10 Years Of CWR: Dharisha Mirando Reflects On The Last 4 Years

By Dharisha Mirando 26 October, 2021

On CWR 10th anniversary, our Investor Engagement & Water Risk Valuation Lead Mirando shares how a drink in LKF has turned into a 4-year surprising & rewarding journey

Lured by a drink in LKF with an eye-opening CWR presentation & frustrated by seeing only small incremental changes in finance, I joined CWR to push finance to fast-track its action on water & climate risks
CWR is one of the few places that speaks the same lingo to get mainstream finance to understand that these risks matter for their bottom line because this isn’t about niche ESG/sustainable finance/natural capital accounting
Achievements are countless: CWR's work on coastal threats are being used by banks & is recommended by CDSB, I was interviewed by Bloomberg & became a report & book author... most importantly, we now see rising interest in climate & wate risks!

It’s been almost four years since I met Debra at a bar in LKF where she was giving a presentation on China’s water risks. I knew about CWR from my job at the time but had never actually heard a CWR presentation – famous for the eye-opening/shocking/depressing stats, great infographics and a few jokes thrown in for good measure. It did not disappoint.

That night I didn’t realise that I would start working at CWR soon after or that I’d still be there almost four years later!

Joining CWR to push for big changes

But looking back, it isn’t much of a surprise. I was working in finance and seeing incremental positive changes that were small was frustrating me – these are great but just not enough given the situation we’re in. Billions of people don’t have enough water and every coastal city will have to deal with the prospect of being permanently submerged sooner rather than later at this rate.

CWR is one of the few places trying to push for big changes in finance & speaks the same lingo

CWR is one of the few places trying to push for big changes in finance but also speaks the same lingo – you won’t hear much about “need to save the world” at CWR – because let’s be honest that just doesn’t work and no one (that matters) would care enough to do anything.

This is about getting mainstream finance to understand that these risks matter for their bottom line

So it was refreshing to find an NGO trying to change finance by just pointing out the obvious with stats and data – if you don’t understand water and climate risks, assess them and act, your business may not survive as you’ll be hit by inevitable risks and you’d be missing the obvious opportunities to make more money. Because this isn’t about niche ESG, sustainable finance or natural capital accounting – this is about getting mainstream finance to understand that these risks matter for their bottom line.

Proud of what we’ve achieved

This attitude is what helped CWR build its reputation within the financial sector. But I’m still surprised and very happy by some of the results we’ve been able to achieve recently, whether it’s our work on coastal threats being used by banks to set stress test levels internally, or that the reports are now recommended reading in CDSB’s guidance for water-related disclosures or that others use our work quite frequently to engage their portfolio companies, or even that central banks are reading our work and considering their implications for the banks under their purview.

And I’ve surprised myself

I didn’t expect to be here almost four years later but I think we all stay longer than expected for the same few reasons – you learn so much and realise there is a lot you don’t know, you have more responsibilities than you expected, can see the important gap CWR fills and very significantly you see the impacts of the work we do.

Plus, you get to work with a brilliant, diverse, slightly crazy (in a good way) bunch of people with Debra at the helm. There aren’t many places like it.

But it was a steep learning curve when I joined, as I knew very little about water – but sometimes it’s good to be thrown in the deep end.

I didn’t think I’d be interviewed twice on Bloomberg TV, writing reports & book chapters, or teaching a TCFD online course

I didn’t think I’d be interviewed twice on Bloomberg TV on our work on the risks facing the Greater Bay Area as well as rising coastal threats in APAC; or that I’d be the lead author of a 5 report-series on coastal threats that included an index of 20 APAC cities put together with input from over 100 finance professionals; or that I’d get to write reports with CLSA, Manulife Asset Management and AIGCC; or that I’d write a chapter for a book published by Palgrave Macmillan (“Water Risk and Its Impact on the Financial Markets and Our Society: New Developments in Risk Assessment and Management”); or even that I’d be invited to teach in the online course on water-related financial disclosure for the TCFD Knowledge Hub.

We still have a long way to go but I’m cautiously optimistic

CWR has achieved a lot for a small NGO over the last decade, but there is still more work to do. Long term chronic water and climate risks are only slowly being recognised even though they can lead to significant risks and warrant valuation adjustments today.

But I’m also optimistic – in the last two years there has been rising interest in water and climate risks and we are now asked much higher quality questions than when I joined. We hear the annoying questions such as “are these risks real?” much less as most people are now trying to figure out what to do about the risks and how to benefit from the potential opportunities.

We’re finally at the action stage but there is still a lot to do…

…including planning for the worst case, just in case it is a reality

This is good because it means we are finally at the action stage. But there is still a lot to do because the action still needs to be steered in the right direction – we need faster decarbonisation, adaptation and management of water risks, with plans for the worst case as it could be a reality. We need to stop shying away from acting because if not the losses would be too great – financially, economically and socially.

CWR will keep pushing for faster action, but I hope that soon there won’t be a need for CWR because water and climate risks will be completely mainstreamed, which means valuations have been adjusted and action is being taken to protect people, assets and savings.

I’d invite anyone who wants to do something in this space to go for it – we need more crazy ideas!

But until then, I’d invite anyone who wants to do something in this space to go for it – it’s a new landscape, and we’re all figuring it out. We need to re-think and re-imagine everything we do. And we need some crazy ideas – the more the better!

More on CWR 10-year anniversary 

Further Reading

  • Sovereigns At Risk: Lots Of Capital In Vulnerable Spots – Clustered nature of rising coastal threats plus lax govt action put APAC sovereigns at risk. CWR’s analysis of GDP, trade, markets & bank loans reveal intense concentration of risks. As no-sense strategies pervade, see who’s in CWR’s watchlist
  • Thirsty And Underwater: Rising Risks In Greater Bay Area – How will water & climate risks, including rising sea levels & droughts, threaten the already water-stressed Greater Bay Area (GBA)? CWR’s Tan & Mirando explain in their latest CLSA report and highlight companies’ failure in climate risk disclosures
  • Are Asia’s Savings Exposed To Water & Climate Risks? – Asian asset owners have portfolios skewed towards domestic markets that will bear the brunt of climate change. Find out about these risks and what to do as our Dharisha Mirando shares key takeaways from the new report China Water Risk co-authored with Manulife Asset Management & the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change
Dharisha Mirando
Author: Dharisha Mirando
Dharisha Mirando hails from the finance industry and joined CWR as she believes that climate and water factors are downplayed by the sector despite being significant investment risks. To tackle this, her ambition is to help build consensus, bridge the gap between finance and science, and engage with investors to incorporate these risks into their due diligence and portfolio management. This could in turn lead to innovative Green Finance instruments becoming more prevalent. She has already made strong headway as the lead author of a recently published report with Manulife Asset Management and the Asia Investor Group on Climate change, which highlights the imminent threats to Asian asset owners' portfolios from climate and water risks. Dharisha has also undertaken a number of speaking engagements on these pressing issues at investor and insurance conferences. Prior to joining CWR, Dharisha worked for a long-only public equities fund. She has also worked in the impact investment space in London and Singapore where she provided technical assistance to social enterprises, helped them raise equity investments, and managed a debt portfolio.
Read more from Dharisha Mirando →