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    Building Bridges: a promising event for sustainable finance and the Sustainable Development Goals

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    Building Bridges: a promising event for sustainable finance and the Sustainable Development Goals

    Article published in Le Temps, 10 January 2022

    Turning words into action. This was the main aim of the second edition of Building Bridges held in Geneva in December 2021, a four-day event which brought together 1,450 participants from 35 countries. Almost 9,000 people connected online, to either take part in or to follow the wide range of talks that made up the 77 events of the programme and the inaugural summit.

    I would say, unreservedly, that Building Bridges achieved its aim. It was successful in many respects: the week, devoted to sustainable finance, resulted in valuable discussions and much sharing of experience and knowledge. It also generated a spirit of friendly competition for developing concrete solutions through which sustainable finance can have a measurable impact on the real economy, and accelerate the transition towards a global economic model based on the requirements of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

     

    A sacred alliance to act on the real economy

    Beyond this encouraging observation and goal, there are six major points to take away:

    1. Everyone felt involved: both the Geneva of international institutions and the Swiss and Genevan financial centres rallied round! Taking advantage of Switzerland's unique ecosystem, Building Bridges successfully brought together the world of finance and connected it with international organisations, universities, civil society, the public and private sectors, and NGOs. The week showed us that the Building Bridges community really exists, that it can rally together for the common good, and that it is proactive.

    Building Bridges successfully brought together the world of finance and connected it with international organisations, universities, civil society, the public and private sectors, and NGOs

    2. Stakeholders in the transition towards responsible sustainability are increasingly conscious of the urgency of the situation and are making practical and effective commitments that go far beyond good intentions.

    3. A growing desire to share best practices and to agree on joint actions and benchmarks came to the fore. This is undeniably a success factor in achieving measurable goals with real practical utility.

    4. A strong and positive momentum has emerged within the financial community towards implementing effective and credible ways of prioritising capital allocation for (i) companies pursuing measurable and transparent alignment strategies and (ii) suppliers of new solutions that are highly compatible with sustainability requirements.

    5. The public and private sectors showed they were willing and able to rapidly converge on the need to assume their respective responsibilities in a balanced way, with framework conditions in line with this requirement.

    6. The 77 events organised during Building Bridges Week covered a wide spectrum of SDGs and often took highly practical turns. They dealt with subjects such as health, biodiversity, the circular economy, human rights, inequality, decent working conditions, water and the oceans, food, agriculture, gender, humanitarian action and peace.

    One of the most significant declarations was made by Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer who, on opening the summit, announced the Federal Council’s intention to introduce a “climate rating” in Switzerland in 2022 to measure financial institutions’ compliance with the Paris Agreement objectives. This initiative paves the way for closer collaboration between the government and the financial sector.

    Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced the launch of the “SDG Impact Finance Initiative.” The initiative, which has funding of CHF 19.5 million, aims to raise CHF 100 million by 2030, and then up to CHF 1 billion of private capital in order to achieve measurable results in developing countries.

    Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF), meanwhile, has published a clear and ambitious roadmap for a Swiss financial sector with credible involvement in sustainable finance. In particular, it contains practical recommendations and concrete measures to ensure that all financial flows and activities in the sector are aligned with the Paris Agreement by 2030 and that Switzerland’s financial centre can reach net zero emissions by 2050.

    Finally, the Swiss Bankers Association presented a new study, undertaken jointly with the Boston Consulting Group, according to which the Swiss credit and capital markets should be in a position to raise the CHF 400 billion that the Swiss economy needs to achieve “net zero.”

     

    Acting responsibly with the solutions available

    These announcements demonstrate the financial sector’s awareness. More than ever, it has become part of the solution, not only by encouraging industries to move in the right direction, but also by actively helping investors in this responsible approach. This is a most welcome observation, and the reason why, at the beginning of the summit, I made a four-point appeal for us to continue our efforts. I repeat these points here:

    [The financial sector] has become part of the solution, not only by encouraging industries to move in the right direction, but also by actively helping investors in this responsible approach

    1. That the Swiss financial sector commit to achieving net zero (by 2050) as the SSF has asked it to. That financial institutions, initially in Switzerland and, hopefully, all over the world, publish clear and transparent intermediate goals before COP 27.

    2. In terms of a specific goal, the Swiss financial sector must consistently use implied temperature rise (ITR) measurements by the end of 2022 to evaluate the extent to which clients’ portfolios are aligned with net zero targets and act accordingly.

    3. The Swiss financial sector must gradually phase out funding associated with the use of coal by the end of 2022. More specifically, there must be an end to the funding of new coal-fired power stations, while working with clients to shed their exposure to coal in their portfolios in line with scientifically-based timetables (such as that of the International Energy Agency, IEA).

    4. Lastly, in 2022, the Swiss financial sector must sign a commitment to eliminate the risks and activities associated with deforestation from their portfolios by 2025 or before. The objective here is to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.

    These commitments are essential, bearing in mind that the financial sector present at Building Bridges represented around CHF 4.2 trillion of client assets. The Swiss industry continues to play a leading role in sustainable investments around the world, but the financial sector will not be able to do it alone. This is the reason for the federal, national and international approach adopted by Building Bridges.

    These commitments are essential, bearing in mind that the financial sector present at Building Bridges represented around CHF 4.2 trillion of client assets. The Swiss industry continues to play a leading role in sustainable investments around the world

    In conclusion, this edition of Building Bridges was a tremendous encouragement to continue the efforts made to consolidate our institutional base going forward, by building on what we have achieved. This will enable the 2022 edition to take another sustainable step forward, bringing an even larger community along with it. The momentum is there. In words and in deeds. We are a movement! We are on the move!

    Wichtige Hinweise.

    Die vorliegende Marketingmitteilung wurde von der Bank Lombard Odier & Co AG oder einer Geschäftseinheit der Gruppe (nachstehend “Lombard Odier”) herausgegeben. Sie ist weder für die Abgabe, Veröffentlichung oder Verwendung in Rechtsordnungen bestimmt, in denen eine solche Abgabe, Veröffentlichung oder Verwendung rechtswidrig wäre, noch richtet sie sich an Personen oder Rechtsstrukturen, an die eine entsprechende Abgabe rechtswidrig wäre.

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