which has had an increased focus since the murder of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
ESG issues are also now front of mind for corporations, with a real shift from being at the periphery of company strategy to being central to it. In two years, there has been a 28% increase in signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing, and last year a survey of Nasdaq companies found that 70% of them had highlighted ESG developments in letters to shareholders.
As mentioned earlier, the social factor has really come to the fore during the past 18 months. Social considerations previously seen as a "nice to have" have become a core operational value affecting a company's bottom line and reputation. Organisations are now starting to seriously consider and act upon increasing diversity, not just gender but also ethnicity, in senior leadership and board positions across governance practices, which is key for the future success of any organisation. Companies have also had to focus on the health and safety of their workers to get through the pandemic.
From a DE&I perspective, it is important for me to prioritise this key area because it brings different ideas and perspectives together where people can learn from each other. I believe working in a diverse environment opens dialogue and really helps promote creativity. From a gender and race perspective, we need more women like myself from diverse backgrounds helping to solve the major challenges for the transportation industry. For example, the role of women in transportation electrification is rapidly enlarging and the growing profile of eminent women scientists has already led to a research field in which younger scientists embrace gender equality and foster an environment where wider diversity is valued. Of course, we also need to consider other diversity strands such as race, disability, LGBTQ+, social mobility and so on.
Global enterprises are beginning to respond to the rising demand from future generations to develop new corporate strategies that contribute to meeting climate goals. New initiatives like Renewable Energy 100 percent (RE100) and Electric Vehicles 100 percent (EV100) are being supported by more and more companies every day. As major global investors have declared that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors are key criteria for their investment decisions, low carbon is now becoming the new norm for businesses and investors. Investors are waking up to ESG where almost $3 billion flowed into ESG investments last year, bringing total global assets, across about 3,000 ESG funds, to about $1.5 trillion.
Given this perspective, you cannot create strategies and policies in the 21st century without considering ESG and its impact. This is essential for the success of any business – to focus not simply on environmental issues like climate change but also embrace social equity issues alongside the governance of how organisations are run. I understand that my role is just the beginning of being inclusive and celebratory of DE&I and ESG across the organisation and the industry, but it can be a mobilising force behind bringing progress.
Electric vehicles (EV) show signs of becoming the preferred vehicle of the next generation. They are enthusiastically embraced by ESG investors and governments that welcome non-polluting technology alternatives and regulations to limit non-disposable or non-renewable products, both of which EV manufacturers favour. As environmental impact and liability issues become greater concerns worldwide, many drivers and companies see the transition to EVs as only a matter of time. This is the future and I wanted to be part of enabling Switch Mobility to create solutions which will positively impact the world.
The vision for Switch Mobility is "Democratising Zero Carbon Mobility" and the company is a leading player in the eBus market, which is set to be disrupted with high market growth potential. The eBus market globally (excluding China) is expected to grow 12x in terms of revenues by 2030. China already has very high penetration of eBuses with 63% of all buses sold in 2020 being electric. The rest of the world is now catching up with China.
In addition, although electric buses are more expensive to buy on a CAPEX model, when you compare them to a diesel vehicle on a total cost of ownership (TCO) model over its lifetime, eBuses are cheaper to run in most markets. Ebuses are expected to reach parity with diesel vehicles on a TCO model between 2024 to 2026 as battery prices fall and so it makes business sense to convert current polluting diesel buses to electric.
In most mega cities of the world, pollution is a serious issue and these electric vehicles can also help clean the air and make it safer for our families and communities.
The Group of Seven (G7) Summit in the United Kingdom in June confirmed G7 countries' commitment to net zero by no later than 2050, broadly agreeing to halve their collective emissions by 2030, and increasing and improving access to climate finance by 2025. The upcoming U.N. General Assembly in September and G20 meeting in October are expected to provide additional boosts to make November's 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow a great success.
Net zero by 2050 has now emerged on the global agenda and consensus has formed that all of us must respond to climate change now, through actions with strong resolve and urgency.
We must limit the increase in global average temperature to below 1.5 degrees celsius by the end of this century. To achieve this by 2050, carbon dioxide emissions and absorption must be the same to reach a carbon-neutral state where net emissions are zero. This global goal is meaningful only when bolstered by robust actions by each country. This is why the United Nations urges all parties to the Paris Climate Agreement to submit ambitious 2030 emissions reduction plans to the Climate Conference to be held in November of this year. To meet the 2050 net zero goal, major emitting countries are requested to develop Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that set 2030 emission reduction targets in the range of 40 percent to 50 percent.
It's clear that the negative consequences of inaction are becoming far more apparent. Physical climate risks like fires, floods and rising temperatures are creating a sense of urgency that we have not seen before. Social media is also driving awareness of these issues. ESG issues are forging greater efficiencies and technological innovation leading to growth and, for this reason, there is a strong case for investing in ESG-focused companies.
As the world moves closer to a low-carbon – and hopefully one day even a no-carbon – automotive future, EVs are increasingly being seen as an attractive (and eventually low-cost) way to reach this goal. The challenge from an ESG standpoint is primarily how EV manufacturers can ensure that their supply chains also remain committed to reaching these goals. That concern aside, investments in EV manufacturers are very much in the eye of ESG investors, with interest that is not only sustained but increasing dramatically on a global scale and on an annual basis. Electric vehicles are the future alongside DE&I and ESG – so investment in these areas including at Switch Mobility is a smart move in my humble opinion. Switch Mobility is a net zero company so it is attractive for investors as well as customers and employees.
For further information on Dr. Miranda Brawn https://linktr.ee/mirandakbrawn