Patrina Effer shares the development of a new IFoA course on sustainability and climate risk
In October 2020, Louise Pryor (then IFoA president-elect) and a team of volunteers from the Sustainability Group came together for initial discussions about a course to support members’ lifelong learning in the area of sustainability and climate risk.
From this initial group, a small team was formed. Our volunteers had varying levels of experience, but all wanted to learn more – not just from the research they would be doing, but also from each other. Since October, the team has been developing the first five modules of the course. These have been piloted by a further group of actuaries, and we are now evaluating their feedback.
This is a course designed by members, for members. Our volunteers’ objective was that members who complete the course would understand:
- The main concepts of climate risk and sustainability that are relevant to actuaries
- How those concepts are relevant and what impact they might have on actuaries’ work
- How to apply these concepts in their work.
The course is both an enabler to stimulate interest and a potential platform for further study. Successful completion of the course will not make an actuary a climate risk or sustainability expert; however, it will help them understand some of the issues that will impact actuarial work.
The members contributing to this work come from diverse backgrounds, representative of the IFoA’s global membership; we asked them why they volunteered. Martin Hyland, one of our pilot volunteers, commented: “I think everyone needs to take action, at least in some small part, in order to tackle the environmental challenges we all face. I felt that this would be a good place to start. More generally, it is a chance to network, to gain new skills and enhance others, and to learn more on topics I am interested in.”
When developing and piloting the materials, what did the volunteers hope their fellow members would get out of sitting the course? Matthew Cann, who leads the Development Team, said: “This is a broad subject that touches on all aspects of actuarial work. For those who won’t have sat exams recently or who haven’t had the opportunity to work in this field yet, this course will give them a solid grounding and hopefully encourage further development opportunities and the chance to put what they learn into practice.”
“The course is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the physical and transitional aspects of climate risk and their effects on both the economy and global social inequality”
He went on to add that he also hoped it would provide members with “a better understanding of the issues, the effects if we fail to take action now, and the benefits that could be achieved if we do act today. I hope members will find it an engaging and informative course that will help them take a particular mindset into their daily lives, both in and out of work.”
Umeeta Luhano, one of our pilot reviewers, thought the course would be a great starting point for learning about basic concepts, as well as the impact of current regulation and financial disclosures regarding climate change. It also offered the opportunity to get involved in thought-provoking discussions about future solutions.
Perhaps an obvious question – why was the subject so important to them? Another pilot volunteer, Victoria Cornwall, said: “As the world changes, the actuarial profession and financial sector need to adapt – keeping pace with change or ideally using the sector’s significant influence to lead the charge.”
“Now more than ever is the time to take real concrete action,” added Martin Hyland. “We need those actions to be in line with what the science is telling us, and those actions need to happen today. Finance needs to drive the change in how business models operate and what their focus is on, and must realise the opportunities available, not just the risks. Actuaries are uniquely placed, as risk management professionals, to provide real value and impact as we move our economies and societies to a more sustainable future.”
The last word goes to pilot participant Eleanor Walker: “The course is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the physical and transitional aspects of climate risk and their effects on both the economy and global social inequality. If you are overwhelmed by the quantity of available information surrounding the topic, then the IFoA’s new course is a perfect place to start.”
The course is still under development; it is hoped that the first course for members will be later in the year.
To register your interest for the sustainability course and view our currently available resources on this subject, please visit bit.ly/3xQjhbY
Patrina Effer is the senior lifelong learning executive at the IFoA
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