10 Years of CWR: Debra Tan Reflects On The Last Decade

By Debra Tan 27 October, 2021

CWR's founder Tan reflects on the surprises & disappointments in 'reaching for the sky' in her decade-long journey with CWR

Worry over melting glaciers & its impacts on 10 rivers that provide water to 1 in 2 Asians prompted me to work on water risks in Asia; but lack of funds narrowed work to China first. Surreal wins over the years, with direct policy impact
A small but diverse, energetic and driven team that was not afraid to fail is the key to CWR’s success delivering high-level impact from central banks, TCFD, CDSB to global roadshows with funds managing AUM of US$8trn+
Coastal threats brought eco-anxiety forcing a push to prioritise adaptation. Expansion to empower youths & the arts ensued because knowing you can make a difference mattered. With risks advancing, stay agile & be prepared for the worst

I cannot believe I have been steering CWR for a decade; and what a decade it has been. We went from near zero appreciation of water risks with climate change skirting the fringes of finance and business to heightened awareness and the mainstreaming of water & climate risks.

I suppose the thing to do at a 10 year anniversary is to trot out a list of CWR’s achievements but that seems rather contrived. Instead, I thought I will reflect on the surprises and disappointments in “reaching for the sky”.

Aim high! Let’s try change the global financial system from HK

“Aiming high” is part of the DNA of any investment banker so when I was tasked to find a path forward in raising awareness about water risk to businesses and investors back in 2010, I naturally thought why stop there … let’s try to mainstream water risks by embedding them into financial valuations because if risks were priced properly, markets will drive capital flow to responsible users.

The cynical ex-banker in me knew that most investors will only look at the real P&L…

…so we had to get water risks embedded in it

To be clear, we were not after natural capital accounting which was all the rage at the time with Puma just releasing the first ever Environmental P&L taking into account environmental costs in 2011. While this was lauded by the NGO community, the cynical ex-banker in me knew that most investors will only look at the real P&L. So we had to get water risks embedded in the “real P&L” and not an alternate reality “Environmental P&L”. Easy right?

We wanted an all-change in global financial systems from the start. And we hoped that governments understanding the financial and socio-economic implications water risks would then act to address them accordingly … ta-da … Asia’s water challenges solved.

Not enough money so scaled down from Asia Water Risk to China Water Risk

That was the grand ‘theory of change’ but since Asia was too big and the budget too small, Asia was changed to just China. And because a global all-change in systems was too “out there” we opted for an easier to understand an investment and corporate universe that understands and responds to the inherent environmental and business risks from of China’s water crisis

Back then when I started in the environmental space, some of my banking friends had visions of me chained to trees…

Today, green/sustainable finance, ESG/responsible investing, TCFD are all hot topics but back then, some of my banking friends had visions of me chained to trees when I said I was going to work in the environmental space. There were also a lot of blank faces as there was no appreciation of how water or climate risks will affect the financial system.

There were also other pre-conceptions to deal with: a water NGO typically brings to mind digging wells and providing toilets whereas this was something completely different. This influenced the naming of “China Water Risk” – no one asked me if we were building toilets or digging wells after that.

It was an uphill and rocky start for sure.

What we thought was a faint possibility then, is very possible today

I knew there was a financial case for water risks; I thought they would be embedded ~2030… we’re ahead of schedule

I knew after carrying out some un-siloing scoping analysis for impacts across water, climate, economy and finance that there was a financial case for water risks; and that it would be embedded someday. I had thought that someday would be around 2030 but we are now 10 years ahead of schedule. Globally, we are not there yet … but momentum is strong.

I would like to think that’s because we did a fabulous job but it is also because impacts have accelerated. This year of extreme events made water risks clear for all to see – from the epic floods and droughts to extended fire seasons due to the lack of rain and over-extraction of water as well as the polar vortex causing water pipes to freeze – there is no escape.

… & the latest IPCC AR6 wiped any doubts: water is how we will feel climate change & code red has been declared

Any doubts were wiped out by the latest IPCC AR6 – water is how we will feel climate change and code red has been declared. Today, we cannot talk about climate change without water; and we cannot talk about water without climate change – a far cry from the early days of unpacking the financial implications of the water-energy-climate nexus.

