Researcher from Kazakhstan among World's 100 Most Promising Young Scientists

Yelena Novikova is an early-career researcher from Kazakhstan, who took part in the Think 20 Summit that was mandated by this Year’s German Presidency in the Group of 20

Yelena Novikova.
Photo: Andrey Lunin
Yelena Novikova.

G20 Think 20 Global Solutions Summit brought together a variety of Nobel Laureates, Ministers, Young researchers and even entrepreneurs with high potential from all over the world.

The Summit’s goal was to find global solutions to local problems. One of the ways G20 seeks to achieve that goal is by creating a global community of gifted young experts. This new generation of problem-solvers also got a chance to contribute their ideas within the framework of the Summit.

 - G20 representatives have provided us with one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They have essentially granted us a status of Young Global Changers. The visibility it gives us can be channelled to attract attention to our potentially life-changing efforts at home, explains Yelena Novikova.

Yelena graduated from KIMEP, London Metropolitan University and Grenoble Ecole de Management. She holds 4 university degrees. Yelena initially started her career as a charity professional. However, she got quickly disillusioned, as charities tend to lack desired efficiency. The right opportunity came along in 2010, when she was offered an internship at London’s “Tomorrow’s Company”. A business-led think-tank researched issues of sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility and Socially Responsible Investing. Unlike charity, CSR and responsible investing offered efficiency-driven approaches to making environmental and social impact.

That internship has inspired Yelena to devote her life to research on Environmental, Social and Governance factors.

Two years later, Yelena returned to Business School. She felt that her research could benefit from a more thorough understanding of mainstream finance. It was there that she convinced a renowned Harvard Scholar, Mark Esposito, to supervise her ESG-related dissertation. The project thought to redefine the way we look at social impact. It might be a realistic task to “put a price” on carbon, but “putting a price” on such factors as child labour is a lot less straightforward. 

After graduating from Business School, Yelena continued diving into ESG research, although it is still more suitable to focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Kazakhstan. Yelena has started her new research project in March 2016. It has since received a grant from the Soros Foundation in Kazakhstan. The project seeks to uncover the best ways to adapt existing best practices, so that they fit Kazakhstani context better. This study signifies a new direction of Yelena’s work. She is now looking into climate finance from the standpoint of public policy, where climate finance includes both climate adaption and climate change mitigation efforts.

The project of the Kazakhstani researcher aims to help investors in their quest to integrate material extra-financial risk. For instance, if one is to invest in environmentally inefficient company, s/he needs to evaluate to what extend the company is exposed to environmental risk. Otherwise, both the company and the investor might incur serious losses.

Yelena believes that it is possible to improve performance of the SAPF (national pension fund) portfolio by integrating material ESG risk into valuation process.

-When the investor decides whether to invest, s/he also needs to take environmental and social risk just as much as the financial one. Although such risks may not be reflected in financial performance of today, they might prove to be material tomorrow, states Yelena.

Yelena plans to promote the recommendations she developed for the project that is supported by the Soros Foundation in Kazakhstan. A researcher is set to highlight the factors that get in the way of efficient facilitation of Socially Responsible Investing, Green Finance and CSR. She hopes to advocate for public policy solutions that take into account all the local peculiarities in such a way, so as to avoid further misconceptions along with adoption and facilitation of misguided CSR practices.

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