The Radical Old Idea with Keith Skeoch | The ESG Enlightenment | Event Summary

Keith Skeoch spoke about the ‘ESG Enlightenment’ and the power of finance to translate ordinary people’s savings into a powerful force for good in the world.

In the latest Radical Old Idea session from the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, the former CEO of Standard Life Aberdeen and interim chair of the Financial Reporting Council sat down with Royal London Climate Change Lead Kaisie Rayner to discuss the legacy of capitalism, the challenge of the climate crisis and what we can learn from Adam Smith. Watch the session now, or read the summary below.

At the start of the session, the audience of finance sector experts were polled on their views around sustainability. Over 40% of respondents said that their organisations had only started putting sustainability into their decision making in the past 5 years, with a further 17% saying that they had yet to do so, while 75% of respondents felt that the finance sector was not on track to support the massive economic transformation needed to deliver climate action.

Capitalism has, over its 400 year history, been a success story, argued Keith. It has collectivised savings into a force far more powerful than individual savers could ever be. “There has never been a more important time to invest in your future and the economy’s future and it’s your savings that will facilitate those investments”, said Keith, adding that this was “a story you only usually hear during wartime.”

Reflecting on Boris Johnson’s recent claim that greed drove the development of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the former Standard Life Aberdeen CEO agreed that it represented a victory for capitalism, but argued that the real story was the success of regulated capitalism, not unfettered greed. By tailoring the approval process for the vaccine to the unique circumstances we find ourselves in, the state and the market worked together for the good of humanity.

This is a story, as Keith and Kaisie discussed, that would have been familiar to the intellectual father of capitalism himself, Adam Smith. While some of Smith’s modern advocates paint him as a proponent of pure, unregulated capitalism, this was far from the truth. Smith’s most well-known work is the Wealth of Nations, but he also wrote at length about ethics in his other great work, the Theory of Moral Sentiments, which provides the moral purpose to the Wealth of Nations.

The point of the metaphor of the invisible hand – which he only used once in the entire Wealth of Nations – is not that markets should never be regulated for the good of society; in fact, Smith was in favour of this. Seen in the context of the fragmented markets of his time, the metaphor was simply an argument not to restrict foreign trade.

In fact, context has often been a driver of economic theory, suggested Keith. From Keynes’s response to the Great Depression in the 1920s and 30s, to Friedman’s theories about runaway inflation in the 1970s, economics has always responded to the situation it finds itself in. Ironically, however, in the years since Smith, average long-run growth rates have remained roughly stable. More than anything else, economic theory has affected the distribution of resources in society, rather than the total size of the pie.

While theories have responded to economic stimuli, over time they become intellectual straitjackets, confining thinking to a narrow policy paradigm until an external shock forces a re-evaluation. With the instability we have seen over the past few year, Keith argued that, in fact, “time is ripe for a fundamental paradigm shift” in economics and finance. The question, he suggested was “what should be the future of the new policy paradigm”, outlining 5 key factors needed in this new paradigm:

  1. Economic models which reflect the relationship between finance and other parts of the economy
  2. A responsible and sustainable corporate sector
  3. A view of regulation as something which helps markets by aligning them to the public interest
  4. A recognition that good behaviour minimises the cost of regulation by building trust
  5. A finance sector committed to putting substance into the mantra of “build back better”

Finance has a huge opportunity to make a difference as we build back better. It is the only way we can build trust and the only way that it will be delivered is by everybody taking personal responsibility: sustainability is everybody’s business.


Scottish Government announce campaign partnership for the Path to COP26

The Scottish Government has announced it will be a campaign partner for the ‘Path to COP26’ campaign to demonstrate to the world that Scotland is playing a leading role in the shift towards more environmentally responsible and sustainable finance.

With a global footprint and Scottish roots, the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) is leading the campaign which has united major financial services institutions representing over £2 trillion in assets to help build more resilient economies which support the transition to a greener, net-zero planet.

The finance sector needs to act together to achieve decisive action at COP26, the most important climate summit since Paris, and the campaign will deliver a series of over 30 events and projects leading up to COP26 in Glasgow in November.

This includes Ethical Finance 2021, a flagship global summit to be convened virtually from Scotland in June, with confirmed speakers including a former COP President, head of the UN Environment Programme and CEOs and financial services leaders from four continents.

Held in conjunction with the Scottish Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the summit will explore the long-term future of ethical finance, looking at the climate finance challenge, financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leadership in finance for the challenges ahead.

NatWest Group is the host partner, and the global event is supported by Chartered Banker and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment. Confirmed speakers include Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Climate and Energy Global Practice Leader at WWF, COP20 President and a former Peruvian environment minister, Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme and David Pitt-Watson who co-chaired the finance discussions at the Paris climate summit.

The announcement comes after the Scottish Government yesterday unveiled its global capital investment plan, which aims to build a pipeline of ESG-ready (environmental, social and governance) projects that deliver for people and places in Scotland.

Ivan McKee, Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance, said:

“The Scottish Government is delighted to further strengthen its relationship with the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.

“By providing support for a series of events on the road to COP26 showcasing Scotland’s investment opportunities, GEFI will help signal to the world that Scotland is leading the global movement towards investment which is socially and environmentally responsible.

“Scotland is already in a strong position in attracting ethical investment and GEFI, along with Scotland's outstanding financial sector, is paving the way in this developing field of green finance.

