Wednesday, April 16, 2014

EU and Australia approve/change legislation in favour of requiring companies to report on ESG

Aviva Investors welcomes brave new world on corporate transparency

Following up the Rio+20 push for a global framework for Corporate Sustainability Reporting the European Parliament voted on legislative proposals to encourage around 6,000 companies to report on their environmental and social performance. The proposals apply to all EU large public interest companies with over 500 employees. The legislation is now finalised and will see the proposals formally adopted by the Council of Ministers after which member states are expected to bring them into force by 2016.

 Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors warmly welcomed the conclusion of the legislative process and said:

"It is the start of a brave new world for corporate transparency. This legislation should hugely increase the amount of information available to investors and the general public on how sustainable a company’s operations are.

“Information on a company’s environmental and social performance is absolutely crucial for long term investors, as many of these factors are key to whether it succeeds in the long run. How companies address environmental emissions, human rights, employment relations and customer complaints are likely to be reported upon by many organisations for the first time. If they fail to do so, then the reasons for this failure will need to be given.

“This is superb news for investors, the wider capital markets and civil society. As long term investors we will use this additional data on approximately 6,000 European companies to understand what might impact sustainability of the companies we hold stakes in.

“I congratulate all of the policy-makers involved in producing an excellent, well-balanced piece of legislation.  We now need to see how the European legislation is embedded by member states in either national law or listing rules.

“Since this reporting will be on a comply or explain basis, it is important that the explanations given are substantive and are overseen by the market and society more broadly, not just regulators.  The Commission also needs to issue guidance for companies that brings together reporting codes, standards and conventions into a coherent document, to help companies navigate and ensure consistency and comparability.

“In 2011 Aviva Investors convened the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, an investor-led group representing over €50tn and collectively calling for change. We have long campaigned for many of the changes introduced by the legislation to come into place and are delighted the legislation is now final.”

The call for Global Sustainability Reporting was also promoted in the UN Secretary Generals Panel on Sustainability and also in the more recent High Level Panel Report on Post 2015 Development Agenda co-chaired by the UK Prime Minister and the Presidents of Liberia and Indonesia. It said: 

"As more industries develop sustainability certification, it will be easier for civil society and shareholders to become watchdogs, holding firms accountable for adhering to industry standards and worker safety issues, and being ready to disinvest if they do not. Today, however, only 25 per cent of large companies report to shareholders on sustainability practices; by 2030, this should be 
commonplace."

Australia has just amended its stock exchange listing rules to require companies to disclose their ESG impacts on a comply or explain basis.  


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Great Transition Initiative Launches New Website

Great Transition Initiative Launches New Website

For over a decade, the Great Transition Initiative has advanced a visionary scenario of a future rooted in human solidarity, well-being for all, and ecological sustainability. It now enters a new phase with renewed energy and heightened sense of urgency. Its re-imagined website—www.greattransition.org—serves as a platform for exploring bold visions and change strategies.

The new site features:

·         An open-access journal of ideas publishing new essays, book reviews, and interviews.
·         A MacroScope highlighting current developments that carry long-term global significance.
·         Educational material such as videos, an overview of critical ideas, and archival literature.
·         A GT Network Space for those seeking more intensive engagement.

GTI offers a unique and valuable resource for understanding our present moment and shaping our collective future.  

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New Book Out

Juneia Mallas  has specialized in environmental and development issues. She was one of the first journalists to disclose the impact of the destruction of the Amazon region in the early 1980's. Her work in television includes the production of news and documentaries for BBC, Channel 4, CBC, PBS, RAI 2. She has a fiction book out which builds on her experience Find out its a Kindle download called Gold, Guns and Blow - Tales from the Amazon - a thriller for the summer holidays :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reflections on the Way Forward from the SDG OWG 10

Reflections on the Way Forward from the SDG OWG 10

If you are hooked on intergovernmental meetings and coffee then SDG OWG 10 was a fascinating place to be this last week. This was the first time for governments and stakeholders to indicate what they wanted to retain and what they wanted out of the focus areas and their sub potential target areas. 

Star of the week has to go to Farrukh Khan from Pakistan who came very prepared for the meeting with language for the targets, timescales and % as well as goal areas they sit under. 
From Earth Negotiations Bulletin

 Most disappointing were most of the European Union members who came with just broad goal and target comments. The co-chairs showed enormous patience with some of the Member States’ “blah blah,” and continually reiterated that the stocktaking phase is over. 

