Knowledgeable; experienced; patient; thoughtful; respectful; careful; reflective; funny.
None of these words have been seen in the media in the week since his tragic death, yet this is how Shawn Miller would surely be described by those who knew him, those who worked with him and those who came across him in business.
Invariably labelled as a banker by lazy journalists, Shawn was really the antithesis of what many ordinary people see as a banker. Shawn's role was to assess Citigroup's corporate clients and other borrowers for their environmental and social responsibility. He, like the ESG specialists at many other banks, was often caught between angry, demanding NGOs and angry, demanding bankers and clients. He stood calmly in the middle, discarding the hyperbole and the dross, thoughtfully looking for the evidence, the challenges, the smoke and the fire. He was often sceptical and fierce debates could continue for long periods: but Shawn always remained respectful and patient, always providing options for moving forward.
Long involved with the Equator Principles, he led its steering committee, and was a driving force in strengthening the resolve of the Equator Principles banks to lend responsibly. The success of the those global principles lies with the passion and commitment of a very small number of ESG specialists at a mere handful of international banks: Shawn Miller was one of those giants.
I knew Shawn from both sides of the table: both from the Equator Principles meetings but also as a bank client being assessed by his team. Shawn was difficult for a corporate client: he asked searching questions, he demanded solid answers, he could spot bullshit at a distance and he was constantly pressing for improvement, demanding better performance in future.
His was often a lonely pursuit, demanding responsibility in subjects still somewhat unfamiliar to many CEOs, CFOs and bankers: human rights, biodiversity, carbon emissions, pollution control technology investments, community grievance mechanisms, FPIC, management capabilities and a thousand other topics now know to be essential for sustainable corporations. Change for the good happened at many companies around the world simply because Shawn Miller and his team pressed for it.
The world of corporate responsibility and ESG has lost one of its leading lights.