Shaorui Zhang MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance 2020-21, student at Imperial College Business School

Programme: MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance

Nationality: Chinese

Education: BSc Environmental Science, University of Reading

Company and role secured after programme: Sustainable Debt Data Analyst, Climate Bonds Initiative

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

After my graduation from the University of Reading in 2017, I went back to China. For the first six months, I worked as an environmental impact analyst, doing onsite due diligence and lab analysis. Then I joined the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group working as a project manager. The most impactful work I was involved in was the amendment of China’s Green Bond Endorsed Project Catalogue, jointly published in April 2021, which essentially defined what sectors are eligible for green bond financing. Alongside that, I also did some domestic green bond verification and post-issuance impact disclosure.

Why did you decide to study an MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance at Imperial College Business School?

In order to reach climate targets set by the Paris Agreement, companies need to rethink their investment strategies so that they consider climate change’s physical risk on their tangible asset, transition risk on their business sector and reputation risk if they failed to act. If they can internalise the negative externality, companies and financial institutions will realise how urgent the issue is. Therefore, they need to be willing to act spontaneously. Better communication and capacity building will be needed to bridge the financing gap. The modules taught on the MSc Climate Change & Management programme will equip me with just the right tools and mindset to drive a positive transition.


What aspects of the programme do you enjoy the most?

I love the interdisciplinary nature of our programme. In the first term, we are equipped with the knowledge of climate change physical science and the foundations of financial and economic concepts. As the programme goes on, there is more emphasis on how those two aspects influence one another. And in our final term, we combine scientific knowledge with a practical approach.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

I feel strongly about climate change, and I feel it is essential that we scale up and promote emission reduction technology in a wide geographical location. We learned from the Mitigating Climate Change module that we can mitigate emission from both supply and demand sides. This could provide innovative solutions to the problems we face in regards to unlocking the potential of renewable energy. This is also useful in the workplace when deciding which projects to invest in as we understand the rationale behind each decision and the future outlook of each option.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?

The more I learn, the more I feel like climate change is a complex, interconnected political problem that involves multiple stakeholder engagement, changes in individual behaviour, social perception and technology advancement. We treat our atmosphere as an open sewer. This is the tragedy of the commons. I also learned to have a critical eye on our current policy/company commitment. ‘Net-zero’ and ‘carbon neutral’ doesn’t mean much if we only consider nature-based solutions but don’t reduce emissions in the first place.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?

Because of COVID, we haven’t been able to do many in-person lectures. Going to the library becomes a risky activity. However, Imperial does try their best to minimise the risk by having a one-way system and a free testing facility on campus for all students.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

We have the most amazing cohort coming from various backgrounds in management, business, finance, natural science, engineering, maths and the humanities, across 23 countries. Most of us had some work experiences prior to joining. We share experiences and learn from each other as well as from the lectures.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

We have a professor who is the lead author of the IPCC report. He brought us in-depth knowledge of international collaboration and mitigation pathways. We also have a professor who is the co-chair of COP26 Universities Network, a growing group of UK-based universities and research centres that aim to raise the ambitions of the COP26 Climate Change Conference. She invited external speakers from the Grantham Institute and many other organisations to speak on climate litigation, media engagement and biodiversity.


What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

We have an external speaker series every week. Inviting C-level speakers from the most renowned institutions in green finance. They bring us the most up-to-date market activities and insights from their extensive experiences. We are able to have a discussion after their presentation which I find invaluable.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

I attended a symposium hosted by Positive Investment Imperial. The panellist there started some interesting debates on our current practice, such as Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG). Does it actually bring additionality? Is it just a fancy method of stock selecting? I used to think ESG is the right way forward. Now I would recognise the limitations of ESG analysis and be cautious of green-washing and hopefully I could drive material changes.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?

Imperial has so many societies. There is a community for everyone. I joined FilmSoc and Sleep Society. Wait, what? Sleep Society. Yeah, I know it sounds odd. It’s a group of warm-hearted people trying to ensure you have a better sleeping quality through meditation, controlled breathing and sometimes they bring a physiotherapist in to lecture us.

Have you had opportunities to work/socialise with students across programmes within the Business School?

Imperial generously supports students with Starbucks vouchers to encourage us to meet someone from outside our programme. I had a coffee chat with someone from the MSc Finance & Accounting programme. It was great, we had a very pleasant one-hour, in-depth conversation about sustainability transitions and mergers and acquisitions. We added each other on LinkedIn, and I can see this is the beginning of a long-lasting friendship.

Our social rep also set up an informal networking session with the MSc Sustainable Energy Futures and MSc International Health Management cohorts.

How have you benefited from the Business School’s connection to the Imperial College London community, and the programmes connection to the Grantham Institute?

The Climate x Change society bring in external lecturers. Some of them are from the Grantham institute and some of them are the connections of Imperial College Business School. I managed to learn about interesting topics such as CCS power plants, tipping points and AI for sustainability.


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

My future career goal is to be in a place where I could deliver the most positive impact. Helping the world to embark on long-term sustainable development using finance as a tool. We had an MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance specialised career fair. It was great we get to speak to our targeted company.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

I have a job offer from Climate Bonds Initiative as a full-time Sustainable Debt Data Analyst. Our goal is to mobilise the bond market for climate change solutions. I will be conducting green, social and sustainability debt data analysis, producing reports and briefings and liaising with investors.

How did the services from Careers help you secure employment/in your professional development?

Careers provided feedback on my CV which I used for applications, and it got me many interviews. It was also super cool that Careers has a platform which uses AI to adjust our posture and intonation in preparation for our interview.

London Location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

Yes. UK and China are the pioneers in green finance development. During my work in Beijing, I built up some connections with organisations from UK and they are all based in London. With London being UK’s financial centre, most of the impactful work is done here. There are plenty of networking and career opportunities.

When you’re not studying, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy photography, reading, art history, playing squash and solving Rubik’s Cubes.

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London?

Securing a suitable place to rent at a reasonable price can be challenging, especially when you are not here. It would be good to know someone from Imperial who can give you suggestions on which website to look at or which area is the best.


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions?

I didn’t attend any of them as I had a full-time job when applying. But I did meet an MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance alumnus in a conference in Beijing. She helped me understand the recruitment process. I am willing to help prospective students if they have any questions related to the programme.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

The world is gradually recognising the impacts of climate change. Right now, with governments making commitments like the EU Green Deal, China announcing their target of being net-zero by 2060, the US rejoining the Paris Agreement, financial institutions incorporating ESG and climate sensitivity analysis in their investment decisions, and corporates setting their own sustainable strategies, climate finance definitely has a bright outlook with huge potential. My advice would be to know yourself, be confident, be ambitious with your career goals, do your research and understand the interconnectivity of the problem. Feel free to reach out to me through email or LinkedIn if you think I could help.

Interested in applying for a scholarship to this programme?

Programme: MSc Climate Change, Management & Finance

Nationality: Chinese

Education: BSc Environmental Science, University of Reading

Company and role secured after programme: Sustainable Debt Data Analyst, Climate Bonds Initiative