Ethical Finance 2021 | Day 3 | Beyond Climate | Round-Up

We hope you were able to join us for the final day of Ethical Finance as planned. We brought this year’s summit to a close with a truly incredible range of speakers and panels, who allowed us to successfully move ‘Beyond Climate’ to the leadership challenges and the ‘S’ in ESGs. The need to implement purpose-lead business models and to apply a macro-economic approach to questions of the fight against climate change came to the forefront of discussions across our illustrious range of speakers and varied panel sessions. With social inequalities thrown into stark relief by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, aligning profit with societal and global purpose shone through as a key imperative facing the finance sector as the eyes of the world  turn towards COP26.

The day began with a welcome from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, before an interview with UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner by the Scottish Government’s Kat Feldinger. Dora Benedeck and Alexander Ferendec Tieman from International Monetary Fund gave a post-pandemic assessment of the SDGs, assessing how developing countries can finance the SDGs in the wake of COVID-19. A panel session followed with George LittleJohn in conversation with Arshad Mohammed Ismail, Bank Pembangunan, Sarah Norris, Aberdeen Standard Investments, Dr. Hayat Sindi, Islamic Development Bank and Abubaker Suleiman, Sterling Finance discuss financing of the SDGs from a range of perspectives around the world. A session on The UKIFC Global Islamic Finance & the SDGs Taskforce brought together John Glen, Sultan Choudary UKIFC, Stella Cox CBE to launch the UKIFC's new PRB report, setting a case for the role faith finance can play in delivering ESG goals. Read more here.

The next session covered social issues - the S in ESG - and began with a keynote from HE Dr Reza Baqir, governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, who described how the role of central banks has shifted through the Global Financial Crises to the pandemic. Next, a panel saw Thom Kenrick of NatWest in conversation with Andrew Cave of Bailliee Gifford, Elena Espinoza of the PRI, Leslie Swynghedauw of MSCI and Lesley-Ann Vaughan of Mojaloop Foundation. The panel discussion some of the challenges around social finance, with insights including how MSCI use nutritional data to better understand food companies' health impacts. The session concluded with a spotlight on Tobacco Free Portfolios with GEFI’s own Gail Hurley, Dr. Bronwyn King, CEO of Tobacco Free Portfolios and Ruben Zandvliet from ABN AMRO.

The final session of the day, and of Ethical Finance 2021 saw a series of keynotes around leadership. In one of the most unique presentations we have ever had at our Ethical Finance Summit, Louai Al Roumani taught us the lessons he learned from leading BANQUE BEMO SAUDI FRANSI through the Syrian Civil War. You can find his book, Lessons from a Warzone, here. We shifted our focus to a different type of purpose-led leadership which saw Farmida Bi interviewing Sir Howard Davies, Chair of NatWest Group about the development and implementation of the bank's purpose-led strategy. Our Fireside Chat: Steering a path to Net Zero was moderated by GEFI’s own Allan Watt, and drew on the extensive expertise of Keith Anderson from Scottish Power and Vivenne Yeda Apopo from the East African Development Bank and Kenya Power. Dr. Rhian Mari Thomas OBE lead our penultimate session, a conversation with Lord Mayor of London, William Russel, before George Hay of Reuters Breakingviews interviewed UN Special Envoy on Sustainable Investment and Innovative Finance Hiro Mizuno. Click here to watch the session, which covers the GPIF sustainable finance journey, the importance of governance and whether short-selling can ever be ethical.

With the Summit done for this year, our commitment to financing a sustainable future sees us turn our attention now to COP26 in Glasgow, which is just months away. We are committed to continuing the valuable conversations from Ethical Finance 2021, and encourage you to be part of this conversation at Path to Cop, to follow us @Finance4Change on Twitter and at on Linkedln to be part of this exciting next stage of the journey.


Ethical Finance 2021 | Day 2 | Sustainability | Round-Up

Day 2 of Ethical Finance 2021 was a jam-packed day of fascinating exchanges, unpicking the complex challenges of delivering Net Zero and the macro-economic factors underpinning them. Our sessions and speakers all pointed towards the need to shift global focus to issues of sustainability, prevent further nature loss and make a business case of biodiversity preservation. Together, they have layed the ground for our focus on Day 3 of our Ethical Finance Summit: How to move beyond climate to achieve long-term, sustainable solutions in finance and beyond ahead of COP26.

We started off with Kirsty Britz Director of Sustainable Banking at NatWest Group, highlighting how the #EthicalFinance2021 is an opportunity for NatWest Group and others to learn collaboratively. Next, Inger Andersen, Executive Director at United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), outlined her four-step action plans for financiers (watch now). Dr Werner Hoyer, President of European Investment Bank (EIB), then outlined the daunting set of challenges we face globally from the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis, emphasising that this is our last chance to make real change. Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank launched a new Carbon Dated report looking at the impact of MNCs’ #netzero intentions on suppliers in Asia, Africa and Middle East - read it now at sc.com/carbon-dated.

