Finance & sustainability - an evolving relationaship

Vancouver, Canada (GLOBE-Net) - The relationship between sustainable development and finance has been rapidly changing in recent years. The issues that will be discussed at GLOBE 2006 will form the basis for the evolution of Finance and Sustainability in the coming decades.

The Finance and Sustainability track will focus on clean technology investment, regulation and policy, capital markets, and responsible investment strategies.

Global investors and financial institutions are augmenting their decision-making processes to include sustainability factors, a movement which is gaining momentum with the support of several international organizations.

Thousands of executives have signed on to the guiding principles of the United Nations Global Compact in an effort to improve social and environmental performance. Another UN program, the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), has brought together 170 financial institutions in an unprecedented collaboration on responsible investment.

The results of two years of work under that program will be showcased at GLOBE 2006, with the release of the UNEP FI Working Capital Report. This will provide a highlight to the conference’s Finance and Sustainability theme, and will be supported by the presence of worldwide experts that have collaborated on this landmark study.

Contributors to the report include the world’s 3rd largest law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which outlined an important legal interpretation that could lead to a greater role for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in all investment decisions. The Freshfields study has been acknowledged as ‘groundbreaking’ by investment professionals.

Paul Watchman, a Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, will be travelling from Switzerland to Vancouver to participate in the finance dialogue at GLOBE 2006, and will highlight a session entitled ‘MAINSTREAMING RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT. This session, to be moderated by Paul Clements–Hunt, Head of Unit for the UNEP Finance Initiative, will unveil and explore the latest approaches to responsible investment.

As Mr. Watchman noted at the release of the study, “The report confirms that a number of the perceived limitations on the integration of ESG issues into investment decision-making are illusory. Far from preventing the integration of ESG considerations, the law clearly permits and, in certain circumstances, requires that this be done. This legal interpretation has far-reaching implications for the institutional investment community worldwide.”

The results of such findings are likely to be seen in the behaviour of institutional and private investors. Responsible investment strategies that take ESG factors into account are expected to increase their proliferation. To cope with the changing investment climate, company managers and investment professionals will need to adapt their own metrics.

Sue McGeachie, Director of Innovest Strategic Advisors from Toronto, Canada, will moderate a session entitled ‘THE EMERGING PENSION FUND CONSENSUS’, which will explore how pension funds are looking to sustainable investment strategies for long-term returns. She will be joined by experienced investors from Canada and the United States, with first-hand experience in large institutional investment.

A host of other sessions will deal with Responsible Investment, Sustainability and Risk, and the future of investment in a sustainable economy.

The sustainable economy has been increasingly influenced by concern for climate change among governments and industry. As the economy adapts to this trend, new challenges and opportunities are arising in the form of direct risks to firms and the emergence of carbon markets. How climate change is impacting the finance sector, and how some institutions are managing this transformation will be explored in a session entitled ‘CLIMATE CHANGE: RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN FINANCE’.

International experts in this session include Seb Walhain, Director of Environmental Products for Fortis Bank of The Netherlands, and Martin Whittaker, Senior Vice President of Environmental Markets for Swiss Re Financial Services Corporation, the world’s largest reinsurance company. They will be joined by moderator Sandra Odendahl, Director of Environmental Risk Management for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Doug Russell, Managing Director of Natsource.

Clean technology will also be a core focus area. In the past few years, ‘cleantech’, or technology with an environmental benefit, has emerged as one of the fastest growing investment sectors in the world. Many cleantech areas such as wind, solar, and hydrogen technology have posted tremendous growth numbers in recent years, and capital returns are starting to emerge where once only intrepid venture capitalists dared to tread.

Among the exciting sessions in this area are ‘CLEANTECH INVESTING: IS IT THE ‘NEXT BIG THING’?’, and ‘CORPORATE CLEANTECH VENTURING FOR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH’, both to be moderated by Nicholas Parker, Chairman of the Cleantech Capital Group.

The potential for Canada to develop leadership in environmental technologies will also be discussed at ‘CANADA – A NORTHERN CLEANTECH VENTURE TIGER’, moderated by Vicky Sharpe, CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada. This session will illuminate Canada’s competitive cleantech advantages and those technology areas offering the prospect of compelling investment returns.

In order to succeed in the changing world, companies must continue to innovate and progress, ensuring that each move is made in advance to capitalize on emerging opportunities. The incorporation of sustainability into business and investment decisions will forever alter the world economy, and only forward-thinking executives will be prepared to lead the way. GLOBE 2006 will help leaders develop the necessary tools to succeed.

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