Tobi Petrocelli is Head of Sustainability & Transition Finance Strategy at MUFG Americas.
MUFG is Japan’s largest, and the world’s fourth largest, bank. With a strong global presence in over 50 countries and nearly 200,000 employees, MUFG is committed to sustainability and the transition to a net zero economy. MFUG is one of the largest project financiers in the world.
I recently interviewed Tobi about her work.
In this article, we highlight some of Tobi’s insights into the world of funding the transition to a net zero economy, her lifelong passion for sustainability, and the ways in which she has engaged colleagues across the bank, unleashing their skills and energy in support of sustainability.
I encourage you to listen to the interview, in the podcast episode above, to get a much more detailed picture – and to be inspired by Tobi’s energy and commitment.
Commitment to Sustainability and Transition Finance
At MUFG, sustainability is a core pillar of operations. Tobi Petrocelli, as the head of sustainability strategy in the Americas, based in New York, plays a crucial role in overseeing sustainability initiatives. Her responsibilities include climate risk management, carbon reduction efforts, and ensuring compliance with relevant sustainability metrics and frameworks.
One of the key areas of focus is sustainable finance. MUFG has committed to investing over $330 billion directly into sustainable finance by 2030, equivalent to approximately 35 trillion yen. This commitment demonstrates the bank’s dedication to fulfilling market demand and actively seeking out deals and opportunities to support sustainable initiatives.
Exciting Developments in Sustainability
Tobi highlights a proposal by the SEC in the US to mandate climate-related financial risk disclosures to further enhance transparency and accountability in corporate sustainability efforts.
“The most exciting aspect we’ve seen in ESG. Point blank. I mean, it is a hard stop for all corporate entities now to pick up and run with that disclosure regimen.”
Tobi emphasizes the significance of these developments as they set clear requirements for corporations to disclose their ESG efforts, including Scope 3 emissions. This transparency drives positive change and enables better-informed decision-making.
Stakeholder Engagement and Driving Sustainable Business Momentum
Tobi Petrocelli takes pride in stakeholder engagement and the shift from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism. At MUFG, they actively involve NGOs, shareholders, executive committees, employees, communities, and clients in their sustainable business initiatives. Tobi highlights the importance of client engagement, including major players in the oil and gas, power and utilities, and renewable energy sectors.
MUFG adheres to the Equator Principles for projects over $50 million, ensuring due diligence. They actively participate in clients’ materiality assessments, advocating for transition strategies, climate risk management, and disclosure practices.
A Journey Driven by Passion for Sustainability
Tobi Petrocelli’s journey towards sustainability began with a focus on building passive homes and renewable technologies. With a background in real estate and electrical contracting, Tobi understood the game-changing potential of renewable energy. As she witnessed the positive impact of renewable energy in projects like solar panel installations in New York City, she realized the transformative power of sustainable energy sources.
Recognizing the importance of influencing policy decisions, Tobi pursued a master’s program in sustainable development at Columbia University. Throughout her career, she has observed how politicians and policy changes significantly impact the sustainability landscape.
Tapping into Passion for Sustainability
Tobi talks about the importance of tapping into colleagues’ interest and passion for sustainability. For example, she is working with the data office to develop a data aggregation tool that utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning. The tool aims to extract relevant information from public documents pertaining to a specific corporation and organize it using a standardized template to collate all the bank’s financed emissions – i.e. their clients’ scope one and two emissions, and also their ESG activities.
“Taking the passion from our chief data office today and including that into the tech build that we’re working on has been an incredible driver and they’ve really been a champion for us in building what we need.”
Tobi feared they might view it as an additional burden or find it too challenging to implement due to budget limitations. However, to Tobi’s surprise, the chief data office has shown a high level of interest in the topic and become a champion for the project.
Tobi also discovered a real interest from colleagues across the bank when she attended COP27 in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt last year. She posted a daily blog about her participation on the intranet and received a flood of messages from internal employees showing interest in her work on sustainability. Many wanted to follow up on various topics and arrange meetings for future collaborations.
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Why sustainability matters to Tobi
Tobi, a New York native, has witnessed two sides of the business world: those solely driven by profit and those focused on making a positive impact. Growing consumer preferences have become a driving force for companies to adopt sustainable practices, considering factors like carbon footprint, supply chain transparency, and human rights.
Tobi wanted to be part of the narrative that creates a sustainable world, not just pursuing revenue without regard for communities or employees. She believes in embedding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into corporate reporting and has pursued academic research to advocate for their inclusion. Tobi’s current role allows her to make lending decisions based on sustainable practices, contributing to a more sustainable future.
Are you struggling to engage colleagues with sustainability? There is a way to turn your colleagues’ disinterest or grudging acceptance into active collaboration and support for your organisation’s sustainability initiative.
We’ve distilled 20+ years experience into five key steps in our Get Buy-In to Sustainability Quick Start Guide:
Osbert Lancaster, director, Realise Earth
Tobi recommends exploring the works of John Doerr. Doerr has a background in private equity and venture capital, and has collaborated closely with numerous remarkable companies, offering capital allocation and strategic partnership expertise. Tobi suggests searching for John Doerr online to delve into his most recent publications.
She specifically mentions “Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now” published recently, which focuses on the sustainability roadmap.
Tobi finds Doerr’s perspective fascinating because it comes from practical experience as a practitioner. While academia provides valuable insights, Doerr’s firsthand experiences with innovative companies and their journeys towards sustainability are truly inspiring.
Next: Insights and opportunities
In the next episode, I get together with my colleague Morag Watson, to discuss the interview, reflect on what we’ve heard, and to draw out insights, practical approaches and techniques that you can apply in your work. Read or listen here…