Refugees – risk to a working economy or force for development?

There are two current risk drivers worrying our community : climate change and the evolving nature of conflict and insecurity. Each by itself has serious consequences for development, but their convergence has got to the attention of this years panel meeting at the WBCSD liasion delegates meeting.

Watching the news and following the newest happenings it is quite obvious that whole Europe can’t close there eyes anymore to what is happening in the middle east and the Arab region: Both regions are experiencing one of the most dramatic periods of change in history – escalating conflicts, rising poverty rates, and constant war & terrorrism conclude the emergence of many million refugees and internally displaced persons. But it’s not to forget that International labour migration has become a key driver of development around the world.
Some key facts about migration, according to the UNDP 2015:

  • In 2013, there were 232 million international migrants globally; a number projected to exceed 250 million in 2015 (UNDESA).
  • Of the 59.9 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, 38.2 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs), 19.5 million are refugees and 1.8 million are asylum seekers.
  • The average length of displacement is 17 years. Many live in a state of protracted displacement, or “second exile”, caught between the inability to return home and the lack of durable solutions elsewhere.

To achieve all development goals (SDGs) that were agreed on at last years COP21 meeting in Paris, success in the area of inclusion, justice, security and equality is crucial. Given the protracted nature of conflict caused by unjustice, poverty and war and thus causing in millions of people to flee their homecountries, climate risks must factor into early recovery and reconstruction efforts, including climate-resilient infrastructure and livelihoods and sustainable energy solutions. This can be an important way to combine growing levels of humanitarian assistance and climate finance.

 

written by Miriam Luft

Reflecting on the student experience from a skills perspective

Our LUMS student representatives supported the running of the WBCSD event over four days. During this time they developed and demonstrated a variety of skills that they can add to their CV and refer to in application forms and at interview. Some of the skills that I observed include:

Organisation and time management:

  • Assisted with the running of a large scale event with approx. 450 attendees from a variety of companies.
  • Students were allocated individual work rotas which they reviewed to check that there were no issues with timings. Students took the initiative and addressed any rota clashes with their event line manager.
  • Students planned their own working day and could choose to attend sessions around their timetabled duties. Students planned their time carefully to ensure they allowed sufficient time to be at their allocated duty slot.

Teamwork:

  • Students supported each other with their workload and offered to cover each other’s sessions to enable each other to attend sessions of interest and 1:1 networking meetings.
  • Students shared ideas about their blogs and supported each other by discussing topics and offering to review each other’s work before it was published.

Communication:

  • Greeted event delegates in a friendly manner and assisted them with any questions that they had.
  • Wrote reflective blogs based on the sessions that they attended and their wider thoughts on the role of business in sustainability
  • Sent professional emails to session delegates to follow up on sessions attended by providing feedback and asking insightful questions

Networking:

  • Used the informal networking breaks to speak with industry professionals to gain information on career trajectories and role-specific knowledge
  • Used the event app to send internal messages to delegates and presenters; this sometimes resulted in the opportunity to meet with attendees in person

Knowledge development:

  • Gained an understanding of various aspects of events management; conference design, catering, scheduling, professional etiquette and the importance of technology (web apps and scanning equipment).
  • Developed stronger awareness of sustainability issues in business and gained insight into future initiatives being discussed and developed by WBCSD members.

The conference was a fantastic opportunity for the students and will be an interesting experience to refer to in job applications and interviews. I hope that this opportunity has inspired the students to contemplate their future career aims and also to consider the value they will place on working for a company that has clear sustainability policies and goals in the future.

Written by Jo Hobbs

Reflections on gender inequality in the UK graduate labour market

One of the key business sustainability goals identified by WBCSD is to address gender equality which has led me to reflect on this issue specifically in relation to university graduates in the UK.

It is no longer the case that women are less likely than men to attend university in the UK. In fact, the numbers of women at work and at university in the UK are on a par with men however, women are still less likely than men to be associated with leadership positions: they account for 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions and 3% of board chairpersons (The Guardian). The current issue for females is no longer access to higher education or to work in general; the issue is whether women can now progress to senior roles across a broad range of businesses including sectors which are still heavily male-dominated. Of course I am aware that there are many examples of successful UK businesswomen but they are still often used as case studies rather than viewed as the norm.