Here, I’d like to thank HSBC. Not just for giving CWR the opportunity to collaborate on its first-ever report with a bank in 2012No Water, No Power – Can China fuel its power expansion with limited water resources?”, but for having the foresight to host a half-day event for investors & corporates to discuss managing & investing in water risks back exactly 10 years ago on 27 October 2011 when CWR’s online resource was launched.

Many things have happened in the financial space since then that I never thought in my wildest dreams CWR could be part of/ influence when we started out. Here are a few:

  • The existence of NGFS and its mission to assess environmental risk is testament to the recognition that water & climate risks could trigger systemic shocks. Founded in 2017 by nine founding central banks and supervisors, the group has ballooned to 95 members. But I remember the early pre-launch days led by the Bank of England (BOE) and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) when CWR, invited by Ma Jun to be part of China’s ERA Task Force, would participate in discussions as how to value water risks. On a personal front, I’d never thought that I’d sit on panel discussions in Beijing moderated by the BOE or be told that my comments will be tabled at the next meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors. But it’s not just me … check out ex-staff Hubert reminiscing on presenting at the PBOC and current CWR’s finance lead Dharisha thoughts on effecting change with banks & central banks.

  • Playing a role in standard setting with TCFD, CDP, SBTN & CDSB. Global water & climate disclosure has progressed in leaps and bounds since we first started out. On this front we are lucky to have been guided by our advisor, Guo Peiyuan who has tirelessly worked to improve disclosure in China. On the global front, we are glad to see the financial sector lead with TCFD to improve and increase reporting of climate-related financial information plus climate standard setting by CDSB. Here, we are pleased to see our global ambitions realized: directly working with/advising CDP, SBTN & CDSB. Indeed, the just released CDSB framework for water-related disclosures recommends CWR’s work as useful resources for valuing freshwater risks as well as coastal threats. Plus you can also find Dharisha’s recent water risk tutorial featured on TCFD’s knowledge portal. I’d say that’s pretty good global reach and action for a small team based out of Hong Kong.
  • Global investor roadshows, conferences & one-on-ones. I thought these were a vestige of my past as an investment banker but I think I did more of these at CWR. Water risks differed by sector so to educate the financial space about water risks, we’d write sectoral research for various banks and ensuing roadshows and one-on-ones were de rigueur. Year on year engagement with funds with US$8trn+ of AUM also provided good feedback – a memorable win was being told by a fund that it managed to push through a sell down of its coal holdings off the back of a 2013 coal & water risk report we co-authored with CLSA. Between these and water/sector conferences, we did travel the world (physically & virtually) spreading the water & climate risk message – for an idea of where we went, check out this world map.

No one knows everything! With fast-evolving climate risks everyone experiences imposter syndrome

Dealing with finance was easy but finding a foothold in the water and science space, now that was scary. Talking in big financial conferences would not faze me but imposter syndrome pervaded whenever I gave a talk to scientists/ professors/ water experts – what could CWR bring to the table on water & climate that they didn’t already know?

But I then realized that that we operated in an unsilo-ed space – no one person had all the knowledge. I understood finance but was just starting to learn about water/climate whereas they were sitting on top of a mountain of environmental knowledge but had little insights into finance.

We were delighted to have been accepted by the water community…

…our first report with our own name in 2015 was showcased by Water International

We were delighted to have been accepted by the water community and are grateful to the experts who sat with us to explain the complex and interlinked challenges related to water. I remembered how elated the team felt when the first report CWR put out in its own name – “Toward a water & energy secure China in 2015 was showcased by Water International, a top water journal. It was also an honour to have been invited to share our views on water and power at the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize Seminar with water laureates and the then head of the IEA.

Today, we are very privileged to have Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada – two global water gurus who together have advised more than 20 governments on CWR’s advisory committee. They not only bring a wealth of knowledge but also open many doors.

We will all have to collaborate to face future risks – multiple skill sets are needed

No one person had/has the right skill set to deal with the water and climate risks we are now facing. We will all have to collaborate to face future risks. This is important – now more than ever as the worst is yet to come and we will need multiple skill sets to navigate imminent threats ahead toward a soft landing. This brings me to the CWR team …

CWR is where it is today because of the team

Because no one had the right skill set, the CWR team has always hailed from diverse backgrounds – finance, economics, hydrology, energy, climate, geography, politics, biochemistry, sustainability to journalism. Together, the current team of seven full time staff speak six languages and three Chinese dialects.

It’s not just the current team but past members too that have helped build CWR. A BIG THANK YOU to all of you and to all our interns and volunteers. CWR would never have come so far without all of you and your hard work.