“Our global capital investment plan reemphasises our commitment to Net Zero and a wellbeing economy, and we will continue to work with partners and investors who share our values as a nation, making Scotland the destination of choice for ESG investment.”

Omar Shaikh, co-founder of GEFI, said:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s support for the Path to COP26 campaign. The flagship summit at the heart of this, Ethical Finance 2021, will be a crucial milestone for the finance industry ahead of COP26.

“We’ll be convening leading professionals from across finance, from banking, to asset management, to asset owners, so that we drive further action ahead of the UN summit in Glasgow in November.

“It’s time to move from talk to action.

“We have been working with Scottish Government, the UN and global financial institutions to position Scotland as a leader in ethical, sustainable finance to attract the global capital needed to support a successful and fair transition.”


PRESS RELEASE: SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TO PARTNER ‘PATH TO COP26’ CAMPAIGN

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE GLOBAL ETHICAL FINANCE INITIATIVE

EMBARGO: IMMEDIATE

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TO PARTNER ‘PATH TO COP26’ CAMPAIGN.

The Scottish Government has announced it will be a campaign partner for the ‘Path to COP26’ campaign to demonstrate to the world that Scotland is playing a leading role in the shift towards more environmentally responsible and sustainable finance. Led by the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, the campaign has united major financial services institutions representing over £2trn in assets for a programme including over 30 activities ahead of COP26.

This includes Ethical Finance 2021, a flagship global summit to be convened virtually from Scotland in June, with confirmed speakers including a former COP President, head of the UN Environment Programme and CEOs and financial services leaders from four continents.

Held in conjunction with the Scottish Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the summit will explore the long-term future of ethical finance, looking at the climate finance challenge, financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leadership in finance for the challenges ahead.

NatWest Group is the host partner, and the global event is supported by Chartered Banker and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment. Confirmed speakers include Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Climate and Energy Global Practice Leader at WWF, COP20 President and a former Peruvian environment minister, Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme and David Pitt-Watson who co-chaired the finance discussions at the Paris climate summit.

The announcement comes after the Scottish Government yesterday unveiled its global capital investment plan, which aims to build a pipeline of ESG-ready (environmental, social and governance) projects that deliver for people and places in Scotland.

Ivan McKee, Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance, said:

“The Scottish Government is delighted to further strengthen its relationship with the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.

“By providing support for a series of events on the road to COP26 showcasing Scotland’s investment opportunities, GEFI will help signal to the world that Scotland is leading the global movement towards investment which is socially and environmentally responsible.

“Scotland is already in a strong position in attracting ethical investment and GEFI, along with Scotland's outstanding financial sector, is paving the way in this developing field of green finance.

“Our global capital investment plan reemphasises our commitment to Net Zero and a wellbeing economy, and we will continue to work with partners and investors who share our values as a nation, making Scotland the destination of choice for ESG investment.”

Omar Shaikh, co-founder of GEFI, said:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s support for the Path to COP26 campaign. The flagship summit at the heart of this, Ethical Finance 2021, will be a crucial milestone for the finance industry ahead of COP26.

“We’ll be convening leading professionals from across finance, from banking, to asset management, to asset owners, so that we drive further action ahead of the UN summit in Glasgow in November.

“It’s time to move from talk to action.

“We have been working with Scottish Government, the UN and global financial institutions to position Scotland as a leader in ethical, sustainable finance to attract the global capital needed to support a successful and fair transition.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

More information on Path to COP26 is available here:   www.pathtocop26.com

Ethical Finance 2021 – ethicalfinancesummit.com #EthicalFinance2021 will be held between Tuesday 8th – Thursday 10th June 2021 and is themed “Financing a Sustainable Future: Climate and Beyond”.

The world depends on global finance making the right choices to deliver positive change and achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. To deliver this change, we need to connect people and ideas, and the Ethical Finance Summit has a six-year history of driving action through frank, honest debate among a global coalition across financial services.  Previous speakers have included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Archbishop Justin Welby, NatWest Group CEO Alison Rose and UK Committee on Climate Change Chief Executive Chris Stark. The 2020 summit attracted over 1500 delegates from 96 countries.

Register free or find out more at www.ethicalfinancesummit.com

GEFI is a non-profit based in Scotland with a global footprint. We are dedicated to enabling finance to deliver positive change and help achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Our core team has expertise in corporate finance, ethical finance, faith-based finance, sustainability, economics, banking law & governance and communications.

Find out more at   www.globalethicalfinance.org

Chartered Banker have designated Ethical Finance 2021 for continuous professional development to enhance the learning content for their 30,000 members after completion of professional qualifications. See more at:   www.charteredbanker.com


Ethical Finance Round Table | Accounting for Sustainability

At the latest Ethical Finance Round Table, we were joined by Professor Michael Mainelli, Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London, founder of think-tank Z/Yen and qualified accountant, and Jon Williams; Partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC. The discussion centred around the need for companies making commitments to net zero to truly understand what this means for their business models year on year, as well as emissions trading schemes and the need to price embed the true cost of externalities within the economic system.

Key headlines

Michael Mainelli

  • Green finance was born with the creation of sulphur dioxide permit trading
  • The EU Emission Trading Scheme is often dismissed, but appropriate carbon pricing was not achieved due to governments issuing too many permits
  • Carbon pricing works. Miles driven in America dropped 4% in 2011 due to a 32% increase in oil prices, not due to an outbreak of environmental awareness
  • Policy performance bonds could be a useful tool for governments and companies to deliver on their commitments and hedge against climate and policy risk.