It is clear that women are valuable and influential in businesses: research has shown that companies with high-level female representation on boards significantly outperform those with no female representation – by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results (Business in the Community). Yet despite such findings, women are still underrepresented in certain sectors and in top management positions across all industries. Sectors such as banking, consulting, engineering and IT are keen to rectify this diversity issue and have implemented external and internal pathways to encourage recruitment and development of female employees. EY have an extremely useful section of their website aimed at tackling the issue of gender equality.

Increasingly there are similar female-focused programmes aimed specifically at the graduate population in order to address the under-representation of females in graduate-level positions. Although almost 60% of graduates in the UK are female, only 42% of hires to large graduate schemes are women (The Guardian). Examples of such schemes include:

  • Women in business – PWC – one week paid experience opportunity where students can work closely with a female leader to gain exposure to the nature of the work that PWC do at a senior level.
  • IT’ s not just for the boys – event programme organised by Target Jobs and in partnership with Deloitte to enable female students to find out more about technology careers.
  • Women in investment banking – an event providing female students with a unique opportunity to hear first-hand about what it is like to work in an investment bank.
  • RBS Inspiring Enterprise – support offered to females interested in starting their own business to try and tackle the statistics that twice as many men as women start a business in the UK.

As the focus on diversity within organisations increases, these types of programmes are becoming more common yet the proportion of females in graduate-level roles has not changed for the better according to AGR. It doesn’t seem that the existence of female-attraction programmes is having the desired effect; perhaps these companies are trying too hard to persuade females to join them? Moreover, some females may find the very existence of such programmes offensive as it can be inferred that women cannot successfully join and progress in an organisation on their own without mentor support or a clear development pathway. An interesting piece of research would be to investigate how many of these female development programmes have been designed by men, women or a mixture of the two and whether this has had any effect on their intake rates.

My opinion is that the existence of such schemes is worthwhile but not wholly positive. They are useful in that they make it easier for females to identify employers who are committed to recruiting and progressing female talent. Whilst it is encouraging that businesses are implementing measures to try to address this inequality issue, it is unfortunate that such gender-focused schemes are necessary in today’s society.

Written by Jo Hobbs

Sustainable Finance – The Devil Wears Green

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When Vogues newest flashy magazine tells you that green is the new red, you go and buy greens. The dictating voice that incinerates the inner need to follow the trend is how the fashion industry works, creating artificial demand for its newest ridiculous creations. Finance’s continuously self-renewing investment product range does not settle far from that.

After Kyoto, but especially after Paris investors and corporates feel the need to dress for the occasion. Green bonds, sustainable ETFs up to biodiversity swaps, the shelves are stocked with sustainable brands for them to wear. Green bond issuance has grown from USD 1bn in 2011 to over USD 40bn in 2015. Headlines like “Morgan Stanley is a founding signatory of the Green Bond Principles”[1], “Goldman Sachs has been at the forefront of developing market-based solutions to addressing environmental and social challenges”[2], “Blackrock [has] build [a] sustainable product range”[3] plaster their websites. Wall Street’s runway is open and every big-name bank strikes a pose, giving the media time to take a snapshot of their youngest sparkly accessories[4].

Albeit, accessories are all they are, climate-aligned bonds make up only roughly 0.5%[5] of the total bond market and sustainable ETFs represent an even lower fraction of their respective one. Then again, of the green bonds merely 11.0% are labelled, meaning they provide transparency into what their proceedings are going. The rest is like that white t-shirt with the big, fat brand on front; nobody has the slightest idea why it has to cost forty dollars more than the blank one down the hall, but everyone is still buying it.

The celebrated movements in sustainable finance are not system changers, they are just an other string in an interwoven industry. In order to redirect capital flows in a significant manner, the basis of the system needs to be altered. To quote Yves Saint Laurent: ‘Fashions fade, style is eternal”. Style should dictate your fashion choice in the same manner as fundamentals should dictate your investment decision. Friede, Busch & Bassen[6] provide comprehensive evidence that ESG oriented investments outperform traditional ones. Still, 83% of financial institutions do not integrate ESG risks in their assessment at portfolio level[7].