Looking back to the launch in 2011, I needed a counterpart who understood the environment. Enter Mark who moved from London to join CWR in 2012; Mark’s now the sustainability manager at John Swire & Sons – see what he has to say about his time at CWR here.

Then came Dawn and Feng; each made serious contributions to CWR’s brand. Feng had a hydrology background; Dawn finance but they’d both quit their jobs (TUV and Goldman Sachs) to join CWR – they evidently wanted to make a difference!

Large MNCs have flown Dawn to help them strategize circular economy & Feng ended up collaborating with MEP-FECO

Dawn wanted to change the way corporates worked and she is doing just that today leading CWR’s work on Business Unusual – large MNCs have flown her half way across the world to help them strategize circular economy and their water strategies. And who knew Feng would end up leading CWR’s waternomic work be it collaborating with MEP-FECO on Yangtze waternomics or espousing the topic at the World Water Congress in Cancun.

But it was not just a one way flow from finance into the water space: Feng has now ended up working in sustainable finance at a major bank. Even Hubert, who joined as an energy expert to help cement our work in the water-energy-climate nexus ended up engaging with the financial sector during his time at CWR. As did Hongqiao, an award winning journalist we collaborated with closely on safe drinking waterbottled water and rare earths – she did a stint at an investment bank. Yuanchao Xu, another hydrologist who currently leads CWR’s Regulations & Development has a CFA.

“Multi-career transitions” of the staff reflect the cross-cutting nature of CWR

I’d like to think these “multi-career transitions” reflect the cross-cutting nature of CWR but there’s also the speedy embrace of green finance by banks driving the pace of unsiloing. Regardless, it’s so good to see each of the team members grow and evolve.

We are not afraid to fail!

If you had nothing to lose, you’d always aim for the sky. There is truth to this as I found when trying to curate the “right team”. CWR was trying to beat new unsiloed paths back then and I wanted to surround myself with those who knew all about the environment. But many with 10 years+ of experience were resistant to change. Jaded, they thought that changing the financial systems was too hard and they did not want to fail trying.

We were not afraid of being small, we were ambitious & believed we can make a difference

So I ended up hiring a young team for the first half of CWR’s decade. They joined CWR in their 20’s; not afraid to try something new. But no matter how diverse the team, they all have one thing in common – they are passionate about making a difference. The “secret sauce” was they all believed they can. Like Feng said, “we were not afraid of being small and we were a bit idealistic”.

We managed to pull off all sorts of things that were never done before.

New frontiers pushed us to innovate … strategic moves paid off with wins outside of finance

The water risk space was pretty much a blank canvas back then. To populate it we would work with global think tanks to “translate” their work into finance speak. I remember WRI had just developed Aqueduct maps in 2010 and we worked with the original developers to make the China maps useful for the financial community; Dr. Lijin Zhong, instrumental to WRI China’s water programme at the time, is now CWR’s adviser.

We even made up words like “waternomics” in 2015 to get across to policy makers…

…this term is now included in journals and recognized globally

We even made up words like “waternomics” in 2015 to get across to policy makers that they needed to wed economic planning with water management in Asia as we had limited water resources. This term is now included in journals and recognized globally; I even ended up writing a chapter on Using Waternomics to Develop & Avoid Systemic Shocks to the Economy for a Springer Nature Book on Water Security & Climate Change which will be officially launched in Glasgow tomorrow by Scotland’s Net Zero Minister ahead of COP26 to underscore the vulnerability of water resources to climate change. If you are interested and in Glasgow, I will be discussing Asia’s challenges this Friday.

On pollution, which was then rampant in China, we are pleased to have China’s environmental hero Ma Jun, the founder of IPE, shepherd us. As part of our contribution to China’s war on pollution, CWR tackled tough topics like toxic rare earths with Hongqiao and managed to get institutional investors to urge UNPRI to place rare earths as emerging risks alongside cyber security and antibiotics in 2016.

We placed rare earth as an emerging risk with UNPRI + our “toxic phone” report with CLSA led to calls to go circular…

…Apple announced they’d recycle rare earths in 2019

Woody who joined CWR in 2016, carried on the research after Hongqiao left. Woody’s contributions helped highlight rare earth implications for the smartphone sector. Ensuing investor roadshows with CLSA in 2017 and 2018 led to urgent calls to recycle these minerals. Apple announced they’d recycle rare earth materials in 2019. Although no longer with CWR, it’s good to see Woody and Hongqiao still striving to make a difference – Woody as the sustainability manager at foodpanda HK and Hongqiao as the China specialist at Carbon Brief – check out Woody’s journey here and Hongqiao’s here.