Jon Williams

  • Over 1,500 companies and 50 countries have made net zero commitments, but very few understand the true scale of the challenge to achieve this.
  • To meet the Paris commitment to limit global warming to 1.5C means an annual reduction in carbon of over 11% No economy in history has achieved this on a sustained level; the global reduction in 2019 was 2.4%.
  • Financial institutions are unsure of their “carbon liabilities”, and have assumed around 2/3 of the reductions they need for net zero will come from government policy outwith their control. If they are required to offset these emissions, it could cost as much a 500% of the profits from these assets.
  • if the finance sector is to support this transition, every finance professional needs to start understanding these issues and supporting their clients to deal with them.

Watch now:

Michael began by explaining that green finance as we commonly know it came into being with the trading of sulphur dioxide permits in the USA in 1992. Traders thought they might be able to bring down these emissions by around 20%, but actually managed to halve them in just 4 years, creating considerable optimism around carbon permits going into the Kyoto climate conference.

A small group in the City of London, including Professor Mainelli, then picked this up and ran a market around this in London, later developed by the EU in 2002 to become their emissions trading scheme (ETS). This is often thought of as a failure, though Prof. Mainelli argues that the carbon price it produced did fairly reflect the supply of and demand for permits, but the issue was that far too many permits were issued by governments – roughly double what was needed. While governments had committed to keeping the price above 25 euro/tn, it plummeted to pennies shortly after launch.

Top-down pressure on capital allocation is good, explained Prof. Mainelli, but plans and awareness alone are insufficient. There needs to be an internalisation of environmental factors into the billions of everyday economic decisions. Incorporating environmental factors into prices works: in 2011, Americans drove 4% fewer miles not because of “awareness” of issues, but due to a 32% increase in oil prices. In fact, China has now implemented an internal emissions market, so even communists think that carbon markets work.

In Prof. Mainelli's view, carbon pricing is achievable and effective, and if companies internalise carbon in their decisions , there will be no need for banks to decarbonise their loan books, as many are calling for, as the carbon will be internalised in traditional measures of risk and reward. Some of the voluntary schemes, however, leave something to be desired; the issuer of a 25-year carbon credit could simply burn the forest after 26 years!

One area Prof Mainelli felt had a lot of potential was that of policy performance bonds. They were proposed a number of years ago, but never truly caught on in the Anglophone finance community. They have been successful in France, with major companies including Danone and Enel issuing them. One major opportunity around them could be in governments buying bonds – if you miss your emissions target, you pay interest, but if not, you essentially get free government money. The UK government is looking to do this ahead of COP26, which would effectively allow financiers to hedge against government policy. Sadly, progress in this area has not been as fast as it needs to be; one of Prof Mainelli’s final slides was taken from 2007, and the issues remain largely the same in 2021.

Jon Williams sits on the TCFD, and explained that the endgame for TCFD is forward-looking metrics, but this requires a level of information that businesses and the finance industry just do not have right now.

He posed the question of what is meant by “net zero”? Over 1,500 companies and 50 governments have made announcements or commitments around net zero, but what do they really mean when they make these announcements? Have they got concrete plans and timetables, or are these more “aspirational” commitments? PwC’s Net Zero Economy Index 2020 shows some of the data around net zero and decarbonisation. By combining carbon data and a macroeconomic model, PwC estimate that global carbon intensity fell by 2.4% in 2019.

This is still below what is needed – the decarbonisation rate needed to limit global temperature increases to 2C would be 7.7% per year, and to limit to 1.5C would be 11.7% per year, which no economy in history has every achieved on a sustained basis. The companies that are committing to net zero need to understand that this level of decarbonisation is implied, and start to plan how they will actually achieve that. This is a huge challenge, much bigger than the one faced by COVID.

What is the role of finance? Providing the capital to help the economy transition from where it is today to where it needs to be in 10 or 20 years. Financial institutions need to move from looking merely at their own emissions, to those embedded in their loan books, or portfolios, and to do this it needs more data on emissions downstream.

Financial institutions are largely unsure what their balance sheet and loan books are actually exposed to – most companies  borrow for liquidity, not to tie themselves to financing specific projects. Many have made huge assumptions about how large residual emissions will be – in other words, how much of the emissions reductions will be achieved by government policy without any active interventions on their part. If these assumptions turn out to be inaccurate, the cost of offsetting residual emissions will vastly outweigh the profits from the assets behind them.

Jon concluded by saying that net zero is not a myth. It is a reality, but a very difficult reality. Companies need to take net zero seriously. The pathway to net zero includes climate risk and impact baselining, strategy development, organisational transformation and transparency and reporting. Ultimately, if the finance sector is to support this transition, every finance professional needs to start understanding these issues and supporting their clients to deal with them.

The Q&A at the end of the session discussed a number of issues. Michael Mainelli highlighted that the tools for carbon reduction can also be used for maintaining biodiversity, but this is much harder to measure, and that trade is a key issue – it has been a major driver of growth over the last half-century, but there may need to be adjustments for embodied emissions. Jon argued that the furore over pricing nature is often misplaced – it is not that there is a price at which you can destroy nature, but instead that there is a need to put a price on the ‘free ride’ that people get out of emissions, nature and biodiversity.