We then moved on to our 'Global Trends in Sustainability' Panel with Dame Susan Rice from FSCB, Tan Sri Dato’Zeti Aziz, former Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia and Katie Murray, Group Chief Financial Officer at NatWest Group, who unpicked some of the challenges around sustainability finance globally. Our last session of the morning saw Dr. Sarah Ivory from University of Edinburgh Business School in conversation with Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, spotlight the International Platform for Climate Finance (IPCF), and its work building consensus ahead of COP26.

To kick off our Net Zero session, Kaisie Rayner FRSA Rayner, Climate Change Lead at Royal London interviewed Manuel Pulgar-Vidal Global Energy and Climate Practice Lead at WWF and former COP President, who advised Alok Sharma to "be the DJ", mixing all the avenues for climate action together to create the right sound! Our approaches to 'Delivering Net Zero in Banking and Investment' Panel discussion was lead by David Pitt-Watson, Visiting Fellow at Cambridge Judge Business School. He challenged Deirdre Michie OBE, CEO at OGUK, Masja Zandbergen-Albers , Head of Sustainability Integration at Robeco, Kaitlin Crouch-Hess, Sustainability Manager at ING and Joanne Manda, Regional Advisor, Climate Change and Innovative Finance at UNDP Indonesia on greenwashing, practical tools for Net Zero, the role of the fossil fuel sector, transparency, and the responsibilities of the financial sector. Our Initiative Spotlight profiled the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC). Clare Foster, Head of Clean Energy and Green Recovery Lead at Shepherd and Wedderburn was joined by Daisy Streatfeild, Investor Practices Programme Director at the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and Dewi Dylander, Deputy Executive Director at PKA, who outlined how the framework grew from a small group of investors interested in the Paris Agreement, to a vital tool in assessing investment portfolio alignment to science-based targets.

Our Nature session opened with Greg Ritchie in conversation with Prof. Partha Dasgupta, author of the review into the Economics of Biodiversity, who called for a 'World Bank for Biodiversity' (read more in Bloomberg or watch now). Our last session panel saw Andrew Mitchell from Global Canopy bring together Antoine Sire from BNP Paribas,  Charlotte Kaiser from NatureVest, Madeleine Ronquest from First Rand and Reza Marvasti from ISS ESG, for a lively panel exploring the routes to practical action on biodiversity from a range of viewpoints. The day closed with and initiative spotlight lead by Natalie Jackson, which highlighted the work of TFND, which launches tomorrow, drawing on the expertise of Elizabeth Mrema from UN Biodiversity and Mikkel Larsen from DBS Bank.

Tomorrow, we will be looking ‘Beyond Climate’ which will be opened by The Scottish Government First Minister herself Nicola Sturgeon at 09.20 BST.

Remember to sign in using our EfX Global login: https://www.efx.global/ethical-finance-2021-sign-in/

You can find more ore information about all of sessions and speakers at ethicalfinancesummit.com


Ethical Finance 2021 | Day 1 | Regional Showcase | Round-Up

We hope you were able to join us for  our regional showcase Day 1 of Ethical Finance 2021 as planned. In a fitting tribute to broader conversations around  World Ocean Day 2021, Day 1 of Ethical Finance 2021 brought together a fascinating range of discussions featuring experts from Australasia, South East Asia, South Asia and West Africa. Common global challenges such as inclusion and diversity (notably around gender), as well as ongoing Covid-19 recovery emerged across the panels. The global steps needed to implement sustainable finance strategic and integrate ESG frameworks into investment models were equally prevalent across each of panel sessions.

Like many of you, we were impacted by today's global web outage which also affected Amazon, The New York Times, Reddit, The UK Government, and the Guardian. We would like to apologise to those of you who were impacted by our technical difficulties experienced at the start of the South Asia session. Unfortunately, our video platform Vimeo was impacted by the global internet outage. We hope you were able to access the backup stream that we quickly implemented, and that the rest of the summit will proceed with any issues.

You can find summaries of each of our sessions below.

 

Session 1: Australasia

 

We kicked off the Australasia Regional Showcase session with a keynote from Chris Whitehead, the CEO of FINSIA drawing on Australasia's economic recovery post COVID to increasing Climate Change concerns in the area. The panel was led by Giles Gunesekera, the CEO of the Global Impact Initiative. Panel members included Katherine Tapley, Head of Sustainable Finance at ANZ; Lucy Thomas, Head of Investment Stewardship at NSW Treasury Corporation; Talieh Williams, Head of Investment Stewardship at VFMC; and finally Dr Stuart Palmer, Head of Ethics Research at Australian Ethical Investment. Topics discussed included frameworks for measuring sustainability and social impact, systems thinking, defining ESG, and the importance of regulations.

 

Session 2: South East Asia

Cecile Thioro Niang, Lead Economist at the World Bank Group began the showcase with an overview of the South East Asia region making a clear economic case for financing climate action and increasing finance for transition, as well as the importance of Green Finace in ASEAN nations.

You can see the whole of Cecile’s Thioro Niang’s speech on YouTube.

