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Media Interview with Natalie Kenway, global head of ESG insight at Last Word Media

ESG Clarity Natalie Kenway

It’s often joked that if you put ten economists into a room you end up with 11 different opinions. In their defence, predicting the future isn’t easy and global events have a nasty habit of superseding even the most cautious of forecasts.

The unpredictability and ever-changing narrative of international economics makes finance one of the richest and most challenging areas of journalism to work in. Natalie Kenway has spent the past 15 years reporting on the sector through periods of recession, housing bubbles and now a global pandemic.

Spending most of her career so far at Investment Week where she ended up as acting editor, she is now global head of ESG insight at Last Word Media – placing her at the forefront of this increasingly relevant sector.

Tell us a bit about ESG Clarity – what are the aims and what topics do you cover?

ESG Clarity is the leading trade publication for fund selectors and buyers with an interest in investing responsibly, from financial advisers through to asset owners. This fast-evolving and relatively immature part of the investment space is becoming a minefield of new terminology, frameworks and data. We are helping investors get to grips with those and understand what is next in store for this increasingly important way of investing.

We deliver news, analysis, expert insights, profiles and data through our editorial website, digital magazine, video interviews, social media initiatives, events, our educational hub ESG Clarity Intelligence and our podcast ESG Out Loud.

What do you love most about your subject?

What I have loved is seeing the evolution in the investment space in their thinking around responsible investment. When I first started at ESG Clarity in February 2020, interest in responsible investing had been gaining traction but there were still a lot of sceptics. When the pandemic hit, this accelerated as investors realised sustainable businesses are head and shoulders above the rest in terms in of their resilience. Companies embracing ESG are future-proofing their businesses.

So, seeing the industry move from ‘let’s dip our toes in’ to ‘we need to fully embrace this’ has been fascinating – and has made my job much easier in terms of finding people to speak to!

Another aspect, which I am very grateful for, is access to experts such as those working for the United Nations Capital Development Fund, which ESG Clarity has partnered with on many initiatives, who can give us on-the-ground insights on the impact of climate change and societal challenges. Also, the authors and academics we have spoken to that are teaching the next generation how important green finance and investing is. It has been fascinating to get their views first-hand and share these with our readers.

What have been the main challenges for you and your team while working throughout the pandemic?

As mentioned, I joined in February 2020 and just over a month later we all moved to work from home. I still haven’t met many of my colleagues face-to-face, but I feel like I know them very well as we speak every day on Teams.

We have achieved so much since the pandemic hit, I am truly proud of the team and the collaboration we have had to put our plans into fruition – despite the pandemic!

We have launched a digital magazine, revamped the website, introduced a new video series and a podcast, worked with academics and industry experts to connect them with our readers via social media, collaborated with various networks, launched a Campaign for Better Governance with our Bonhill sister titles, held virtual events including ESG Pathway and our inaugural Global ESG Summit, launched the Responsible Ratings Index giving readers a one-stop shop for sustainable fund ratings… oh, and expanded into Asia and the US!

I think the most difficult time was the lead-up to the Summit. The time differences for the teams was obviously tricky and how the industries operate differently in the regions made it challenging to pull it all together – but we did and had excellent feedback from delegates, speakers and sponsors. We are planning another Global ESG Summit for December to break down COP26 and the path to net zero for our readers. 

How did you originally get into journalism?

I studied a Journalism HND at the London College of Printing – now the University of Arts, London – in Clerkenwell, which funnily enough is near where our office is located now.

After leaving uni, like so many I struggled to get that first break in journalism and worked in Topshop for a year… I nearly joined the management course there and gave up on my writing career, but I was offered an interview for editorial assistant in the insurance division at Incisive Media and got the job! I am so thankful to John Hedges who gave me that opportunity as he knew that it would open doors for me, and it did. Within six months I had moved across to Investment Week as junior reporter.

I spent most of the next 14 years at IW (albeit a short stint at Fund Strategy and some extended maternity leave), a job I loved and thoroughly enjoyed. But all good things come to an end, and I left as I was ready for a fresh challenge.

What do you think will be the long-lasting impacts of the last year on journalism and publishing?

I really hope there is no pressure to be in the office full-time after this – but that applies to all sectors, not just media.

I feel quite sad writing this but through conversations with family and friends it is clear their skepticism towards the media is extreme; they have learned to not take everything they read in the ‘news’ as 100% accurate and looking at some headlines around COVID-19, they most definitely shouldn’t. ‘Fake news’ is not new, but it has been ever so more prevalent since the pandemic hit; people don’t know what to believe anymore.

Have to say, this doesn’t really apply to the trades!

What media have you been seeking out yourself throughout the pandemic?

I subscribed to The Economist but have since unsubscribed as I felt it got very samey.

I have also been keeping on top of ESG developments in Asia and US via the ESG Clarity brands there and InvestmentNews in the US and Fund Selector Asia. It is interesting to see the other regions follow the path of Europe in adoption and integration of ESG. In Asia, it has really exploded recently.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given/would give you others?

My first editor Kira Nickerson told me to never be afraid to ask questions. I say this to any of our new reporters and still tell myself it sometimes. I remember sitting around a table with lots of other experienced journalists at the start of my career being so afraid to speak up.

It’s only when I did that I started to get the better stories, the ones that are most read and receive amazing feedback.

That moment of shyness and nerves is worth overcoming for that!

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