CWR was nominated for a global leadership in sustainable apparel award alongside Levi’s in 2015

Fashion was another area CWR was heavily involved in since 2011 as it was both dirty and thirsty plus wasteful with an urgent need to go circular. While it is hard to gauge exactly how much CWR contributed to circular fashion, we can at least say our efforts have been recognized – China’s MEP invited us to be part of its Clean Pollution Initiative in 2014 and the fashion industry itself nominated CWR for a global leadership in sustainable apparel award alongside Levi’s in 2015. Recently, Dawn helped the Business of Fashion build the first ever sustainability index – hear from Dawn herself on her 8 years at CWR.

Patience is a must but know where you are going!

Working in the water & climate space is hard! Much harder than working in finance. Everything is interlinked and we have to be careful that we haven’t unintentionally started another problem. I use to think M&A deals take long to close but they were a mere scratch in time; climate impacts operate on another scale. Extreme patience is a must but don’t lose sight of where you are going.

I started CWR because I wanted to highlight the risk to Asians of accelerated glacier melt in Asia’s water towers – the Hindu Kush Himalayas

Many may not be aware but I started CWR because I wanted to highlight the risk to Asians of accelerated glacier melt in Asia’s water towers – the Hindu Kush Himalayas. How could I not worry when almost one in two Asians rely on water from 10 major rivers that flow from the HKH? But even then it took me three years after launching CWR to finally go and visit the headwaters of some of these rivers. Now, thanks to my trekking partner Jeff Fuchs (without whom I would have never been able to get to any of these places) I have now waddled up glaciers on multiple expeditions including the very scary experience of camping on Bara Shigri Glacier.

Spending up to a month in the mountains every year since 2015 except since COVID provides sobering perspectives on vanishing ice. Glaciers in Asia are in a sad state and across multiple remote villages, villagers recount water challenges. Worse still, climate change is accelerating the risks from glacial lake outbursts to devastating cloudbursts. Seeing and feeling our vanishing ice firmed the resolve to take action … How can we make bigger cities downstream aware of their plight?

With Beautiful China underway, it was time to expand CWR’s focus to Asia …

By 2017, China’s war on pollution was well on the way as was the concept of Beautiful China. There was also no doubt in our minds that President Xi would resolutely lead China to an ecological civilization; it was only a matter of time. CWR’s time would thus be better spent on Asia’s water challenges whilst leveraging successful solutions from river chiefs, water rights trading, eco-compensation schemes to sponge cities piloted by China along its rivers.

CWR started work with CAS on the waternomics of 10 river basins in late 2016 but didn’t published till 2018… the financial sector needed to be ready

So, in late 2016, CWR started working with the Chinese Academy of Science to estimate the GDP generated on the river basins as well as the river flows under various climate scenarios to tell a waternomic story. But it wasn’t until 2018 that this work was published – that’s a good seven years after the launch of CWR. Why? Because the financial sector needed to be ready – timing was key.

With the launch of NGFS in late 2017, the time was as right as it’d ever be. Being patient paid off: No Water No Growth – Does Asia have enough water to develop? prompted global credit rating agencies and insurers to acknowledge that river basin risks mattered and could impact sovereign credit ratings. The report also led to surreal moments like sitting on a panel with a minister from Afghanistan, senator from Pakistan and other representatives from India, Bhutan and Nepal.

In 2018 we also rebranded China Water Risk to CWR & officially expanded our coverage from just China to Asia

We also leveraged the report launch in 2018 to rebranded China Water Risk to CWR and officially expanded our coverage from just China to Asia. The team also evolved with the addition of Dharisha and CT in 2018; Ronald in 2019 and Soomin this year. We also forged a closer alliance to expand water stewardship through Zhenzhen Xu.

With freshwater risks now firmly embedded in finance plus waternomic policies trialed in river basins, we turned to another mammoth task – plugging gaps in chronic risks presented by coastal threats in Asia Pacific.