Ethical Finance Round Table | Festive Fireside on Reasons to be Cheerful in 2021

After a year that will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons, the final Ethical Finance Round  Table of the year discussed reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds, in an event focused on Scotland. The session looked at the newly formed Scottish National Investment Bank and how it aims to tackle inequality, drive innovation and be at the center of Scotland’s transition to NetZero. It also discussed how we have a unique opportunity to determine the future and reignite a fair economy for Scotland. Dame Susan Rice, Chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission was joined by Willie Watt, Chair of the newly-formed Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB), and Andrew Wilson of Charlotte Street Partners and the Sustainable Growth Commission.

But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785 - Robert Burns

After our very own Graham Burnside welcomed attendees in typically Scottish fashion, quoting Burns, moderator Dame Susan Rice explained that she was looking forward to hearing about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ from the speakers. How can a mission led financial institution support business and celebrate outcomes that are both fair and inclusive? What are the opportunities that can reignite the Scottish economy, such as COP26 and the COVID rebuild?

Willie Watt introduced us to SNIB, which opened for business less than four weeks ago. Funded by the Scottish government with £2bn over the next ten years, the bank has three missions:

1) Address inequality in Scotland

2) Invest in innovation

3) Assist in Scotland’s transition to NetZero

The Bank will look for both financial and impact returns from its investments and hopes to be fully self-sustaining in five years. Willie Watt stressed that maximising profit and purpose is no longer an either or – good governance and sustainable business are the path to profit and purpose. While accepting that the Sustainable Development Goals are a good guide to business and asset owners, Willie felt they are too complex to create a successful investment strategy and so the three missions will instead be the focus.

Andrew Wilson, Founding Partner of Charlotte Street Partners and Chair of Scotland’s Sustainable Growth Commission, stated that there has never been a better time to take risks and make big policy changes. While the most powerful force has traditionally been what we did yesterday, the COVID crisis has left us with no choice but to enter an era of reform, accelerating many of the challenges we face, including inequality and deglobalisation.

Andrew argued that we can no longer afford to look to the future with fear. We must instead determine what the future will be with the opportunity afforded to us. One risk is that lending stops at haste post COVID and we do not support the emergence on the other side. While debt is at record levels, the cost of servicing that debt has fallen by half and is historically cheap. The tyranny of short-termism is one of our greatest risks and we must be more honest with society - stop “promising jam tomorrow”, promise hard work for a generation to get this country and others to a point of civilisation that they deserve.

For Andrew, while deglobalisation is a growing – and worrisome – trend, it offers an opportunity to smaller countries to collaborate. For example, Scotland, New Zealand, and Iceland are tied by their pursuit of a wellbeing economy. Another opportunity Scotland has in abundance lies in its natural economy. If the right collaboration took place, Scotland’s natural economy would be within the top three globally.

Andrew also spoke about the need for proper engagement with the developing world. It is not only right but also in the interest of developed counties to help out developing countries. The problems they face will not stay in the developing world. The second big risk Andrew identified was populism, which is driving deglobalisation and selling a myth of the past as an easy solution to the future. He was clear that this is not the solution, the solution is thinking long term and investing.

Dame Susan finished the session, explaining that history shows us that after a major crisis, there will be a shift in values and in how we live. We can use this moment to lead change and that is a reason for hope and festive cheer. Opportunity always exists and we must allow ourselves to test and experiment as we go forward. When she looks at Scotland, Dame Susan feels enormous pride of the efforts made to date. The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously for the world’s most aggressive Net Zero timeline. There is something special about Scotland that makes people come together and make things happen.


The Path To COP26 | One Year To Go Event

Speakers at the ‘One Year To Go’ event for GEFI’s Path to COP26 campaign discussed how the finance sector can practically support action on climate change ahead of the COP26 summit next year in Glasgow. The session offered perspectives from banking, asset management and COP insiders, with Gail Hurley of GEFI joined by Cambridge University Visiting Fellow David Pitt Watson, Ingrid Homes of Federated Hermes, Isabel Fernandez of ING, and discussion moderator Hamish Patrick of Shepherd + Wedderburn. Click on the links to watch videos from the event, including all the presentations, the Q&A, and individual presentations from David, Isabel and Ingrid.

Gail Hurley introduced the Path to COP26 campaign, which seeks to ensure that the finance sector plays a leading role in the most important COP since Paris. Over 40 organisations have joined the campaign, representing £2.7 trillion of assets; click here to find out how to get involved

Gail highlighted a recent UN publication, which gave a damning report on the financial sector’s efforts so far to get funding to where it is needed. It has come up short in dealing with both climate change and development in the world’s poorest countries, despite positive signs across the sector.

David Pitt-Watson, investor, Cambridge Judge Business School Visiting Fellow and former UNEP FI chair during COP21 shared his practical experience of COP, and stressed that climate matters for finance. Finance needs to move money from where it is, to where it needs to be, but at present there is not enough green finance and far too much brown finance is still taking place.

COP is important because finance cannot solve the issue of climate alone, but needs support from policymakers, and it is important that discussions for ambitious climate agreements take place before the conference itself. The finance sector will likely be looked at with some cynicism and suspicion, in part because£100 billion was promised to the developing world as part of the Copenhagen Accord agreed at COP19, but evidence of its influence is hard to find.