Farrukh also has to again be complemented for bringing up Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) in much earlier meetings; now of course the rest of the governments caught up both for and against. 

Many developed countries argued it wasn’t relevant to the broad discussions on the SDG framework and especially not to all goal areas, claiming it only relates to environmental degradation.  I am not sure why they think that as Rio+20 reaffirmed the Rio Declaration which states: 

“In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.”

One argument was that CBDR applies to more legally binding agreements such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is true that the UNFCCC does commit parties to CBDR it says they: 

“should act to protect the climate system “on the basis of equality and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

But it is the Rio Declaration that predates the Convention and was part of the discourse for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development - although it applied to a different time its basic pitch is still right now. How that is interpreted in 2014 and 2015 and who it applies to will be different than it was in 1992. 

This SDG OWG was the last one for champion of the SDGs Paula Caballero Gomez Director for Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs in the Foreign Ministry of Colombia. It was her vision that put SDGs on the agenda for Rio+20 the first time at the meeting in Solo Indonesia in July 2011, and it was her who virtually single handedly at the beginning pushed a reluctant set of negotiators AND a very reluctant set of development Ministries in donor governments to accept the SDGs as the new development framework post 2015.  Her passion and conviction of its centrality in this transformative agenda was certainly contagious and proved able to galvanize other stakeholders. 



The NGOs attending the 2011 Bonn DPI NGO Conference backed her and put on the table a set of suggestions for these goals. Meanwhile even in the NGO world we had problems with the big development NGOs and their activity or behind the scene tried to stop the SDGs and retain a MDG focus. It was if they did not see the impacts we are having on our planet and could only conceptually see poverty eradication as the 'only overarching' need for the world. Paula is moving to the World Bank and the deliberations on the new development framework will be poorer for it over the next 18 months. 

It was great to see the idea of a goal on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlement now has broad support and there were some great suggestions on the targets. Clearly there is still work to be done on the balance between rural and urban but that should be clearer very soon with some work being undertaken by the Communitas Coalition. 

So what is going to happen now and what kind of report will come out of this process? It was clear that there were different ideas on this and the challenge for the co-chairs will be to guide with the confidence of governments as they delve more and more into the actual goals and targets. The 19 focus areas will have to shrink to 10-12 areas; some will be clustered while others will be mainstreamed. Overall I could imagine 10 goals between 50-70 targets which would include perhaps 2 interlinkage targets per goal and between 100-150 indicators, the latter being worked out by UN Statistical Division with the help of the UN Family and experts.

The Way Forward

The co-chairs explained how they were going to take forward the programme of work in the remaining SDG OWGs. For the 18th of April a revised document will be produced and the 5-9th of May will be based on the revised focus area document. The June 16-20 SDG OWG session will be a consultation on SDGs and targets and will produce refined SDGs and targets and the final meeting July 14-18th will look to have an agreement and adoption of the report on SDGs and targets. 

As the SDG OWG will finish in July what will the report look like? My best guess is it will be something like this:

A section indicating where there is full support, a second section identifying work still to be done where there are divergent views and a third section where there is no agreement. This report, though a consensus document, will not be able to resolve all the divergent views. It will then be handed with the President of the UN General Assembly’s outcome from his events and the finance committees to the Stocktaking event on the 25th of September where Heads of State will have the chance to put their views forward. The Secretary General will then produce his synthesis report for probably late November. It is this document that will then form the basis of the negotiations in January to September 2015.

Meanwhile the Ambassadors for PNG and Denmark are taking views on what the preparatory process should be for next year. I would strongly suggest that they
  • Go back to two week prepcoms – 3 or 4 of them
  • That they define the structure of the document in the GA Resolution; I make a suggestion on that below based on the South African non-paper from 2002. It will help enormously in focusing the negotiations
  • That stakeholders should be engaged in a similar way to the SDG OWG. An additional suggestion would be that the first day of the prepcoms is given to government stakeholder dialogue similar to the way it was undertaken in the UNCSD 1998-2001. This way, any output that the chair finds useful could be brought into the next iteration of the text for negotiations. (the CSD Chair Simon Upton’s former New Zealand Minister’s model)