The panel was led by Prasad Padmanaban, Chief Executive of AICB. He was joined by Dr Hamim Syahrum, Deputy Director of Islamic Banking & Takaful, Bank Negara Malaysia; Lavanya Rama Iyer, Head of Policy & Climate Change at WWF Malaysia, Cedric Rimaud, Fund Manager at Earthwake Green Impact Fund, David Smith, Head of Corporate Governance, Asia Pacific at Aberdeen Standard Investments, and finally, Rafe Haneef, Chief Executive Officer of Group Transaction Banking & Group Chief Sustainability Officer at CIMB.

You can head over to our twitter page to see snippets from our panel discussions throughout the session.

Session 3: South Asia

 

 

Madame Sima Kamil, Deputy Governor at the State Bank of Pakistan began our South Asia session with a regional overview of South Asia.

Watch Sima Kamil’s speech in full on Youtube

The panel was led by GM Abbasi, Director of Islamic Banking Division at the State Bank of Pakistan. The panel members in this regional overview are Azhar Aslam, Head of Islamic Banking & Governance Head Central & North Region at Standard Chartered Bank; Mujahid Zuberi, Head Corporate & Investment Banking, Pakistan at Dubai Islamic Bank; Dr. Shah Md. Ahsan Habib, Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM); Muhammad Shoaib, CEO at Al Meezan Investment Management; Khawlah Usman, Director of Marketing & Sales at The Institute of Bankers Pakistan.

Session 4: West Africa

 

Arise News Anchor  Boason Omofaye, and Al Hamdou Dorsouma, Division Manager, Climate and Green Growth at African Development Bank provided a regional overview of West Africa to begin our showcase, emphasising the need for finance, particularly private finance, to contribute to climate resilience in West Africa and offsetting the devastating impacts of climate change on major industries across the region.

The session was led by Abdelkader Benbrahim, Partnership Coordinator for Making Finance Work for Africa. Panel members for the West Africa regional showcase are Elsie Addo Awadzi, Deputy Governor at Bank of Ghana; Garba Mohammed, Group Head Sales, Non-Interest Banking at Sterling Bank Plc.; Karima Ola, Partner at LeapFrog Investments; Jules Ngankam, Group CEO at African Guarantee Fund; and finally, Hajara Adeola, CEO & Managing Director at Lotus Capital.

Tomorrow, we will shift our focus to nature and climate ahead of the crucial COP26 UN climate summit for Day 2 of Ethical Finance 2021 ‘Sustainability’. With sessions exploring global trends, net zero and nature and biodiversity, the day will be an opportunity to understand both the macroeconomic issues facing the world beyond World Ocean Day,  and will position some of the key tools available to address them.

Read the full agenda for Day 2 here.

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Ethical Finance Round Table Summary: Leadership is crucial in driving better economies

Leadership is crucial in driving better economies. From fighting the climate crisis, to driving inclusion across business and society, we cannot build a better world without effective leadership. The pandemic, combined with the threat of the climate crisis, has created a uniquely challenging set of circumstances for leaders across the spectrum.

In the latest Ethical Finance Round Table, taking place on 5 May 2021 and entitled ‘Leadership: Embedding Responsibility’, Michael Cole-Fontayn, Chairman at the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) and the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME); Helen Cook, Chief HR Officer at NatWest Group; and Karina Robinson, CEO at Robinson Hambro joined moderator Graham Burnside of GEFI to discuss the role of leadership in driving social and environmental responsibility in organisations. Despite the scale of the challenge, the panel offered optimism that leadership in the finance sector is moving in the right direction.

While the current global health and economic crisis has tested the resolve of leaders throughout finance, Michael Cole-Fontayn emphasised that climate change, biodiversity loss and social inequality offer a challenge many times greater. He added that, on top of these existential pressures, managers in the finance sector are facing increasingly complex demands from clients, governments and regulators.

Helen Cook discussed NatWest Group’s journey to put their purpose at the centre of the bank’s strategy, stressing the importance of action over words. While the NatWest journey began 5 years ago, it has become the bank’s ‘North Star’ during the pandemic by providing a guiding purpose through its three core tenets: enterprise, learning and climate. One manifestation of this has been the shift towards hybrid working, likely to continue after the pandemic. Helen also remarked on the ways in which her role has changed over the years, with investors more concerned than ever about the practical steps companies are taking to look after their employees.

Karina Robinson gave an optimistic view of the future: while the finance sector is in no way perfect, there is an effective ‘carrot and stick’ across the industry, with incentives to perform well allied with much-needed effective regulation. Even prior to Covid-19, Karina argues that there was general dissatisfaction with capitalism, consistent across generations and even income levels, and only by addressing this dissatisfaction can the business sector make the case for capitalism.

The session ended with a Q&A; one particularly interesting question asked about the challenge of leading hybrid workforces, creating cohesive teams while some employees are in the office and others work remotely. Michael pointed out that those physically present tend to unconsciously exclude virtual participants, with Karina arguing for effective education to resolve this issue and Helen highlighting the role of behavioural scientists employed by NatWest Group to understand the psychology behind the challenges of a hybrid workforce. “Middle manager” might be a term with negative associations, but as Helen pointed out, it is becoming an increasingly difficult job as working patterns become more complex.


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.


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.


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