For an iridescent investment to reveal its true colour it needs to be illuminated. Transparency has to be demanded, provided and implemented at both sides, investor and investee. Hence, reporting matters when ESG criteria really is to change an investor’s attitude of style. The groundwork for re-orientation is already set, the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) offer the means to this end. Quantifiable and unified standards are necessary in order to identify which of the opportunities available to an investor remain fashionable season-in and season-out. In the end fashion is what you get offered four times a year by designers and style is what you choose.

Written by Ferdinand Weiler

Scources:

[1] Morgan Stanley (2016) ‘Morgan Stanley Green Bond Program, available at: https://www.morganstanley.com/articles/green-bond-program

[2] Goldman Sachs (2016) ‚Green Bonds and Impact Investing’, available at: http://www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/environmental-stewardship/market-opportunities/green-bonds-impact-investing/

[3] Blackrock (2016) ‘Blackrock builds sustainable product range with fixed income ETFs’, available at: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/en-gb/newsroom/press-releases/article/corporate-one/press-releases/blackrock-builds-sustainable-product-range-with-fixed-income-etf_GB

[4] Climate Bonds Initiative (2015) ‘Scaling Up Green Bond Markets for Sustainable Development’, November 2015, p. 4, available at: http://www.climatebonds.net

[5] Climate Bonds Initiative (2015) ‘Bonds and Climate Change’, July 2015, p. 2, available at: http://www.climatebonds.net

[6] Friede, G., Busch, T. & Bassen, A. (2015) ‘ESG and financial performance: aggregated evidence from more than 2000 empirical studies’, Journal of Sustainable Finance and Investment 5:8, pp. 210-233

[7] KPMG (2015) ‘Ready or Not? – An assessment of sustainability integration in the European banking sector’, available at: http://www.sustainablefinance.ch/en/market-research-_content—1–1089.html

From impressive Visions to convincing Implementation Strategies

When we went to our first trip to the WBCSD meeting in Paris in 2015, all of us were stunned by the presence of highly ranked celebrities, CEO’s, politicians and WBCSD members. It definitively was a great and impressive experience for all of us and we took a lot from this meeting – not just the motivation from Al Gore’s inspiring speech but also  the driving mood from project presentations and the feeling of need for change as a general consensus of the meeting. After being in Paris I wasn’t sure if the liaison delegates meeting in Montreux would be comparable to this experience, although I had high expectations as I knew it would be the hands-on approach to the ground-breaking decisions that had been made in Paris 2015.
The preparation actually felt quite similar to our Paris trip: we got a warm welcome and a friendly introduction by Marie Loriott and Nicole Berthier who had already been our contact persons in Paris and we got to know the venue. However at the first day I realised that there was quite a difference to Paris as we could not attend any sessions until afternoon as most of the working sessions were closed – this was due to the higher level of confidentiality in this meeting. The fact that the whole meeting and the outcome of the working sessions underlie a strict level of confidentiality made me more aware that this meeting had the intention to allow the liaison delegates to discuss different approaches for different issues and not, as the council meeting in Paris had been, a meeting to demonstrate the work for external press.

Having been at both meetings, I always compared the situation in Montreux to the time in Paris; So if I would have to give one descriptive word to each of the meetings, it would be that Paris had been impressive while Montreux was more convincing for me.
While observing the sessions at the council meeting in Paris showed me that there is a way for a sustainable future by reaching all the sustainability goals, being Note-taker in one of the closed sessions and attending the plenary at the liaison delegates meeting in Montreux gave me more touchable ideas about how to get there – in other words, Montreux was to provide solutions and actions plans for what Paris had been the wake up call.

written by Miriam Luft

Lessons Learnt

imageBefore attending the WBCSD Liaison Delegate Meeting in Montreux, I had been told by many that this would be a life changing experience. However, I thought it to be an overstatement, something people use to get you to be productive and excited. Now that this experience has come to an end, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised to find out that what I had been told was true.

