June 19, 2023

Meet the Instructor of “Climate Risk & ESG for Corporate Governance and Decision-making”

This October a new micro-certificate program for Climate Risk & ESG for Corporate Governance and Decision-making begins. The program is a partnership between the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canada Climate Law Initiative (CCLI).

The 8-week online, self-paced course for professionals in governance, law, ESG, and the like is being taught by Alison Schneider, Principal, Encompass ESG Corporation. Alison is a co-founder of GRESB Infrastructure and Climate Engagement Canada. She is the Former VP of Responsible Investing at AIMCo, and regularly presents at business forums such as the Institute of Corporate Directors. Over the past four years, Alison has served as an Expert with the Canada Climate Law Initiative, and has helped CCLI deliver presentations to the boards of directors of Canadian companies.

We had the opportunity to speak with Alison to learn more about this unique program and her involvement as both an instructor and co-designer.

What are some things about this program that sets it apart from similar programs offered at other institutions?

Firstly, this program’s Canadian focus sets it apart from other programs which typically focus on American or European policy, regulation, and case studies.

Secondly, environmental, social and governance (ESG) is a broad area and with this program we wanted to zoom in on climate change and climate risk, as it’s worthy of its own 8-week course.

We designed the program in a funnel style, starting with the larger picture of climate change and the role of boards of directors in addressing it. As the program progresses, we narrow down to provide directors with specific knowledge about climate transition plans, strategies, scenario analysis, metrics, and more.

We are pleased to have developed this program in collaboration with the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, one of the world’s leading law schools for legal education and research. Meanwhile, CCLI brings a distinct perspective as they work closely with Canadian businesses to help them understand their fiduciary duties in relation to climate change. CCLI’s team of academic scholars conducts legal research and stays on top of the latest changes in policy and regulation.

Why is this program relevant, especially now?

Over the last several years, sustainability has come to the forefront at corporations around the world. Stakeholders are asking companies to integrate sustainability into their strategies and everyday business operations. According to KPMG, over 70% of Canadian CEOs believe stakeholder scrutiny of their performance on ESG issues will only continue to accelerate.

In particular, there is increasing demand for climate-related risk information on a global scale. This pressure is coming from various stakeholders including: 1) governments and regulatory bodies, 2) investors, 3) litigants, 4) management, as well as 5) customers, employees and the general public.

These factors are resulting in a strong and growing demand for professionals with the knowledge and skills to advance climate-related ESG initiatives. Nine times as many sustainability executives were appointed from 2020 to 2022 than from 2018 to 2019.

It’s no longer going to be optional for companies to consider how climate change impacts their operations. This course aims to equip professionals with the necessary skills to meet this demand, particularly in Canada.

What do you hope will be some of the main takeaways for professionals who enroll in this program?

We trust that students will have increased knowledge and confidence to advocate for climate disclosure within their organizations. They should feel equipped with the frameworks and tools to get started whether their organization or board of directors is at an early stage of their climate journey, or further along.

Boards of directors and senior leadership have the power to drive change. Students of this course will be well equipped to accelerate that change internally.

Finally, I want students to come away with a sense of hope. The climate transition is bringing many opportunities, not just risks, both in the individual career sense but also for the private sector.

Why did you get involved as an instructor for this program?

Originally, I started as a course designer, alongside Gigi Dawe. We worked with educational experts at the University of British Columbia to create the content. I thought it would be an exciting challenge to develop a program that would give students the information they need to apply this course to their own profession, regardless of industry.

Once developing the course, I realized I could further contribute as an instructor based on my own experience from leading a responsible investment program. I am passionate about climate governance education because climate change is a defining issue of our time.