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Greenwashing Is Out, Let’s ‘Out’ the Greenwashers

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Business leaders are shifting their priorities, embracing the idea of the “double bottom line”, supplanting shareholder primacy with stakeholder primacy, and committing – at least notionally – to environmental sustainability.

That’s good news, said Caroline Anstey, Senior Advisor to Sustainable Markets at the World Economic Forum. But not all of this environmental commitment is genuine. “A lot of companies are still thinking about corporate social responsibility. They’re not running it through the business and through the strategy. They’re not really putting it into their plans and my worry is that without any durable metrics, consumers and investors and others really don’t know who is sustainable and who’s doing greenwashing. My worry is that over time there will be a big scandal over this and people will become disillusioned.”

In a panel session on transforming markets, Anstey called for product labelling to give consumers a clear sense of a product’s environmental impact. “Consumers control about 60% of global GDP. They make choices every day, using their pocketbooks, their wallets,” she said. “If there’s proper labelling and disclosure – the same as food labelling, but for product production, supply chains – consumers can make that choice. But it’s very important that consumers don’t have to pay more for doing the right thing.”

Governments have a critical role to play in ensuring that green choices aren’t more expensive choices. “We have to change our system of taxation and subsidies and incentives to align with a sustainable future,” Anstey said.

The grim realities of climate change and the urgency of the situation were driven home by Allen Chastenet, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia. “We’re facing two things:” said Chastenet, “extinction and the environment. Unfortunately, the extinction part comes first,” he said, noting that 2018’s Hurricane Maria – the second of two hurricanes to hit the island in a month – did damage equivalent to 200% of the island nation’s GDP. Of those who survived the disaster, he said, it was self-employed farmers who tended to remain, while “teachers, doctors, nurses leave and never come back.”

“The final nail in the coffin for us is that we become now uninsurable,” he added.

Melati Wijsen, who with her sister launched a successful initiative called Bye Bye Plastic Bags six years ago, at age 12, to ban plastic bags on her native island of Bali in Indonesia, made an impassioned case during the panel for including and taking seriously the views of youth in all conversations about sustainability.

“Involve the young people. Take our ideas, as crazy as they might be. We have something to offer. We’re smart, we’re passionate and we’re motivated, and we’re ready to be part of these opening markets,” she said. “We not only expect to be heard, but we expect to be part of the decisions that are being made today.”

Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer of the Dutch company Royal DSM, echoed Anstey’s dismissal of corporate social responsibility. “CSR is out,” he said. “You do this in the mainstream of your business,” noting that this is what distinguishes a genuine commitment to sustainability from mere “greenwashing”.

Anstey noted that the classical economic theory and its assumption that people will act only in their own self-interest has fallen away as behavioural economists present data to the contrary. “They will act in the interest of their community – even if it’s not in their own self-interest,” she said.

Scepticism over motivations dies hard, however. A Twitter poll put out on Monday from the World Economic Forum asking whether respondents believed business leaders when they say they want to be more sustainable found that 55% of respondents said no, with only 23% answering in the affirmative and 22% saying they weren’t sure.

“This is a devastating score,” Sijbesma said. Noting that people working for social good are now termed “social entrepreneurs”, he added: “I think all entrepreneurs, all business leaders, should be social entrepreneurs. You should go to jail if you are not a social entrepreneur.”

In a video message delivered at the end of the panel, His Royal Highness Prince Charles announced the creation of the Sustainable Markets Council in partnership with the World Economic Forum. The council will explore creative solutions, model sustainable leadership and champion sustainable markets at a global scale.

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ADB Project to Improve Fiscal Management, Develop Capital Markets in Armenia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $40 million-equivalent policy-based loan attached to reforms that help strengthen fiscal sustainability and develop the financial and capital markets in Armenia. These are crucial enablers of private sector development.

Armenia’s economic growth over the last few years has been hampered by low levels of investment, both foreign and domestic, given the high costs of local currency finance and related constraints in the financial system. Efficiency-promoting upgrades in public investment and fiscal management are also needed to ensure sustained improvements in fiscal outlook and sovereign risk pricing.

“Financial markets remain nascent in Armenia, which limits the development of the country’s private sector and the banking industry,” said ADB Senior Financial Sector Economist for Central and West Asia Mr. João Farinha Fernandes. “This also constrains public finance and fiscal management, while exposing the economy to financial stability risks. ADB’s assistance is intended to help ensure that Armenia develops a conducive fiscal and financial intermediation environment where private sector players, both big and small, can contribute to growth and development.”

