Cole Whitehouse ’23

United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), Switzerland

This summer, I worked as a Research Assistant Intern with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). As a rising junior, I took this internship because its focus was at the intersection of the two areas of study and potential career paths with which I am most interested: the financial system and environmental sustainability. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Williams alumnus David Carlin ’12, who leads UNEP FI’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) team, and alongside two other bright and hardworking Williams students in my class, Caroline Ro and Brian Hernandez.

Making a chart for a UNEP FI paper.

Coming into the internship, I did not really know what to expect. I was hoping that I would have the chance to communicate directly with representatives from big banks about climate-related financial risk, learn how they integrated climate-related risk into their own models, and do some modelling of my own. While the experience that I ended up having was different from what I expected, I gained a lot from it and was glad I played a part in greening the financial system.

I started at an interesting and busy time in the world of climate-related financial disclosures. Around the beginning of June, new Network for Greening the Finance System (NGFS) updated their scenarios, a TCFD consultation period opened, and the G7 released a communiqué regarding the global economic recovery from the pandemic and sustainability. Initially, all the research assistants had to jump in quickly to help sort out all the new information in the documents, finding information and putting it in presentation decks.

As the internship wore on, I settled into a few steadier roles. First, I worked with a colleague based in England on a report about climate-related financial risks to different business sectors. Second, I worked with a large portion of the team creating training slide decks for financial institution partners in Ireland and Vietnam regarding how to deal with climate-related financial risk. Finally, I worked on a report on the macroeconomic impacts of climate change. I worked on all three projects at once, going through a drafting and editing cycle with my colleagues.

My favorite parts of my time with UNEP FI were getting to work with co-workers from all over the world. I loved that I could be on a call with colleagues in Pakistan, England, Switzerland, and California—we had interesting conversations about what was going on in the world. I also felt myself progress in my proficiency with Microsoft PowerPoint and Word, skills that will be helpful for me in all jobs I have later in my career.

Overall, the experience is one that I will never forget, and I cannot thank the ’68 Center and William Chapman ’64 enough for helping make it happen. The lessons I learned will stick with me for years to come, and I made connections that I look forward to keeping in touch with throughout my career.