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Feb 21, 2023

Anna Dumanska on her IR career path from Shell to Prosus Group

The ESG/sustainability practitioner and communicator made the move from a 16-year stint at Shell – most recently as its IR officer for ESG – to the position of global IR director at Prosus Group in late 2022

Anna Dumanska talks about her new role, offers advice to fellow IROs on the ESG landscape now and recommends how those interested in pursuing an ESG-focused career can progress.

Sixteen years is a significant amount of time to spend at one company. What was the catalyst for your move from Shell to Prosus Group?

At this point in my career, I had to decide whether I wanted to become a ‘Shell lifer’ or explore the brave new world. Tech has always been of interest to me and Prosus offered global scale, focus on emerging markets and an exciting professional challenge. It ticked all the boxes.

Anna Dumanska, Prosus Group
Anna Dumanska, Prosus Group

What elements of your past experience do you think will be most useful at Prosus Group?

It’s difficult to pin down specific experiences. I feel like this is a natural step in my career path and I have learnt a lot over the years that has prepared me for this role. This includes setting up an IR ESG function at Shell, managing social issues with frontline communities, storytelling, messaging and stakeholder engagement. I think the ability to work across cultures and under pressure will be key.

What’s been the biggest challenge and the biggest highlight in your IR career so far?

What I love about IR is how impactful the role can be. You have the opportunity to shape company strategy and, in large global companies like Prosus and Shell, this means influencing the lives of thousands of people. This is very empowering. In terms of struggles, for me it’s the pressure of the job. It’s very fast-paced and although I love it, sometimes it’s difficult to balance work with life.

Prosus Group's listing day in 2019
Prosus Group's listing day in 2019

ESG is obviously a huge focal point for companies, their stakeholders and their investors. In your experience, what are the most dominant themes now?

Although material ESG risks differ for each company, there are crucial societal challenges that are the same for all of us. Climate change and diversity and inclusion (D&I) are the two prominent issues I believe every business needs to manage as a priority.

Similarly, what issues do you anticipate investors and analysts wanting to know most about looking at the next 12-18 months?

Again, this will depend on the sector and the particular company. But supply-chain management – including human rights – and biodiversity seem to be two emerging themes, in addition to climate change and D&I, which will continue to dominate the investor agenda.

Shell

What are your main priorities going into your new position?

The key purpose of the role is to develop and implement the ESG investor engagement strategy. First I’ll be focusing on understanding the business and our sustainability strategy. Prosus has done amazing work over the last few years and there’s lots to be excited about.

Then it’s important to define business objectives for investor engagement on ESG. A lot depends on what we’ll be trying to achieve. Management time is scarce, so I want to make sure we use it wisely. And then, hopefully, we’ll do the work and see results. I will also spend my time helping the whole IR team develop its ESG competence. And of course, I plan to have lots of fun!

Anna Dumanska on her IR career path from Shell to Prosus Group

What are you most looking forward to in your new role at Prosus Group?

With Shell, ESG was about managing risk. With Prosus, it’s about seizing the ESG opportunity. I’m very excited about finding ways to attract more sustainable capital to fund Prosus’ ambitious plans. Also, there’s a special vibe here. It feels young, eager and that everything is possible. It’s a pretty fun place to be.

Finally, what advice would you give to your fellow IROs looking to either pursue or further develop an IR career focused on ESG?

In my view, ESG has become an essential skill for IROs. Over time, I’d expect all IR professionals to be able to discuss the material ESG risks of their businesses. If you’re new to ESG, start by working with your sustainability teams. ESG should be an integral part of your strategy and corporate narrative, and IR should help drive this internally. You learn and deliver at the same time: what could be better?

For those already in the field, my advice is to stay curious and open-minded. There’s so much going on in ESG, and nothing is set in stone. There’s always something to learn and something to change your mind about. Talk to experts from other sectors, other companies and other geographies. One thing is for sure: you’ll never get bored with ESG.

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