David stressed that there is genuine progress in the finance sector, particularly on reporting, but more needs to be done. One area he felt that we can improve at COP is stewardship. Divestment diminishes the power we hold by maintaining equity;by using the votes equity holders have to appoint Directors, we can vote for those that align their organisations with the Paris Agreement. The onus is on the finance industry to demonstrate that we are doing the right thing: delegates will not be interested in virtue signalling.

Isabel Fernandez , Member of the Management Board and Global Head of Wholesale Banking at ING spoke about how the banks sees the pandemic as a chance to ‘hit the reset button’ and on issues including biodiversity loss, climate change and inequality.

While there are many commitments out there, it is action that counts and Isabel argued that ING have taken the lead when it comes to aligning lending portfolios with Paris.  They have done this by creating an approach called Terra, which uses scenario analysis to determine the impact of different sectors on the climate. Assessing the gap between the technology required to meet the Paris Agreement targets and those used currently by clients, Terra shows how far each sector is along the path towards Paris. This allows ING to finance the technology and innovation clients need to move their business closer to achieving the goals set,steering key sectors towards a low carbon future.

The second progress report on Terra has been released, showing that across the nine sectors which are contributing the highest emissions, most are on track to align with Paris. They have found that many clients are actively looking to develop sustainably so have bought in readily to this approach and the advice which ING have given. Terra is all open source to increase its reach and open collaboration across the banking sector. Isabel explained that ING believe that it is not where clients are today, but where they are heading which is most important.

Ingrid Holmes, Director – Policy at Federated Hermes opened by sharing some of the issues that they are dealing with. For instance, what needs to be done to commit to net zero, when they should be trying to achieve that goal, and also when they should be committing to becoming a Paris aligned firm.

There are six key things Federated Hermes expect every company to be thinking about:

  • Disclose in line with the TCFD
  • Sufficient governance and capacity to move forward with climate management
  • Embrace the complexity of the issues
  • Look beyond operations and strategy into supply chains
  • Use public policy influence positively to engage with government with new market rules
  • Commitment to science-based targets, with interim targets also established

Federated Hermes feel some activities are unjustifiable, such as thermal coal, and will be withdrawing capital from them. Controversial investments, such as those burning fossil fuels but in the process of transition, will require a business case to ensure the transition comes to pass or divestment will occur.

The session closed with a Q&A moderated by Hamish Patrick of Shepherd + Wedderburn, who asked the speakers how the trends and push towards climate finance that we are seeing is helping the developing world. David answered that this is a very difficult position where, with justification, the global south is looking at the north to fix the problem they have profited from. Promises of funding have not materialised and we need to get funds flowing to global south sustainable development projects. Isabel spoke about some of the feedback she has had from the global south, that the developed world has had 50 years of pollution to get to its present state, but nonetheless she has seen their determination and enthusiasm to develop sustainably. It then becomes ING’s role to help wherever they can.

Regarding the products needed for a transition, Ingrid spoke about the desire to see more thematic products with an explicit Paris alignment to them, adding that while there are an increasing number of products out there, we need to stop greenwashing. David argued that we do not need more complex products: the finance sector’s job is to manage the money of the millions of people who have invested money, often through their pensions, and to move it to where it needs to be. We have a set of financial institutions that are ‘Institutionally fossilist’ – institutions that have grown to up to be able to finance the old economy. Now we need to get the new systems that will finance the new economy.


Climate change: Ethical finance can help deliver a 'Marshall Plan for the planet' - Omar Shaikh

This article originally appeared in The Scotsman at https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/climate-change-ethical-finance-can-help-deliver-marshall-plan-planet-omar-shaikh-3001747

Faced with the biggest pandemic in a century grinding the global economy to a halt, or our ecosystem being on the cusp of the irreversible extinction of species caused by climate change and our insatiable demand for natural resources, or indeed the rupturing of deep structural barriers causing gender and race discrimination highlighted by the Black Lives Matter campaign, people are no longer willing to accept the status quo.

The gap between the rich and the poor has never been bigger and – despite all our advancements – the UN has called for the urgent implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so that no one is left behind.

We sit at a key juncture and there is an unrivalled opportunity to rewire the system – for those nations, markets and companies which can demonstrate vision, leadership and courage.

And we have no time to lose: this must be the decade of action.

Change the world

Five years have passed since the countries of the world came together to set the SDGs – a blueprint to achieve zero hunger, quality education, decent work and climate action, among other targets by 2030.

Despite the challenges we all face, at the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) we believe that when we come together to share insights and commit to action, we genuinely can change the world.

The plans that governments and institutions produce must be more about renewal than just recovery, building a responsible, inclusive, sustainable and green future. We must encourage bravery and allow our leaders to be courageous, because we will only achieve as much as their vision and courage allows us to.

At the heart of this is reframing capitalism – and the blood supply for this is ethical finance.

Last week, from our base in Scotland, we convened – virtually – over 1,500 professionals from 86 countries to shape a better finance system. Some of the world’s largest banks and asset managers attended the Ethical Finance 2020 summit, representing over $20 trillion of assets.

Ethical finance is a fairer system of financial management that combines profit with better outcomes for people and the planet.

