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"Building Bridges" must show that the sustainability community needs to act

"Building Bridges" must show that the sustainability community needs to act
Patrick Odier, Senior Managing Partner, Lombard Odier Group

Article published in Le Temps on 2 August 2021

As the Swiss population clearly demonstrated, by rejecting the new CO2 legislation to further reduce carbon emissions by 2030, good sustainability intentions can only be converted into action if everyone is on the same page. Vagaries of this kind make no difference to the state of the environment or the impact of climate change. Our planet is deteriorating. Every week climate change brings about abnormal events that simply serve to emphasise the need for action.

"Building Bridges" aspires to be a role model for what a true sustainability community can achieve, in terms of both changing behaviour and developing standards to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The second edition of “Building Bridges”, a forum for discussion, cooperation and sustainability action will take place in Geneva between 29 November and 2 December. It will gather a large number of representatives around the same table: the financial sector, industry, three federal departments (finance, economy, foreign affairs), cantonal and local authorities in Geneva, civil society, academia, international NGOs and, of course, the entire United Nations system.

Sustainable action is at home in Geneva

Who better to host a sustainability initiative that will continue long after the event than Switzerland? We enjoy the singular good fortune of having two major international financial centres in the same country. Furthermore, Geneva is still the world capital of dialogue, peace and international negotiations, as we saw from the recent Biden-Putin summit on the shores of the lake.

Who better to host a sustainability initiative that will continue long after the event than Switzerland?

Switzerland and Geneva form an unparalleled ecosystem and believe it is an honour to host an initiative such as Building Bridges to untie the sustainability community around the SDGs and convert good intentions into tangible actions. The aim of the 2019 inaugural "Building Bridges" summit was to gather all stakeholders together to discuss what’s at stake. It attracted more than 1,000 Swiss and international players, including the President of the Swiss Confederation, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and numerous CEOs and thought leaders representing NGOs, companies, academia and other international organisations.

 

"Building Bridges" aspires to accelerate the impact of sustainable finance

In 2019, our mission was to build bridges between all the players, especially those most involved in combating climate change. This mission has been accomplished. The foundations of these bridges have been firmly laid.

What remains is to start taking tangible and measurable action based on common objectives and standards. Water has been flowing under these bridges since 2019, and the figures are huge. A report by Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF) published in June 2021 shows that in just one year, sustainable investment in Switzerland grew a remarkable 31%, to CHF 1,520 billion. And it should be noted that, just a few years ago, these figures were still confidential.

A report by Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF) published in June 2021 shows that in just one year, sustainable investment in Switzerland grew a remarkable 31%, to CHF 1,520 billion

Sustainability rules: standards and transparency needed

Another encouraging factor is the growing acceptance of sustainability certificates and labels. In 2019, only 6% of sustainable investments were being independently certified yet by the end of 2020 this figure had increased fivefold, with 32% of sustainable investments enjoying third-party certification (FNG, GRESB, the SRI Label, Luxflag, etc.).

These various forms of labelling and certification are a clear sign the sustainable finance sector is booming. But this boom requires more clarity and transparency. It's difficult for the various players to coordinate their methodology, hence the proliferation of standards, methods and impact indicators, which serves to only unsettle investors.

Transparency is needed as much as understanding especially if we don’t want to fan the flames of scepticism around "green washing" and "social washing". We are, after all, still a fair way off having a single, recognised definition of "sustainable". So it's essential we build a clear and common framework for sustainable finance, with the SDGs as its reference point.

 

Acting quickly, together

This will be the major objective of this conference: converting the ambitions of this sustainability-focused community into concrete actions and – by mobilising finance and drawing on measurable scientific data – accelerating the pace at which we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The organisers will invite the community to submit event proposals for Building Bridges Week that fit around three cross-cutting themes: impact and transparency, the discrepancy between supply and demand and fintech for the SDGs.

…now more than ever we all need to mobilise. And remember that the health crisis has not slowed down the climate crisis affecting our Earth

In the spirit of this unique sustainability forum, the ultimate goal is to shift up a gear, because now more than ever we all need to mobilise. And remember that the health crisis has not slowed down the climate crisis affecting our Earth. The challenge set by "Building Bridges 2021" goes far beyond political debates. It aspires to implement common solutions so that public and private capital is channelled in the best possible way towards a sustainable economy – one that is circular, leaner,, more inclusive and cleaner. (CLIC™) This is the way to generate prosperity for the greatest number of people while preserving the fragile balance of our planet. Together, through "Building Bridges", we must adopt clear and transparent rules and start acting collectively without delay to achieve real impact.

Join us for the launch of the second edition of "Building Bridges” in Geneva on 29 November.

  

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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