Market insight

Adepeju Adeosun Napier, International Women's Day Sustainability Leaders Spotlight

by
Sylvera
March 8, 2022
Adepeju Adeosun Napier
Adepeju Adeosun Napier
To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) and Women’s History Month, we’re sharing profiles of outstanding sustainability leaders from around the world. Read the profile of Adepeju Adeosun Napier, Sustainable Finance Manager at EY.

The individuals we’ve interviewed come from a variety of backgrounds and their areas of expertise and responsibility are equally diverse. We’ve learned a lot from them in these conversations and are excited to follow their progress.

Q: Hello! Tell us a little about what you do at EY.

A: I’m in a new Sustainable Finance team at EY and I support EY’s financial sector clients with the strategic implementation of Environmental Social and Government (ESG) and sustainability. 

I’m particularly focused on supporting private equity and venture capital clients with all things ESG and climate. This includes climate strategy, sustainability and climate disclosures, ESG due diligence on new acquisitions, responding to emerging regulations as well as board training and portfolio company engagement on material sustainability issues.


Q: Why did you choose to work in this position and space?

A: I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and have always been drawn to equity and justice. Coastal erosion and sea-level rise is a continuous challenge in Lagos. So climate and sustainability have always been an area I’ve tried to understand better and help address, particularly from a human point of view.  

Previously I worked at Virgin Management. Initially, I focused on a super niche Carbon Removal Innovation prize (called the Virgin Earth Challenge), which is where I met Samuel Gill, one of Sylvera’s co-founders. I then shifted to a role as Virgin Group Net Zero Manager. In this role, I worked with the different Virgin businesses to engage with sustainability issues, particularly decarbonization. I shifted my role to also look at how ESG factors could be considered earlier on in the investment process to better enable engagement on these issues. It gave me a really wide range of experience including getting involved in sustainable aviation fuels, protecting human rights in construction and supporting the emergency response to Hurricane Irma in Necker Island. 

At that point, Virgin was the only company I’d worked in and I wanted to challenge myself to work in a different environment. I wanted to try something that would stretch my abilities. I was grappling with this issue of helping investment and finance colleagues better integrate sustainability with financial and investment decision-making. Then a recruiter got in touch with me on LinkedIn about a new Sustainable Finance team that was being launched at EY. It honestly felt like fate.


Q: What are some opportunities and challenges you face in your sustainability role?

A: The biggest challenge is time. On the one hand, I want to have patience and let everyone go on their own journey, but I’ve been working on these issues for my whole career. None of this news is new. People have been working on climate and justice since before I was born and the climate and injustice wait for no (hu)man. The news gets bleaker every year and I just wish everything could move faster.

On the positive side, this position gives me the opportunity to focus more on the role of financial institutions in driving change. Before joining EY, I had zero consulting experience so imposter syndrome is my close companion. However, I had confidence in having been on the “other side of the table” and having the client perspective in mind has been valuable to my team.  I’ve been at EY a year and honestly, I feel more hopeful about the future. The financial sector is awake to these issues and we need diverse minds to bring solutions that link with the financial imperative. 


Q: What skills do you think are particularly vital for you in your sustainability role?

A: I’d say curiosity, empathy, tenacity and comfort in ambiguity. Most importantly, you need to have your own sense of purpose when pursuing these issues so that you can have the confidence to challenge non-experts who mean well. I’m an activist at heart but activism has very little place when you are actually inside “the room where it happens” (to quote the Hamilton musical). You need to bring objective, logical truth. The business case for ESG is there, we just need to bring those insights to decision-makers in their own language. People don’t need to care about climate or diversity or justice to make decisions that positively benefit the outcomes. I love the challenge of translating the issues into terms that suit the way people make decisions as opposed to convincing them to think like me.


Q: What other teams do you work with closely or rely on to be successful at EY?

A: I think this is probably my favorite thing about joining such a huge organization. There are so many interesting people with deep expertise on things I know nothing about. Internally at EY, I work with people in the Data and Tech teams, Strategy and Transactions teams as well as Corporate Governance and Regulations teams. 

With clients, I work with anyone who might be focusing on ESG, this might include anyone from analysts to CEOs. They might specialize in anything from deal teams, to investor relations to finance.


Q: What are some trends you’re seeing in the sustainability space?

A: Sustainability is going through such a massive shift at the moment so anything I’d say would probably sound super cliché. So instead, I’ll say that I think it will begin to get harder to ignore the social side of sustainability. It’s much harder to quantify and it requires much more sensitivity, but after so many humanitarian crises we’ll be forced to better contend with issues around forced migration, racial injustice and intersectional inclusion.  


Q: Who are your role models?

A: Some of my role models include: Christiana Figueres, Paul Hawken, Amina J Mohamed and Ibidun Adelekan.


Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of women+ starting their careers in this space?

A:  Fake it ‘till you make it is a lie they tell us to make us all the same. Find mentors and sponsors instead. Find people who you admire who care about your success, who can help you navigate your career and help you find your authentic voice.


Q: What can organizations do to hire, retain, promote and empower more women+ in the sustainability space?

A: Back up words with actions. Ask better questions about why good women and non-binary people leave. The answers are there. Also empower men and secondary parents to take parental leave.


Q: What do you think about the role of women+ in the sustainability sector and averting the climate crisis?

A: We need more consideration of climate justice and just transition in general. We also need more involvement of the people who are the most vulnerable to the climate crisis(often indigenous communities and women) in decision making, research and solution development around the climate crisis.

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