There is a reason why we are based in Scotland and why the summit is convened from Scotland. In rethinking capitalism, Scotland, as a global citizen and with its heritage going back to Adam Smith, can play a unique role in this. The financial services and academic talent, progressive thinking and inherent culture provide an enabling ecosystem for solutions that can once again shape the world.

Financing a green recovery

A recent report from the Ethical Finance Hub found that Scotland’s £9.5 billion UK-domiciled responsible investment already represents 11 per cent of the UK responsible investment market, compared to the country’s seven per cent share of the total market.

There is an unrivalled opportunity for Scotland’s £800 billion financial services industry to tap into, service and grow the market.

We need to consider where climate finance can help fund the green recovery and create jobs through facilitating foreign direct investment (FDI).

There is therefore a prerogative for those in charge to demonstrate ambition and moral leadership. The Scottish Government has already demonstrated a willingness to think beyond GDP, with Nicola Sturgeon rightly talking about the fundamental need for health and well-being. Ministers now need to take the next steps to progress this agenda and organise and commit to realising the financial innovation that is required.

Finance firms too must continue to take action. It is encouraging that Aviva this month set a new 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target for its own auto-enrolment default pension funds.

Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer with Aviva Investors, told our summit that “we need a vision for a Marshall Plan for the planet”, echoing the words of Prince Charles last month. Steve highlighted the COP26 climate change summit being held in Glasgow next year as arguably the most important conference that the UK has hosted.

Make My Money Matter

Preparatory work over the next six-to-nine months will reveal the world’s ambition to tackle climate change and determine whether the summit in Glasgow is considered a success.

With the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement coming this December, governments including the UK Government should soon be setting out their commitments and ambition to tackle the emergency.

Our ‘Path to COP26’ campaign has now become the largest financial services sector movement in the run-up to COP26 with over 40 firms registered. The initiative is designed to encourage banks, asset management firms and other financial companies to demonstrate their commitment to the climate agenda by sign-posting existing initiatives and standards for them to sign up to.

For Scotland, there are great opportunities for asset owners to invest in the clean energy sector and deliver greener pensions. Investments in wind power and green hydrogen present considerable, unique opportunities to Scotland that can attract energy-intensive businesses and allow Scotland to become a leading net green energy exporter.

All this needs to be financed and our pensions are an important source. As part of our ‘green your pension’ campaign, we know that only 13 per cent of Scots who have a pension actively chose their own investment portfolio.

We have partnered with the Make My Money Matter campaign led by Richard Curtis, encouraging the public to shift their pensions away from harmful assets and in line with their values.

There is an opportunity in the months ahead to make a positive difference.

For the sake of all people and the planet, we must seize it.


Ethical finance poised to unleash the green recovery

Ahead of next week’s Ethical Finance summit, Shepherd and Wedderburn Senior Associate Peter Alderdice and Solicitor Daniel Boynton explore the challenges and opportunities of green and responsible investment – and how pension funds are uniquely placed to deliver ethical finance and support the transition to a decarbonised economy. Click here to reserve your free place.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made one thing abundantly clear: when disaster strikes, major societal change is possible overnight.

The measures taken around the world to save lives and protect public health systems – such as shuttering non-essential businesses, furloughing almost 10 million workers in the UK and putting children’s education on hold – had been the preserve of dystopian fiction until earlier this year.

As governments start developing policies to rebuild our economy after this time of unprecedented disruption, we should not lose sight of the lesson that fundamental transformation is not only possible within a short period; sometimes it is essential.

That lesson and, in particular, the need for a green recovery, is of critical importance for achieving the targets set by the Scottish and UK governments of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and 2050, respectively.

The challenge posed by those targets is enormous – not least in the midst of the biggest public health and economic emergency in recent times. However, the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that society can adapt to major change when it has to. As the saying goes, “needs must when the devil drives”.

If we are to succeed in achieving net-zero by the target dates, then the economic recovery from COVID-19 must be green. A key challenge in achieving this will be finding the investment required to turn ambitious targets into reality.

The transition to a decarbonised economic system will require unprecedented levels of investment; estimates from the Committee on Climate Change suggest that investment in the UK’s power sector alone needs to rise from around £10 billion to £20 billion annually to achieve this goal.

However, green investment is required not only in the energy sector, but across all areas of the economy if we are to tackle the impact of COVID-19 and climate change at the same time.

While some investment will come from government funds, measures to tackle the immediate impact of coronavirus have left the Exchequer’s coffers depleted. The scale of the net-zero challenge means the private sector has an essential role to play.

Many businesses may be contemplating restructuring to take advantage of the opportunities that the green recovery presents and need to be confident that investors are with them for the long-term in supporting the radical steps required to make the green recovery a reality.

Pension funds – whether in the traditional defined benefit sector, or up-and-coming master trusts in the defined contribution space – are uniquely placed to help meet the challenge of delivering ethical finance to support the green recovery:

  • They have the capital. Thanks to automatic enrolment, more people than ever are actively saving for retirement and already by 2018 the value of UK pension wealth stood at more than £6 trillion. A green recovery offers many new sustainable investment opportunities for pension fund trustees and managers, such as green bonds.
  • Members are demanding change. New disclosure requirements mean those running pension funds now need to explain how environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are used in investment decisions. Recent high-profile campaigns have resulted in investment changes at the largest pension funds, and the pressure is set to build with greater public awareness of impact investing and fossil fuel divestment strategies.
  • It’s good for business. A growing body of evidence indicates businesses that prioritise ESG factors perform better in the long-term. Being environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and well governed reduces business risk and ultimately improves the bottom line. At a time when historically low interest rates and gilt yields make returns harder for pension funds to find, harnessing the green recovery promises better outcomes for their members.