This was undoubtedly a unique experience and I can confidently say that it had a great impact on me both personally and professionally. Firstly, I had the chance to meet people who have based their entire careers on their beliefs and passions. Having the opportunity to have a conversation with some of them made me realise just how much of an achievement that is. Secondly, all the talks, sessions and working groups I attended were incredibly beneficial and really got me thinking. I had to step back and consider whether I am doing enough to lead a sustainable lifestyle myself, and what I could improve on.

I got some clear messages from the LD Meeting. Every day I gained new knowledge, little bits and pieces that did not make much sense to me at first, but enabled me to see the bigger picture in the end. I went to Montreux with a few uncertainties and doubts about whether business wants to be a force for good and how profitability issues would influence the transition from Vision to Action. Namely, I was wondering whether a company would actually try to reduce its environmental footprint and work towards a low carbon economy, even if it meant profit loss.

I thought that my question had already been answered on my first day attending a working group. Hearing the conversation on leading sustainable lifestyles, I was forced to acknowledge what I had been ignoring long enough. Priority for large companies like the ones in the meeting, is profit making/maximising. Even though this is not news to anyone, I allowed myself to believe that businesses would be willing to sacrifice some of its profits to move into a sustainable future. I was rather disappointed that I had to admit that this is not possible as it would contradict the whole purpose behind establishing a company in the first place. However, as the days went by and the more sessions I attended I came into another realisation. The people there were putting real effort into producing change, but they were doing it in a way that aligns their companies’ sustainable development goals with their profit maximising ones. They were working towards establishing a sustainable strategy for their firms. A strategy that despite having profit maximising as its objective, ensures that sustainable development is interwoven with it. Finally, I recognised that even though this slows down and complicates the process of moving towards a low carbon economy, it is vital. After all, how could business be a force for good and positive change if it is essentially powerless?

Overall, I may still be sceptical and need to see the discussions being implemented, but I certainly have improved my understanding on many topics and I am a lot more hopeful for the future. Looking back, I am extremely thankful for this unique experience, as it has been a learning process and has had a great impact on me.

 

Dafni Papaioannou

Is This the Right Place?

Switzerland has the world’s nineteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and the thirty-sixth largest by purchasing power parity. Credit Suisse Group identified Switzerland as the country with the highest average wealth per adult in 2013. Not to mention the fact, that a regular cheeseburger in Swiss McDonald’s costs twice as much as the same cheeseburger in the same fast food restaurant in the UK. In other words, it is safe to say that Switzerland is a rather wealthy and developed country. Therefore, it would seem rather impractical for an organization, whose aims include economic equality, to have a meeting in a place where economic stability, to some extent, has already been achieved.

WBCSD meetings are not the only conferences on sustainability that are hosted in developed countries. For example, this year International Conference on Sustainable Development is scheduled to be held in New York, the same place where International Institute for Sustainable Development usually hosts its conventions. While the ultimate goals of these organizations involve ending poverty and hunger and reducing inequality among countries, it is really difficult to comprehend the full effect of these problems in places like “the cultural capital of the world”. Therefore, one might enquire: how close to the reality are all of the discussions occurring throughout the events like these?

However, the question, whether these meetings are relevant to contemporary social issues is not the only concern that may arise, if the situation does not change. It is quite evident that conferences like these require fairly large expenses. In most cases, appropriate venue needs to be rented, food needs to be prepared and staff needs to be hired. Additional jobs and investment would arguably have a lot more weight in countries where a shortage of them is presented. Therefore, by hosting the assemblies in economically unstable countries the organizations would already begin to implement the changes that they want to occur, and effectively increase the well-being of the countries’ population. Some might argue that the scale of the contribution would be incredibly small, relative to the scope of the whole problem. However, having these benefits as a by-product of these meetings is arguably better than not having them at all.

The fact that the next WBCSD summit is scheduled to be held in Chennai indicates that the possibility that situation will improve still exists. India has quite a few economic issues, and can provide a source of valuable examples, which can be used throughout the discussion. Moreover, additional investment could be useful in the city that is still recovering from the floods of November 2015. The only question is, if it is a new course for an organization, or is it merely an experiment.

Written by Yury Dmitryuk