Changing Climate and Social Impact
In a world where extreme weather events are becoming more common, BMO is now analyzing climate data to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between climate hazards and social impact.
“We’re just starting to see social impact, finance and environmental risk coincide in data analysis,” says Michelle Marais, a data analyst in the BMO Climate Institute’s Fellowship Program who recently used her expertise to identify communities served by BMO that are most vulnerable to flooding and extreme heat caused by a changing climate. This work can help BMO develop community giving and social impact strategies that benefit communities and informs the bank’s climate risk program development.
Marais joined BMO in 2021 from Chicago Public Schools, where she worked as a data scientist applying a social impact lens to her analysis and research. Her unique combination of skills was an ideal fit when she joined BMO’s Fair & Responsible Banking team.
Those skills also contributed to Marais becoming a 2023 Climate Institute Fellow, where she used sophisticated climate data and geospatial mapping to determine where in BMO’s U.S. footprint flooding and extreme heat will hit hardest in coming years. She then overlaid household income data, creating a map that shows communities BMO serves in California and the Southwest that are particularly vulnerable to flooding and heat risks, because they have fewer financial resources to adapt to the changing climate.
“BMO now has valuable data to help us better understand how we support communities facing elevated climate risks, and how those risks are expected to evolve in the future.”
– George Sutherland
Senior Advisor, BMO Climate Institute
This research is also the latest win for the Climate Institute Fellowship Program, which allows BMO employees to devote 20% of their time over six months to climate-related projects. Marais is among eight people who were selected to participate in the Climate Fellowship Program in its inaugural year.
“I’ve never seen a bank do this type of climate work. My friends are surprised my bank has a Climate Institute, much less a fellowship considering the social impact of climate change.”
– Michelle Marais
Data Analyst and 2023 Climate Institute Fellow, BMO
Fellowship graduates not only contribute their expertise to sustainability initiatives, but also bring added experience and knowledge back to their primary jobs, infusing climate knowledge more broadly across the company. This program is one way BMO is empowering our employees to help build a more sustainable future and helping to transform the way we think about corporate sustainability at BMO.