Coastal threats and getting depressed about locked-in multi-meter sea level rise

COVID-19 offered us the opportunity to get our heads down to do some serious work on assessing APAC coastal threats. Led by Dharisha, we came out with a comprehensive 5-report series on surviving Atlantis for 20 major cities. While the feedback has been rewarding, I am not sure if I would ever attempt to publish 5 reports at the same time ever again!

In 2019, we started working on coastal threats in the GBA…

In 2020, we expanded to benchmark risks from coastal threats for 20 APAC cities with the launch of CWR APACCT 20 Index

We‘d actually started working on coastal threats in 2019 in the Greater Bay Area. Given the positive response from corporates and the financial sector, we expanded this work to try and benchmark risks from coastal threats for 20 APAC cities. The result was the CWR APACCT 20 Index. On this front, we would like to say a big thank you to those from the financial sector that have helped us build this. In truth, there were so many people (not just those in the financial sector) who have helped us along the way in driving freshwater and salt water risks and I am sorry that I cannot name all of you here but you know who you are; know that we are forever grateful.

A wave of depression hit due to grim polar news…

…there’s NOTHING we can do to stop our seas from warming/rising; we can only slow them down

And then it hit – a wave of depression. Freshwater challenges were huge but there was progress – water was getting cleaner, better managed and so on – they could be resolved. But as we dived deeper into rising seas, we literally sank into sadness about the state of our oceans – there’s NOTHING we can do to stop our seas from warming or rising – even if we were net zero tomorrow – these impacts are “virtually certain” to continue. Unfortunately, we’re already past certain tipping points and impacts are now “locked-in”; we can only slow them down.

Worse still, at the rate we were going with emissions, locked-in multi-meter sea level rise (SLR) which we thought would not happen until a few hundred years’ time is now plausible by 2100. The timeline for adaptation has collapsed.

Accepting, deep/no-regret adaptation & dealing with eco-anxiety

This was a profound ah-ha moment for me and the rest of the team. Accelerating locked-in impacts meant we had to accept just-in-case scenario stress tests and put in place no-regret adaptation.

This seems defeatist and we are not the kind to back down from a fight but it would be naive and irresponsible not to prepare against this worst-case scenario. At these levels we cannot afford not to act – see these impacts in Hong Kong from rising seas and tell me we can afford to get this wrong.

Our ‘alarmist’ multi-meter SLR number has now been totally vindicated by this year’s IPCC AR6 report

Given what’s at stake, we went out on a limb last year urging defense against multi-meter SLR while the IPCC report’s worst case was still at 1m or so. Sure, we received some flak for being alarmist but others, especially those working in the polar regions, sent along their support. Now, we are totally vindicated by this year’s IPCC report which backed our numbers.

But this doesn’t wipe the sadness that just sits there all the time. This sadness grows heavier with each piece of grim cryosphere research released, as does the frustration of the laissez-faire/ in-denial attitudes of some governments, banks and corporates.

Unsiloing further to involve youth and the arts

There’s a sadness that doesn’t go away… if I feel this way, I cannot imagine how hopeless young people must feel

If I feel this way, I cannot imagine how hopeless young people must feel. Conversations with youths on climate change only makes me even more sad. I have had young women in their early 20’s, who are still at university tell me that although they want children, they won’t … because how can they when they will have no future. That is just heartbreaking.

We must give the youth a say in their future – so join us in building adaptation resilience & help us to Re-IMAGINE HK!

Their hopelessness and the rising eco-anxiety mean that those of us in any position of power must do something to take these feelings away. At least we must give the youth a say in their future and empower them to make a difference. And so now, CWR also engages youths – Woody led this 2019 but since he has left, Ronald is now at the helm. So if you are here in Hong Kong and want to build adaptation resilience … join us to Re-IMAGINE HK!

We are also unsiloing even more through the arts – working on a series of climate ballets with the Hong Kong Ballet that will be danced in February 2022 with a sneak preview this November. Really who would have thought we’d soon have ballets on extreme weather and glacial melt, led by the amazing Septime Webre – see his work here. So watch this space!

Plough/ prance on we must in driving finance, business and governments to adapt to rising freshwater risks and coastal threats in changing climate. The challenges may seem never-ending but occasionally surreal moments surface that show you how far you’ve come and urge you on.

Surreal wins make it all worthwhile … but you have to try to know if you can succeed

The team did a double take when reading China’s 13FYP on renewables – it said that China’s planned renewable expansion could save 3.8 billion cubic metres of water. It was linked – water appeared in an energy FYP! The team was especially excited as CWR had written a policy brief with IRENA ahead of this which quantified the water China would save under various renewable expansion scenarios; this paper was then discussed at Clean Energy Ministerial meetings.

