Hannah Whyte: The growing importance of gender diversity in sustainability
Hannah Whyte is a Green Analytics Executive in Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG). She speaks about her career journey, passion for helping to accelerate the green transition, and why gender diversity is an important consideration in Macquarie’s sustainability goals.
In 2020, Hannah Whyte joined Macquarie’s Edinburgh office, working across the Green Investment Group’s acquisitions and assets as a Green Analytics Executive.
Hannah sits in the green investment team of seven, who are collectively responsible for reviewing GIG’s transactions to ensure they meet at least one of five green purposes; reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing the efficient use of natural resources, protecting or enhancing the natural environment and biodiversity, and promoting environmental sustainability.
“I liaise with the deal team to complete the ‘green due diligence for each transaction,” Hannah explains. “We then compile a green opinion, to evidence the green purposes that the transaction contributes to and measure its green impact.”
“Our team has a rigorous methodology, grounded in hard facts and figures, which aims to prevent greenwashing, safeguard GIG’s reputation and provide confidence,” she says.
Hannah’s team also conducts annual green impact reporting on asset performance, as well as tracking sector developments such as supporting European Union Taxonomy for environmentally sustainable activities, and the rising demand for nature risk reporting globally.
“We aim for continuous improvement to ensure reporting is meaningful, science-based, realistic, and achievable.”
Gaining green experience
When Hannah joined GIG, she had seven years' experience in renewable infrastructure, predominantly wind farms. She was inspired to pursue a career working with sustainable assets after completing a module on environmental economics as part of her degree.
After undertaking an internship with a UK renewable trade association, she took on an operational role at a European energy company.
“I gained great insights starting my working life at an operations and maintenance base for a UK wind farm, supporting the site manager, and streamlining contracts.”
She spent a further couple of years in London, assessing the environmental impact of the company’s wind farm assets. In 2018, she moved to a more policy-focussed role working for the organisation responsible for managing the Scottish Crown Estate, working with assets from rural land to the seabed. There, she got a taste for natural capital projects, using nature-based solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
Accelerating the green transition
Over the years, Hannah kept an eye on the GIG and admired the way it was driving climate change goals by promoting green infrastructure.
“I decided to join Macquarie’s Green Investment Group because it offered me the chance to be part of the new private market shift to net zero and the ability to get involved in a wider range of green activities that contribute to a sustainable future, beyond my background in wind,” Hannah explains.
While Hannah has worked on offshore wind projects across the globe, she has also grown her knowledge in new infrastructure assets including GIG’s investment in the Hydrogen Chemistry Company (HyCC). HyCC uses water electrolysis to produce green hydrogen in the Netherlands, to help decarbonise large industries, including fuel and steel production.
Hannah says she enjoys the fast pace at Macquarie, as well as the insight she gains from working on the due diligence of new tech being brought under the Group’s brand. This covers everything from energy-efficient projects to batteries, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and waste treatment.
“While we have methodology to follow, new types of tech don’t always fit into the old assessment criteria, challenging us to innovate and adapt.”
Strength, change, and potential through diversity
“International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to reflect on the progress that’s been made to-date in terms of gender diversity in the workplace,” Hannah says. “It’s also a trigger to consider how more change and diversity can continue to move forward, in all aspects of life”.
Hannah says that while the operational side of green assets has historically been male-dominated, gender diversity is becoming increasingly important in sustainability from an equal opportunity perspective.
“Sustainability encompasses social, governance, and environmental aspects, and gender equality is an essential component of this. So, with the current emphasis on moving toward sustainable business practices, we should be seeing a shift to more diverse workplaces." This trend is also evoked by the United Nation’s theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
Hannah says both Macquarie and her team have a strong culture of diversity, and she’s always had, strong career mentors. However, early in her career, she witnessed first-hand the disparity in terms of female representation working on-site in renewables.
“We’re moving in the right direction when it comes to increasing gender diversity in the green energy sector,” Hannah explains.
She also says one of the highlights for her at Macquarie has been the sheer range of people she works with.
“I enjoy working with such a diverse group of people who have so much knowledge, and are truly valued in their field,” Hannah says.
“A diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, including that of women, leads to new ideas.”
Enacting change and creating new horizons
Hannah says that Macquarie’s ability to give investors a well-researched green evaluation of sustainable assets differentiates it in the marketplace. Her team also lends its specialist expertise across Macquarie businesses, including Macquarie Asset Management. In April 2022, the Green Investment Group will move to operate as a part of the Asset Management business.
Hannah says it is exciting working at the forefront of the action Macquarie is taking to mitigate and manage the impacts of climate change.
“The opportunities for, and within, the Group have been fantastic to date,” Hannah says. “Green Investment Group’s move to Macquarie Asset Management will amplify that impact and I want to be part of making that a reality.”