This International Women’s Day (IWD) and Women’s History Month, we’re sharing profiles of some of the outstanding sustainability leaders around the world. Read the profile of Julia Hand, VP of Ratings at Sylvera.
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 Sylvera.
A: I’m VP Ratings. I lead our Ratings team, which develops frameworks to assess various types of projects (i.e. REDD+, IFM, renewables, cookstoves, among others) and produces project-level ratings (AAA-D), which are incorporated into the in-depth assessments for every project on our platform.
What S&P and Moody’s credit ratings are to capital markets, Sylvera’s carbon credit ratings are to carbon markets.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about your background and why you chose to work in this space?
A: I studied environmental engineering and applied mathematics. While I knew I wanted to be in energy and natural resources, I got there by way of finance. I started off my career at J.P. Morgan in its Global Commodities Principal Investments team, where we focused on power and natural gas assets. Then I spent a few years consulting for the oil and gas industry at PFC Energy. After that, I went on to IHS Markit, starting as a Natural Resources Economist for a new product that valued all oil and gas assets worldwide (~25,000+ assets in total) and eventually becoming a Product Manager for a new product I spearheaded on negative emissions. When the Sylvera opportunity came about, it was too good to pass up.
Climate change has always captivated my attention. But I started to get sick of only hearing bad news related to it. A few years ago, I was reading an IPCC report and I was drawn to the negative emissions portion of the pathways chart. Because of my experience in commodities, I understood the negative emissions technologies, but I learned about the enormous and immediate potential nature-based solutions (NBS) could have. I immediately went down a rabbit hole to figure out the NBS space and stumbled upon the voluntary carbon market (VCM). The key issue I found to be plaguing the VCM was a lack of transparency into the efficacy of offset projects. Many big corporations were planning to start purchasing offsets as part of their net zero pledges and, given the lack of transparency and highly fragmented, unstructured data, I knew it’d be quite the challenge without new product offerings.
Q: What skills do you think are particularly vital for your role and team?
A: Individuals who are conscientious, open-minded, intellectually curious, analytical and solution-oriented thrive in my team. There isn’t a playbook for what we’re doing. It’s uncharted territory for all of us. So you need to be comfortable figuring things out as you go and, importantly, you need to be a team player.
Q: What other teams do you work closely with?
A: We work closely with a lot of teams across Sylvera.
- Machine Learning: this team builds our proprietary ML models, which are trained on EO data and biomass data collected in the field by our Multi-Scale Lidar team.
- Ratings Production: this team of analysts combines our proprietary data with project data provided by developers in order to rate offset projects and produce comprehensive reports for our platform.
- Sales Engineering: our team works closely with our Technical Climate Consultants to ensure they understand the complexities of our methodologies for every project type. Then they act as the translators and educators in discussions with prospects and customers, explaining our process and answering questions.
- Marketing: this team promotes our platform and explains how we produce our ratings in different contexts like on our website, social media and in collateral. I also work with PR on occasion when journalists have questions about specific projects or our methodologies in general.
Q: What are some trends you’re seeing in the sustainability space?
A: Companies are extremely focused on supporting the highest quality projects in the market and capital is being funneled to these outstanding projects. It is very exciting to help bring transparency to the market and see the effects of a virtuous cycle play out in the market.
There are a plethora of opportunities in the sustainability space beyond ratings offsets - from green bonds to tracking supply chain emissions - and the space is ripe for innovation and new products. It is extremely exciting to be able to contribute to such an important mission. There is no shortage of future work!