I’d say being invited to be a contributing author to the IPCC AR6 Working Group 2 Report is one of my biggest personal firsts…

…so never say never!

Knowing that we could make a difference in policy – be it renewables, waternomics or finance mattered. Small wins can build up to big wins and as you can see, we’ve had a few surreal wins. As for personal firsts with CWR, I’ve had many but I would say they built up to one of the biggest – being invited to be a contributing author to the IPCC AR6 Working Group 2 Report on “Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability” – I studied finance & accounting and got a C in Geography.

“Strategic/Tactical”, “Agile” & “Driven” are CWR’s ingredients of success so far… plus we are believers

When ex-staff was asked for 3 words to describe CWR, common words were “Strategic/Tactical”, “Agile” and “Driven”. These have indeed been the ingredients of our success so far plus we are believers. At CWR we really believed that anything is possible if we set our minds to it.

We may not have all the answers in a fast-evolving climate & water risk landscape, but we try and we do our best. Anyway, you never succeed until you try. Whether we like it or not times are changing so stay flexible, embrace the change, believe in yourself and never say never.

You never know where life will take you … maybe toward CWR!

Finally, I would also like to take this moment to thank CWR’s funders. Thank you for believing in CWR’s mission and for providing the funding support to help us catalyse the water & climate risk conversation. We definitely would not be here today without you. Plus a special thanks to ADMCF and Lisa Genasci for giving me the opportunity to start my CWR journey. I met Lisa at a private kitchen at a dinner full of hedge fund managers – I wanted to save Asia’s waters, she had a water project that needed fixing … the rest is history.

You never know where life will take you. If you read all our experiences, it would appear that we have a habit of recruiting at events, bars and cafes – Feng met Hubert at a café, Dharisha and I in Lan Kwai Fong, Dawn heard me speak. As for Hongqiao, it was even more serendipitous: I had read her award-wining exposé on cadmium rice and told Feng we need to work with her; he scoffed at me. The next thing we knew, she applied to work with CWR; she had been following our newsletters!

Given that the worse is yet to come, we will need more hands on deck. So join us – you never know where life will take you

CWR has had wins here and there, but there is still so much to do to waterproof our future. The worse climate impacts get, the busier we become. In a way, given that the worse is yet to come, it is probably the most job-resilient space to be in. We will need more hands on deck so if this speaks to you and you want to collaborate … contact us!

More on CWR 10-year anniversary 

Further Reading

  • 3 First Steps To Protect HK From Rising Seas – The IPCC AR6 warnings on rising seas bring bad tidings for Hong Kong. If you are 20 & younger, HK could become the new Atlantis in your lifetime unless we take action now. See 3D maps of areas submerged and get on top of what you need to do to survive, adapt & thrive
  • Code Red: 8 things you need to know about water in IPCC AR6 IPCC AR6 is a code red for water too! CWR’s Debra Tan shares 8 things you may have missed on water and urges to delay no more
  • Time To Get Radical – Alarm bells are ringing for climate change but we are still wedded to the ‘norm’ and on track to miss even the 2°C target. With time running out and serious implications for Asia’s water resources, China Water Risk’s Debra Tan calls for more flashes of brilliance
Debra Tan
Author: Debra Tan
Debra heads the CWR team and has steered the CWR brand from idea to a leader in the water risk conversation globally. Reports she has written for and with financial institutions analyzing the impact of water risks on the Power, Mining, Agricultural and Textiles industries have been considered groundbreaking and instrumental in understanding not just China’s but future global water challenges. One of these led the fashion industry to nominate CWR as a finalist for the Global Leadership Awards in Sustainable Apparel; another is helping to build consensus toward water risk valuation. Debra is a prolific speaker on water risk delivering keynotes, participating in panel discussions at water prize seminars, numerous investor & industry conferences as well as G2G and academic forums. Before venturing into “water”, she worked in finance, spending over a decade as a chartered accountant and investment banker specializing in M&A and strategic advisory. Debra left banking to pursue her interest in photography and also ran and organized philanthropic and luxury holidays for a small but global private members travel network She has lived and worked in Beijing, HK, KL, London, New York and Singapore and spends her spare time exploring glaciers in Asia.
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