Abigail Herron, Global Head of Responsible Investment

Aviva Investors

“I invited Niall to advise Aviva Investors on a re-fresh of the well-known Stewardship Funds. The objective was to make them achieve a set of Sustainability goals that were measurable and would meaningfully reduce investment risk and create a monitoring system. Niall proved to be creative, thoughtful and tenacious in coming up with, testing and refining criteria backed by verifiable data within the constraints of budget and minimising ongoing maintenance. He worked effectively with colleagues at all levels and brought a gravitas to our Board when presenting his conclusions. He is deeply knowledgeable, a pleasure to work with and a safe pair of hands. We will be using him, again.”

Corporate Citizenship


“Niall conducted a Market Analysis and Entry Strategy for us into Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) services. Niall’s report contained everything we required and nothing we didn’t, to put a business plan in place. Niall has superb knowledge of his industry. He demonstrated a keen understanding of our company’s strengths and where we could best translate them into attractive and commercial offerings for a new audience. He has also helped us explore new business opportunities. On the personal side, Niall is engaging and fun to work with. We can recommended him as a trusted partner.”

Work Experience

Director and Founder

Discern Sustainability

April 2017-Present

Discern Sustainability Ltd. ( is a consultancy bringing 17 years of experience, from a markets perspective. It specialises in advising clients on Environmental, Social and Governance factors in three main areas: bespoke research and strategic advisory; investment product design; and integration and thought leadership. Clients include KKR, Aviva Investors and ERM, the world’s largest sustainability consulting firm. Recent engagements include:

  • Strategizing and planning the alignment of a range of funds with changes brought about by the Energy Transition in concert with TCFD compliance
  • Designing and implementing a sustainability policy for a property investor
  • Advising a coal-fired power company on the pathway to decarbonised energy
  • Horizon scanning for changes in scientific, regulatory and technological disruption in online gambling, with industry benchmarking for preparedness
  • Examining local practices, norms and pressures in different European countries as regards debt servicing and collection
  • Designing a suite of ESG Key Performance Indicators for a set of well-known responsible investment funds.

Head of Responsible Investment

Royal London Asset Management (RLAM)

August 2014-January 2017

Niall headed the team that was acquired by Royal London Group, from The Co-operative, in 2014. Managing a team of four, Niall was responsible for all of Royal London’s sustainability and ESG programmes across asset classes, including helping run its top-performing Sustainable Funds. RLAM manages £120bn of assets on behalf of pension funds, charities and other institutions, as well as retail clients.  Niall led the integration of ESG into RLAM’s world-class fixed income team and oversaw a period of rapid development that resulted in RLAM becoming a recognised name in Responsible Investment.

Head of Responsible Investment

The Co-operative Asset Management

November 2001 to July 2014

Niall started his career in sustainability at The Co-op as a corporate governance analyst and became Head of Responsible Investment in 2009. The Co-operative Asset Management had £20bn of assets under management and was a trailblazer in responsible investment; setting high standards that are market-leading, even in 2018. Niall led shareholder resolutions on the economic and environmental marginality of the Canadian oil sands at BP and Shell, well before ‘stranded assets’ became a mainstream concept. During his tenure, TCAM’s strong focus on corporate governance and operating standards resulted in TCAM avoiding the worst of the financial crisis, the PPI scandal and other disasters such as Deepwater Horizon and the VW emissions scandal. Niall designed and oversaw the selection criteria for what are now the RLAM Sustainable funds, which continue to have, as of 1st July 2018, first quartile financial performance over one, three, five and ten years. As well as leading the engagement programme, leading to hundreds of c-suite negotiations, he designed the system to integrate ESG factors into the valuation process for equities, in 2010, long before mainstream competitors. He also produced several rankings of the FTSE350 on various sustainability themes, published annually in The Observer, as ‘The Good Companies Guide’.

Education & Qualifications

EEF, The Manufacturer’s Organisation

Diploma in Sustainable Business Practice (IEMA)

Cambridge University

M. Phil. Environment & Development (2:1)

University College Cork

B.A. in English & Geography (1st class)

About Niall O’Shea

Niall has 17 years of experience in Environmental, Social and Governance experience, across all sectors. He has worked for household name insurance and asset management companies, recently as Head of Responsible Investment. Core skills are analysis, influence, project management and highly effective communication. Niall has interacted at board level with hundreds of large companies, persuading and helping invested companies integrate sustainability into how they think, plan and operate. His consultancy Discern Sustainability advising clients on Environmental, Social and Governance factors in three main areas: bespoke research and strategic advisory; financial product design and integration; and thought leadership. Clients include KKR, Aviva Investors and ERM, the world’s largest sustainability consulting firm.


Regulatory and policy change

Responsible Investment/ESG

Technological disruption

Skills & Expertise

Company and sector materiality analysis
Stakeholder Engagement and Training
Thematic and macro analysis
Thought leadership and strategy

Current Location

United Kingdom

Locations Considered