Profile: Van Lanschot Kempen’s Eszter Vitorino, a seasoned net zero whizz
Net Zero Investor sits down with Amsterdam-based Eszter Vitorino, part of Van Lanschot Kempen’s international sustainability team
Meet Eszter Vitorino, an Amsterdam-based economist who joined boutique firm Van Lanschot Kempen’s sustainability team in early 2019, with a focus on corporate governance issues.
Prior to working at Van Lanschot Kempen, Vitorino worked for nine years at the Global Reporting Initiative, the global standard setter for corporate sustainability reporting as Head of Capital Markets Engagement.
In this role she worked with stock exchanges and market regulators individually and through umbrella organisations, such as the World Federation of Exchanges or the International Organisation of Securities Commissions to advance sustainability reporting worldwide.
Vitorino was part of the EU Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, focusing on corporate disclosure recommendations. She holds a Master’s in Economics from the University of Economics in Prague and a Master in Political Science from the Free University of Amsterdam.
Net Zero Investor caught up with the seasoned standard setter.
Corporate governance is a hot topic in the sector at the moment. You joined Kempen's sustainability team in 2019 to focus exactly on those issues. What has changed or improved since you started?
Sustainability in the financial sector has become much more mainstream– thanks to broad commitment to the Paris Agreement, increased societal pressure, more effective regulation, and, most importantly, client demand. There is no one single factor driving change, but there is certainly an intentional move towards the financial industry taking greater responsibility for enabling sustainable outcomes.
What would you say is the biggest challenge currently for sustainability stakeholders?
As a result of the increased attention sustainable finance is enjoying, there are a various perspectives and scrutiny. Scrutiny can be constructive, helping us to stay on track or forcing us to improve, but there are complications around different interpretations in the market of what is sustainable and what is not.
A retail client may have less insight and higher expectations compared to an institutional one, or vice versa. Again, once the Sustainable Finance regulatory architecture is fully implemented, things may fall in their place. Let’s hope so!
Prior to working at Van Lanschot Kempen, you worked for nine years at the Global Reporting Initiative, the global standard setter for corporate sustainability reporting as Head of Capital Markets Engagement. In this role you worked with stock exchanges and market regulators. Do you feel there is a genuine will to introduce some proper regulation
Yes, stock exchanges and regulators are making good progress– not least due to the support and capacity offered by the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative and their partners. New listing requirements and reporting guidance are being published, covering new topics and asset classes.
Stock exchanges and market regulators are another set of key stakeholders setting the rules of the game of sustainable finance. Take, for example, IOSCO’s (International Organization for Securities Commissions) move in November 2022 to outline regulatory priorities for sustainability disclosures, mitigating greenwashing and promoting integrity in carbon markets. This was certainly not something you would have expected them to take a public stance on five years ago.
What should be the next step for asset owners, managers and investors when it comes to sustainability standards and regulation?
First, let’s wait for the dust to settle on the implementation of the EU Sustainable Finance regulatory framework. Going forward, asset owners and managers can deepen their collaboration on stewardship activities. In addition, they can jointly elevate their ambitions: to move from ‘do no harm’ to ‘do good’, to direct capital to positive outcomes together. In other words, I think they can move beyond focusing on complying with regulation and instead engage with regulators for the next phase of rulemaking.
Some investors and managers increasingly demand more detailed ESG data, so they can understand and monitor sustainability efforts better. Do you recognise that trend?
Yes, I am very familiar with this trend and can see its benefits, especially when it comes to providing concrete data to avoid greenwashing claims that undermine mutual trust. What I would say, though, is that not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters. One can receive a huge amount of data, but if the data is not used as insights on how investments are aligned with sustainability ambitions and targets, it’s not worth much. Having clear targets, be it on the Paris Alignment of portfolios, governance excellence, or creating more inclusive societies, is essential. Data needs to be used in service of reaching goals. Not the other way around!