While these factors present pension funds with a great opportunity, more needs to be done to make sure that opportunity is seized:

  • Pension scheme trustees can work with their advisers to develop better reporting tools to help them understand the ESG impact of investments.
  • Automatic enrolment providers can offer default funds taking account of environmental factors and ensure that pension savers have the right information on those ESG points available to them.
  • The UK Government and the Pensions Regulator can support pension schemes in their green recovery journey, recognising the importance of this issue to members.

As well as the patient capital offered by pension funds, the green recovery will also depend on businesses having access to working capital and shorter-term finance from sources such as banks.

The global financial crisis that befell us in 2008 led to systemic reform of the banking sector to rein in unethical behaviour and excessive risk-taking and to improve corporate culture and individual accountability in financial institutions. The increased regulatory scrutiny since then on responsible and sustainable conduct means the banking sector is now better placed than ever to meet the financing needs of the green recovery in an ethical way.

The deployment by banks of tools such as ESG ratings, more commonly seen in the asset management industry, to inform lending decisions is still in its early stages, but initiatives are already underway to help banks proactively accelerate the transition to a green post-COVID economy.

The Loan Market Association, a trade body for the syndicated loan market, has developed Green Loan Principles to promote the development and integrity of the green loan product.

On the international stage, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP IF) is working with signatories to the Principles for Responsible Banking to increase lending that supports socially and environmentally sustainable economic activities.

The root-and-branch reform of our economic system required to achieve net-zero targets is daunting, but policy-makers should not be timid when it comes to proposals for the post-COVID recovery. Change is the only constant in life, as they say, and ethical finance stands poised to unleash the green recovery.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s Head of Clean Energy, Clare Foster, will be speaking with Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, on climate action and the path to net zero at the opening keynote interview of the Ethical Finance Summit on 5 October. Click here to reserve your free place. You can find out more about the firm’s Clean Energy Group and the contribution it and its clients are making to a green recovery here.


Accounting for Sustainability at Ethical Finance 2020

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. This quote, often attributed to Peter Drucker, gets to the heart of why accountancy is key to the sustainability revolution gripping finance and business. If we want to understand the impact that business activities have on climate change, biodiversity, society and more, we have to be able to measure that impact, and report on it in financial statements and annual reports.

At the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI), we are seeking to bring in the perspectives of accountants, as well as others from across the financial services ecosystem, for Ethical Finance 2020. Taking place on 5th-8th October 2020, the summit features an impressive list of speakers, including NatWest’s Alison Rose, Aberdeen Standard’s Keith Skeoch, Professor Michael Mainelli and Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Scottish Government.

While accountants might not fit the public image of what a climate activist looks like, it is increasingly recognised that their participation is essential to creating real action on climate change. The WEF at Davos earlier this year saw a major step taken, with a push from the Big 4, along with other partners, to standardise ESG (environment, social and governance) reporting, creating consistency internationally and moving away from the current status quo where firms are faced with a plethora of reporting standards.

Several sessions at Ethical Finance 2020 will focus directly on the issue of sustainability in accounting, including GEFI founder Omar Shaikh (CA) interviewing Professor Michael Mainelli. Anne Adrain of ICAS and Louise Pryor of The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries will be showcasing the Green Finance Education Charter, a commitment from professional bodies including ICAS to include environmental skills in their curricula. Taking a wider perspective, Jeff Hales of SASB will be explaining collaborative efforts to standardise sustainability reporting worldwide.

These sessions will discuss a range of issues, including whether we need to rethink our idea of the going concern. In the face of devastating climate change, as well as related issues such as biodiversity loss, is the traditional horizon of 12 months appropriate? Environmental damage, including climate change and deforestations, is already impacting supply chains, and stands to cause even more harm if left unchecked.

Then there are technical questions, such as how exactly to measure carbon footprints and other ESG impacts for alternative asset classes. Measurement and disclosures for listed equities are still imperfect but have improved markedly. The level of transparency is far lower in the world of private equity, debt and other asset classes, creating huge data challenges for ESG accounting.

Taken together, this raises the question of whether we are adequately reporting the negative environmental impact of business operations sufficiently. If we are depleting the natural resources of the planet or mistreating people, then the true costs of that are unlikely to be reported in accounts, which reflect the income generated but not the corresponding loss to natural resources. There are efforts to remedy this inconsistency at the national level, through initiatives such as ‘Gross National Happiness’, or the Scottish Government’s drive to measure natural capital.

These discussions are underpinned by the assumption that things can actually be measured: that we can “put a number on it”. But what if the fundamental data is qualitative, rather than quantitative? One area where ESG risks can easily be compared is the carbon emissions held responsible for climate change. The impact of finance on social issues and other environmental issues such as biodiversity and extinction is much harder to quantify.

The last few months have demonstrated the deep inequalities that exist within our society, with the Black Lives Matter movement being the most prominent example. In this climate, ignoring social issues simply because they are difficult to quantify is unacceptable. This point is underpinned by the recent Boohoo scandal around COVID. Despite being linked to unsafe working conditions, and labour rights abuses, the company had scored highly on ESG, ranking in the top 15% of their MSCI peer group index.

