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Grant Thornton Irish Funds Sustainathon 2020 - Our Journey

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

What was Grant Thornton Irish Funds Sustainathon 2020?

Sustainathon was an initiative put together by Irish Funds and Grant Thornton in the form of a competition to help the Irish Funds Industry as a collective play its part in tackling climate change. This initiative involved entrants from across The Irish Funds Industry working together to identify and propose solutions to the sustainability agenda. The proposed solutions could relate to product innovations, new platforms for engagement, corporate initiatives, use of technologies, or other ideas.

The initiative was centred around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the impact the Funds Industry could make towards achieving these goals. Participants were asked to identify and assess achievable and impactful measures that the Funds Industry could implement, to help realise the objectives of these goals.

In 2020, the focus was on Goals 7 and 13: Affordable and Clean Energy, and Climate Action.

How did it work?

Sustainathon was launched at an in-person event back in February 2020, with an initial 120 people from across various firms in the funds industry and various colleges signed up to participate. Participants were sorted into teams with the task of coming up with an idea that could be adopted by Irish Funds and rolled out across the industry towards achieving a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

14 entries were submitted, with over 40 companies and colleges represented. This was achieved in spite of the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges this presented.

The Sustainathon judging panel met over 2 days to review the entries. 4 submissions were shortlisted to pitch their ideas to the Dragons Den. The shortlisted entries were;

  • TreeFunder - A platform for companies in the Industry to consolidate Carbon Offset Contributions to ensure capital is efficiently deployed in the Irish forestry sector

  • The Green Boardroom - All regulated Irish Funds to commit to their boards being Paperless by the end of 2021. Establish a schools based Reforestation Initiative to offset the continued use of paper through partnership with the Tree Council of Ireland

  • Sustainable Qualification - Collaborate with an educational provider to create an Industry-wide Qualification in ESG and Sustainable Investing

  • The Green Team Network - Initiate a forum for Connecting and Empowering the Irish Funds industry firms and staff to support change towards a sustainable environment

The 4 finalists pitched their idea to the Sustainathon ‘Dragons’;

  • Pat Lardner – CEO of Irish Funds

  • Dawn Slevin - MD ELS Europe, Member EU Sustainable Finance TEG & EFRAG Task Force on reporting of non-financial risks & opportunities

  • Stephen Tennant – Head of Financial Services Advisory, Grant Thornton

Against the stiff competition, the Green Team Network was selected as the winner for the Grant Thornton Irish Funds Sustainathon 2020

Development of the Green Team Network Initiative

Aedín O'Leary Magdalena Supernat Suzanne Senior

As part of the Sustainathon process - Aedín, Magda and Suzanne were brought together as a team with no previous knowledge of each other.

Magda is Investment Services Manager at SS&C. She had the idea of transforming an empty terrace in the office building into an urban garden. Suzanne is Head of Fund Registrations & Listings at BlackRock and leads their Dublin Green Team. Aedín is an Independent Director and was approaching Sustainathon from an investment perspective, as she was dealing with clients looking to invest responsibly.

The team saw Sustainathon as an opportunity to learn more about sustainability, to connect with people in this space and make further impact. With the help of a mentor, Shona O’Hea from Grant Thornton, they brainstormed, carried out market research and ultimately came up with the 'Green Team Network' concept.

The below video gives a short overview of the initiative:

Following their success in Sustainathon 2020, the team were invited to present at the Irish Funds Conference in October 2020 and since that time have been working hard in the background in collaboration with Irish Funds and Grant Thornton to get the Green Team Network off the ground. The Green Team Network has now formed its Steering Committee (with representatives from 16 industry firms) and launched in earnest recently with its "Green Team Challenge" Social Media Campaign, which has received fantastic support from colleagues across the Irish Funds industry to date. More exciting news and events will follow in the coming days and weeks.

If you have any queries about the network or would like to get involved please contact the team at

Green Team Network Brochure_vF
Download PDF • 469KB

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