The path to Sustainable Trading: Making a difference in an uncertain world

By Duncan Higgins, Founder and CEO, Sustainable Trading

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.


Looking back at the extreme weather events witnessed in 2022 – with record temperatures, drought, forest fires and devastating flooding – many of us, as individuals and as business leaders, are pondering once again what we can do to play our part. With COP27 upon us, the problem is front of mind for all of us involved in the environmental debate. Climate change is such a vast challenge that at times, inevitably, we all doubt our ability to make a meaningful difference.

Running an organisation like Sustainable Trading is my attempt to take positive action for environmental, social and governance change and, in doing so, create knock-on effects that reverberate across the financial markets’ trading ecosystem and further afield.

However, in doing so, it is clear there are many unknowns. Will the industry adapt in time to deliver meaningful change? Will the goals we have set for ourselves be relevant? Will a major technology or other ‘black swan’ event come along that makes an organisation such as ours redundant? As I go about my work, from time to time, these doubts circle.

The questions that most people involved in working around environmental and social change might ask themselves are: can I really make a difference? Is what I am doing enough? And, as an organisation, how quickly can Sustainable Trading deliver on its commitments, given all the challenges of working with multiple firms in a highly competitive and regulated industry?


Keep on moving forward

Some of the key questions I am often asked by firms about ESG include “what difference will my, or my business’s, actions make. Surely it won’t make any impact in the bigger scheme of things?”, But that doesn’t mean we should not try. All industry segments, including financial services, are contributing to climate change.  So it’s reasonable and necessary that firms across the board take responsibility and accountability for action for change to support climate change goals.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “you have to keep moving forward”. By questioning ourselves and our behaviours, and by being a force for change to galvanise others, we are already doing something important. If we’re effective, we can set off a chain of events that might even be fundamental in the overall scheme of change being made on a global scale.

Importantly, no one can do this alone. If firms are motivated to create change but have doubts about the right way to achieve it, Sustainable Trading has an important role in providing a home for those organisations. We can build trust by showing that we share those doubts, but we also have plans in place which we believe can make a genuine difference and by acknowledging that we want to work together to create concrete action and change.

For those individuals and firms who are more sceptical, Sustainable Trading and its members want to help them find motivation to change. If all those who we work with speak to their networks, and their friends and family too, a ripple effect may influence them also. Sustainable Trading could be the starting point for major change because of that influence through all the different people who get involved, who talk about it, who then go on to shift what’s happening in many aspects of their personal and professional lives. Ultimately, we are creating a movement.


Public awareness and understanding are vital in our response to climate change.


Climate knows no borders or boundaries. It’s not for somebody else or another country to fix.  None of us can be complacent about our respective country’s or industry’s ‘ranking’ in the climate change contribution sweepstakes.

Those already recognising the impact of climate change need to make sure that people understand that global warming is truly happening, that it is largely human-caused, and that it poses a serious risk to human societies and natural ecosystems. We need to shift our attention to the tangible benefits of net zero carbon emissions, such as better air quality, societal improvements, economic growth, job creation, and, importantly, the practical changes we can take to reduce our impact.

The time for action is now. Industry and society can’t wait until we are near to the next key date of 2030 to get ourselves into gear, or live in hope that the problem will somehow resolve itself by the 2050 net zero target date.

Despite our very human doubts about the impact we can have, we all have our part to play in supporting net zero targets and contributing to other climate-saving and environment-protecting goals.  How will you keep moving forward?


 “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step.” – Naeem Callaway