(Singapore, 6 September 2016) The United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative hosted its fifth Global Dialogue in Singapore, themed, “A New Global Agenda”, which brought together representatives from 16 countries, including stock exchange chief executives, institutional investors and companies, senior government policymakers and United Nations representatives.
The dialogue aims to shape the future agenda of work on sustainability and capital markets within the wider context of the growing role of the private sector in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN has emphasized that achieving the SDGs will require a greater emphasis on sustainable business practices and far more investment in SDG related sectors.
The event was moderated by UN Assistant Secretary General and head of UNEP New York office, Mr. Elliott Harris, who noted that “stock exchanges play a crucial role in driving the growing green economy, so vital to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.” He also welcomed the Singapore Exchange as a new member of the SSE.
Mr. Loh Boon Chye, CEO of Singapore Exchange, said, “SGX is delighted to join the SSE Initiative as a Partner Exchange and host its 2016 Global Dialogue, which is the first time the event is being held in Singapore. As a market operator and regulator, SGX is committed to leading the sustainability advancement in Singapore’s capital market. We look forward to both contributing and learning from the other partners of this exciting initiative.”
The event opened with welcome remarks from Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Chair Martin Skancke and closed with a keynote from Singapore’s Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, H.E. Masagos Zulkifli.
During the event, the SSE released its 2016 Report on Progress, which shows the private sector is recognizing it has an essential role to play in the sustainable development agenda. “If, as a leader, you are not saying, ‘I have a responsibility to promote longer term sustainability’, then we have failed ourselves and society,” said Nicky Newton-King, CEO, Johannesburg Stock Exchange in the report. “We are walking uncharted territory but the time for brave action is now.”
Stock exchanges recognize they can contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals, including: Gender Equality (SDG3); Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG8); Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12); Climate Action (SDG 13); and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG17). The report highlights many comments and examples from stock exchanges on the SDGs including the following remarks:
On SDG 5, Dr. Mohamed Omran, Chairman of The Egyptian Exchange noted that “the private sector plays an essential and pivotal role in supporting women’s economic empowerment all around the world. You could act as a leading entity to change the wage gap, ensure equality in the workplace and to support women as leaders in the business community.”
“Fostering the issuers’ accountability to appropriate and enhanced disclosure and reporting throughout the asset class is part of our role in building trust among market players as to create a favourable framework for a flourishing green bond market able to succeed in its ambition to contribute to the climate transition.” Robert Scharfe, CEO, Luxembourg Stock Exchange, commented with regard to the exchange’s leading work on green bonds in line with SDG 13.
At the Global Dialogue in Singapore, CEO Loh of SGX reinforced the importance of SDG 17 on partnerships, “In advancing the transparency of sustainability reporting and attracting long-term responsible investment, we are aware that even the most compelling objectives require support from our stakeholders in order to succeed. Top-down approaches are not what partnerships are about. Central to our efforts towards a sustainable future is a collective, industry-wide effort; investors, companies, regulators, and all other stakeholders need to be on-board if we are to steer towards a sustainable future.”
Both the Global Dialogue and the Report on Progress celebrate the progress of capital markets since the 2014 editions, particularly the success of the SSE Campaign to Close the Guidance Gap, for which 23 stock exchanges have committed to introducing new ESG reporting guidance for issuers. Additionally, with 59 partners, over 70% of listed equity markets have made a public commitment to advancing sustainability in their market by joining the SSE. Other key figures include that 12 stock exchanges require ESG reporting as a listing rule, and 11 list green bonds.
Partner Exchanges voiced their commitment to sustainability, with Nader Azar, CEO, Amman Stock Exchange, noting that they “are keen and committed to raise consciousness of sustainability principles among our listed companies, investor and other stakeholders, in Jordan.” and “are sure that corporate commitment to these principles will enhance the welfare of the society, distribute the fruits of development to all classes of the society, ensure economic empowerment, and achieve better quality of life in the Jordanian society.”
Oslo Børs, CEO, Bente Landsnes acknowledged that “The SSE initiative provides a valuable platform for Oslo Børs to liaise with other partner exchanges and commit to measures that can contribute to greater transparency in corporate reporting and more sustainable investment decisions going forward.”
In advance of the Global Dialogue, on 5 September, the World Federation of Exchanges and the SSE co-hosted workshop “Sustainable finance and financing sustainability: the role of exchanges in bridging the information gap between investors and issuers.” The event was supported by the PRI and CERES and hosted by SGX. Technical experts from SSE partner exchanges, members of the SSE investor and corporate working groups, as well as other interested investors were invited discuss how their respective constituencies can collectively improve the quality of ESG disclosures across global capital markets.
The SSE Global Dialogue took place alongside the PRI’s annual meeting “PRI-in-Person,” which is a global conference on the responsible investment, providing a platform for PRI signatories and other and other investment professionals to learn, network and collaborate in person over several days. The annual event allows attendees to discuss topical issues and share experiences from their own organisation.
“Increasing the breadth and depth of responsible investment approaches across Europe can contribute to the EU 2020 goals for smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, in addition to the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals which provide a framework for economic opportunity over the next 15 years” said Fiona Reynolds, Managing Director of the PRI.
About the SSE
The SSE is a peer-to-peer learning platform for exploring how exchanges—in collaboration with investors, regulators, and companies—can encourage sustainable investment and enhance corporate transparency, and ultimately performance, on ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) issues. The SSE is convened by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). For more information on specific exchanges’ sustainability efforts, how to become a Partner Stock Exchange, and further opportunities to advance the integration of sustainability within capital markets, visit www.sseinitiative.org