simon zadek

Leading Lights in Greening Financial Markets

Over the last 20 months, the UNEP Inquiry has discovered a host of policy and regulatory innovations seeking to drive sustainable development into the fabric of financial and capital markets – the financial system. But innovations do not rain down from the heavens or arise through heavenly mandate, despite conventional wisdom – they are the quintessential expression of that inexhaustible human resource – inspiration, commitment and creativity.

The provenance of innovation is always a contested matter, as i reminded myself and readers in the opening chapter of an early anthology of some of the stuff I have written, Tomorrow’s History. That said, I want to introduce you to some impressive folks who have helped amongst many to have made the Inquiry what it is. I have to start with Achim Steiner, UNEP`s Executive Director, without whom the Inquiry might well not exist. Achim proved once again to be open to new thinking, practice and potential, as he was for example in supporting UNEP`s early work on the green economy. After much discussion and reflection, he backed the Inquiry with his energy, and the weight of UNEP`s reputation, access, expertise and resources.

My second pick is Ma Jun, the chief economist of the research bureau of the People`s Bank of China (China`s central bank). Ma Jun and I co-chaired the Green Finance Task Force that delivered the framing green finance recommendations that are being drawn into China`s 13th Five Year Plan and other key policy documents and processes, the highlights of which are covered in a joint op-ed we published, Greening China`s Financial System.

My third pick has to be Rachel Kyte, currently vice president at the World Bank Group, and soon to move into a new role leading the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Rachel has long inspired many of us to act beyond reason, and this is a case in point, with her active support as a member of our Advisory Council providing guidance, energy and practical contributions from across the World Bank Group and beyond.

My fourth pick is Murilo Portugal, the president of FEBRABAN, the Brazilian Bankers Association, and previously deputy managing director at the IMF. Murilo, an Inquiry Council member, has just hosted an amazing couple of days in Brazil where FEBRABAN brought together hundreds of people to discuss the work of the Inquiry, to hear of the experiences of invited participants (Inquiry partners) from China to India and Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia, France and Bangladesh. Moreover, he has commissioned research on green finance and today is probably leading the world`s most engaged banking association on green finance.

My fifth pick is Dr Atiur Rahman, the Governor of Bangladesh Bank. For those in the dark, Bangladesh might not seem the most obvious source of financial system innovations. Yet under Dr Rahman`s leadership, also an Advisory Council member, increasing efforts have been made in Bangladesh, with considerable effect, to ratchet up financial inclusion and incentivize green finance. Like all of these leaders, Dr Rahman has increasingly voiced the need to advance a sustainable financial system internationally, and has had a founding influence on a growing number of related international initiatives, including the Inquiry.

The sixth in my first list is Nicky Newton-King, chief executive of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, once again an Advisory Council member. Nicky is a long time advocate of sustainable finance, and has played a key role in ensuring that the JSE has taken leadership in embedding sustainable development considerations into its listing requirements, laying the ground along with Brazil`s BOVESPA, for a growing number of stock exchanges to take a similar direction.

My final pick is Mark Halle, the head of the European base of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. When I told Mark in late 2012 that I was heading for China to work out how to engage in its financial market development process, he backed a distant possibility with his energy, resources and the IISD platform. Without this punt in the dark, there might well have been no Inquiry, and if there was it almost certainly would not have involved me, so I am eternally grateful for Mark`s unguarded faith in my odd behavior.

Any complete list of leaders would be long, covering the many Advisory Council members who have become increasingly engaged in our work, the people who have thrown 40 or more organizations into partnership with us, and the national champions of the innovations that ultimately make up the substance of change. And of course a full list would include my colleagues, who suspended normal life for almost two years to share with me an insane sense of the possible…more on all these people in future blogs.

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