Oshni Arachchi is an expert in human rights and banking. As the Global Head of Sustainability Data, Screening and Processes for Danske Bank Asset Management, she is putting this knowledge to good use and supporting the bank’s drive for sustainability. Based in Stockholm, she also serves as the bank’s local head of responsible investment in Sweden.
If there was ever a global citizen it is Oshni Arachchi. Born in South Africa to Sri Lankan
parents, raised in Botswana, educated in Auckland, Oshni lives and works in Sweden for a Danish bank.
Oshni and her team are responsible for enabling the integration of sustainability-related aspects into Danske Bank’s investment processes, an ideal role for the 35-year-old who has a strong sense of social justice.
Graduating with a conjoint BA/LLB from the University of Auckland just over ten years ago, she already holds a senior position at one of Europe’s, in fact one of the world’s, largest banking and financial services corporations.
“The finance sector is undergoing a remarkable shift in an effort to align its activities to contribute to the achievement of global sustainability goals. The challenge is great but we have some of the brightest minds working on our path forward.”
Oshni says sustainability as a term is at risk of being overused and unclear for many. A large part of her role is screening investments against sustainability-related metrics, which effectively means meeting environmental, social and governance criteria and thresholds.
“My career has taken a completely different turn to what I expected or thought was even possible when I graduated. I credit my path as being a series of incidental moments that aligned with my interests and values.”
A pivotal turn came when she received a University of Auckland 360° international exchange award, which took her to Uppsala University, Sweden for a five-month exchange.
This opened a door for Oshni to complete her Masters in Law at Lund University in Sweden, her thesis exploring the challenges of banking with labour rights; and an internship at the United Nations Development Programme in Sri Lanka, where she could reconnect with her roots.
“My short time with the United Nations was really important. It was where I came to understand the role of the private sector in solutions aimed at fostering sustainable development.”
Since then Oshni has always worked in roles with a bigger purpose. For the Danish Institute for Human Rights, she prepared briefings on labour issues and community impacts for developing countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. She has helped companies address child labour in their supply chains; manage environmental risks from pipelines or dams in remote regions; and in New Zealand, helped to ensure decent and safe working conditions.
Living in Sweden comes with its challenges, mainly the uncertainty of not knowing when she will see her family and friends again.
“The pandemic has affected us all in so many ways. I feel that it has forced me to stop, evaluate and take stock of what I value.”
Oshni paid tribute to the critical minds that challenged her view of the world while at the University of Auckland - Professor Kathryn Lehman, Kris Gledhill, Paul Myburgh, Paul Sumpter and Walescka Pino-Ojeda, to name a few, and some incredible peers, who bucked convention.
“My biggest learning has actually been an ‘unlearning’ about the so-called divide between the professional and personal, the importance of being vulnerable, to being wrong; to challenging biases (my own and others) and to also relaxing your perceived boundaries.”