ADB approved a $50 million policy-based loan in November 2018 as part of an ongoing programmatic engagement on financial reforms to strengthen public debt and fiscal risk management, and to develop financial markets in Armenia.

The Second Public Efficiency and Financial Markets Program continues these reforms by strengthening the effectiveness of the government’s fiscal risk management function; promoting the development of fiscally responsible public–private partnerships; and enhancing market transparency and predictability in public debt management. The program will also improve the infrastructure of the government securities market and money market infrastructure, enhancing the sustainability and resilience of Armenia’s finance sector.

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Bangladesh Can Boost its Exports with Better Logistics

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To meet the needs of its growing economy and to boost export growth, Bangladesh needs to improve its transport and logistics systems, says a new World Bank report launched today. 

The report Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to Sustain Bangladesh’s Success, finds that by making logistics more efficient, Bangladesh can significantly boost export growth, maintain its position as a leading ready-made-garments and textile producer, and create more jobs. The report notes that congestion on roads and in seaports, high logistics costs, inadequate infrastructure, distorted logistics service markets, and fragmented governance hamper manufacturing and freight, further eroding Bangladesh’s competitive edge and putting its robust growth path at risk. 

“Bangladesh’s congested transportation and often unsophisticated logistics systems impose high costs to the economy,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “By making its logistics more efficient, Bangladesh can significantly optimize its connectivity, business environment, and competitiveness, putting the country on the right path to become a dynamic upper-middle-income country.”

Efficient logistics, the report argues, has become one of the main drivers for global trade competitiveness and export growth and diversification. For Bangladesh, improving its logistics performance provides an opportunity to increase its world market share in garments and textiles, which account for 84 percent of its total exports, expand into new markets, and diversify its manufacturing and agriculture into high-value products. 

The report notes that improving Bangladesh’s logistics requires a system-wide approach based on greater coordination among all public institutions involved in logistics and with the private sector, increasing the effective capacity of core infrastructure, and removing distortions in logistics service markets to reduce costs and improve quality. At a regional level, harmonizing its logistics systems and aligning its customs with that of its neighbors could turn Bangladesh into an important node for regional freight flows and further boost its trade. 

“There’s no doubt that reforms and investments for better transport and logistics will yield Bangladesh substantial economic benefits and strengthen its competitive advantage,” said Matías Herrera Dappe, Senior Economist at the World Bank and author of the report. “But the solution to logistics is not just to invest more but to invest better, by focusing on the service gap, and creating the incentives for high quality and competitive logistics services.”

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New development models to drive growth and employment for youth in Africa

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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched the Global Environment Outlook-6 (GEO-6) for Youth in Africa report on the margins of the 17th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

The report analyses the economic opportunities that Africa’s natural resources can provide for job creation and sustainable development. It also provides a package of solutions to tackle Africa’s youth unemployment through the Green Economy.

“This Publication is anchored substantively in the UNEP’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) Regional Assessment for Africa,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Africa. “This Assessment has a very clear message; Africa has an opportunity to use its large young population to drive its growth.”

Africa’s youth remains the most hit by unemployment. One-third of Africa’s 420 million youth aged 15 to 35 are unemployed. Of these, 35 per cent are vulnerably employed and 19 per cent are inactive. These numbers will increase dramatically unless urgent actions are not taken.

The report recommends that Africa’s natural capital should be managed sustainably to enhance the livelihoods of African young population, create more sustainable and decent jobs as well as increase social and economic cohesion.

“The Green Economy calls for a paradigm shift in the way that we produce and consume. If young people are the centre of such a shift, they will secure a sustainable future replete with sustainable livelihoods,” said Professor Lee White, Minister for Environment, Forest and Oceans of Gabon and outgoing President of AMCEN. “The Global Environment Outlook-6 for Youth, Africa: A Wealth of Green Opportunities digs deep into that future and shows young people how they can secure their livelihoods through green jobs.”

Natural resources remain a key source of employment in Africa. Eight out of ten people’s employment on the continent are supported by natural resources. Nearly six million Africans are employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, ten million people work in the wildlife sector and an average of 54 per cent in the agricultural sector.

The report includes case studies and success stories on African youth who have invested in natural resources to develop entrepreneurship, improve their knowledge and skills as well as create jobs and sustain their livelihoods.

The report calls on governments to encourage youth to invest in green economy through creating platforms for innovation in sustainable development. While confirming the potential of youth in leading green growth in Africa, the report strongly establishes the correlation between green economy and decent jobs.

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