What does all this mean for ICAS members? Their involvement is key and they can make a huge impact, but to overcome some of the issues mentioned, accountants may need to broaden their skillsets beyond traditional financial accounting, into environmental, and social accounting, highlighting the need for education and training.

Reflecting our ambition to curate open, accessible debates, Ethical Finance 2020 will be free to attend. To find out more, including our full range of speakers and agenda, visit ethicalfinance2020.com now, or visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ethical-finance-2020-tickets-82579199609 to reserve your free place.


NEWS RELEASE FROM THE GLOBAL ETHICAL FINANCE INITIATIVE

 

 

 

 

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE GLOBAL ETHICAL FINANCE INITIATIVE

THURSDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER 2020

GLOBAL SUMMIT IN SCOTLAND TO BUILD ETHICAL FINANCE SYSTEM

A major global summit will be convened virtually from Scotland next month to bring together over 500 leading professionals to shape a more ethical finance system. Ethical Finance 2020 has the theme ‘protecting our future’, with a key focus on delivering a green recovery after COVID-19 and seizing the opportunities of COP26 in Scotland.

Over 300 organisations, representing over £22 trillion in assets and including some of the world’s largest banks and asset managers, are taking part in the summit to help develop a sustainable finance system that works for people and the planet. The summit is staged by the Edinburgh-based Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) in conjunction with the Scottish Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Royal Bank of Scotland is the host partner and the global event is supported by Chartered Banker and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment. Speakers include filmmaker and campaigner Richard Curtis, NatWest Group CEO Alison Rose, Banking Standards Boards chair Dame Susan Rice, Baillie Gifford partner James Anderson, Aberdeen Standard Investments CEO Keith Skeoch and Bank of England director James Talbot.

GEFI is the driving force behind the ‘Path to COP26’ campaign, as well as a campaign for greener pensions. The Ethical Finance summit will be held over four days from October 5 to 8 and will explore how financial institutions can take practical steps to support inclusive economic growth without depleting natural resources or leaving anyone behind. GEFI works towards a fairer finance system for people and the planet, focusing on sustainability, climate change and social justice. Ethical finance in the UK is valued at around £40billion, creating thousands of sustainable job opportunities. Scotland has a long history of social enterprise with a growing reputation in ethical finance. A recent report from the Ethical Finance Hub found that Scotland’s £9.5billion UK-domiciled responsible investment represents 11 per cent of the UK responsible investment market, compared to the country’s 7 per cent share of the total market. There has been rapid sector growth of around 27 per cent per year since 2004, mainly in climate, impact and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds.

Gail Hurley, senior advisor to the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, said:
“It is now widely recognised that the financial services sector has a fundamental role to play in delivering universally supported targets such as the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as well as supporting economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite its potential, the current financial system can be a cause – rather than a solution – to some of the pressing challenges our planet and its people currently face. Ethical Finance 2020 will explore how the financial sector can support inclusive economic growth without depleting natural resources or leaving anyone behind. Scotland’s proud history in ethical finance makes this the right location for such a major summit, and with COP26 coming here next year it is vital that we come together to deliver a sustainable finance system for people and the planet.”

Thom Kenrick, head of social strategy at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said:
“Royal Bank of Scotland is delighted to be host partner for the Ethical Finance Summit once again this year. Over the past four years we have seen the conversation around ethical finance develop and mature at an incredible pace.  Ethical Finance is a truly global summit of leading thinkers who are committed to developing social and sustainable financial systems. As Scotland looks forward to 2021 and COP26, this event is more relevant than ever. We look forward to being part of the conversation as we continue to embed purpose and sustainability into our strategy.”

Simon Thompson, chief executive officer at the Chartered Banker Institute, said:
“Ethical and sustainable finance are more important now than ever before, as we rebuild businesses, communities and lives impacted by COVID-19 whilst continuing to meet the challenges of the climate emergency. Building a global community of finance professionals committed to embedding ethical and sustainable finance within their own professional practice, in their organisations and across finance as a whole is core to our purpose at the Chartered Banker Institute, and it’s one of the core aims of Ethical Finance 2020 too. That’s why I’m delighted to support the summit, and look forward to welcoming a large global audience to Edinburgh virtually in October.”

Photo for publication is available here. L-R, Simon Thompson, Gail Hurley, Thom Kenrick.

More information is available here: www.ethicalfinance2020.com

More information on Path to COP: www.pathtocop26.com

What is ethical finance?
A fairer system of financial management that combines profit with better outcomes for people and the planet. The full working definition of ethical finance: A system of financial management or investment that seeks qualitative outcomes other purely the management of returns. Outcomes sought may reflect ideas from faith, environmental and governance theories.

Why does ethical finance matter?
Although ethical finance is not a new concept the financial crisis has led to a growing interest in sustainability, climate change and social justice. This has seen a collective desire to create a fairer, more inclusive and responsible global financial system. Trust in banks is diminishing and today’s generation of consumers believes that investment decisions should reflect the issues they care about. Ethical finance in the UK is valued at around £40 billion, creating thousands of sustainable job opportunities. Today, with the world facing a climate emergency there is a pressing need to develop environmentally sustainable financial solutions.

Contact: Alan Roden at alan@quantumcommunications.co.uk or 07753 904 531