Things that may be useful to consider:
  • Major negotiations blocks/countries appoint their own finance Ambassadors to liaise between Financing for Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Finance discussions and informally agree the sequencing of finance decisions in all three forums.
  • UN DATA is set up. Like UN Water and UN Energy as an interagency group to help with the indicators work and facilitated by UNDESA’s Statistical Division
  • Capacity 2015 – Perhaps set up prior to the final decision with UNDP and the World Bank co-chairing looking to pool capacity building programmes from intergovernmental bodies to support national level implementation by coordinating the work of the  intergovernmental bodies
  • What to do with the intro? My suggestion would be to consider exploring including language that captures:
a.     Rio Principles
b.     Millennium Development Declaration
c.      Rio+20
d.     Human Rights
e.     Gender Equity
f.      Good Governance
g.     Peace ,stability and resilient societies
  • Means of Implementation should sit under each of the cluster areas in a structure something like the 2002 South African non-paper:
a.     proposed targets and timeframes
b.     proposed actions
c.      resources
d.     institutional mechanisms
e.     co-ordination
f.       monitoring
g.     stakeholder involvement
h.     implementation plan sustainability

There have been some developed countries who argue this is too difficult. They might want to look at both the South African 2002 Non Paper and Agenda 21 both of which seemed to be able to do it. 

These are my thoughts after the April SDG OWG 10 which I hope you find useful.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America - Winter Soldier


For those who know me well they know I am a great superhero fan. When I was at Stakeholder Forum staff often accompanied me into comic shops I had found in different cities. While on the Danish delegation for Rio+20 some of us had superhero nicknames and mine was Captain America. I have always found the character of Captain America an interesting one. I apologies for those who know the story of Captain America but....he is one of the great collaborations of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby two of the absolute greats in superhero writing and drawing. Marvel would not be what it is without Jack Kirby he was the artists behind virtually all of Marvels heroes and some would say the writer as well though Stan Lee claims that. 

The character first appeared in 1941 where Steve Rogers a failed applicant for the army agrees to be a guinea pig in to enhance him to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum. This works but as he is going through some Nazi spies attack and destroy the machine and kill the professor  so he is the only person to go through the experiment. This is the story of the first Captain America film in it his partner Bucky dies while fighting Baron Zemo and Captain America is frozen in suspended animation until the Avengers find him in 1964. Or so we thought.........


Ed Brubaker - possibly one of the finest comic writers brings him back in 2011 as the Winter Soldier - it seems Bucky also had not died but captured by the Soviets - less an arm - who was then brainwashed and used as the ultimate killer through the period until the end of the cold war. The film picks up some of the ideas from the comics but builds its own story around the  infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra to control the world. The film has opened to the largest audiences for an April opening ever. I have to say it is the best superhero movie since the Batman Dark Knight.

Chris Evans is Captain America a great performance and Scarlett Johansson captures the Black Widow perfectly.  Robert Redford is the perfect villain in a world of the twenty first century where we have given away so much of our privacy to the security forces in our countries. Here you see Captain America trying to stop this and the Black Widow doing an Edward Snowden and dumping information on to the internet for everyone on what the security forces are doing.

If you do enjoy the film then pick up the comics as graphic novels by Ed Brubaker and also his new comic Velvet - a kind of James Bond figure but an older woman playing the part.

The film ends with Hydra having found the cosmic cube and you leave wondering when they are going to shot the third installment. 


Skanska issues green corporate bond

After the discussion on capital markets at the Nexus Conference I was very leased  to see this posting from Noel Morrin on Skanska and the capital markets.

“Skanska offers capital markets the opportunity to invest in Skanska’s green projects through its first green corporate bond. The invested capital will be exclusively allocated towards investments in green commercial property development.

“There is an increasing interest in the investor market for not only earning a return on investment, but also contributing to a better environment. Skanska is a leader in green project development and construction, and wants to be the preferred choice for investors seeking green investments”, says Peter Wallin, CFO, Skanska AB.

“Green bonds help Skanska diversify its investor base and is yet another way to benefit from our leading position in green project development. The successful issuance confirms the capital market’s confidence in Skanska’s financial strength and continued long term commitment to a sustainable business model”, says Pär Lageryd, Head of Treasury, Skanska Financial Services AB.

Skanska’s Green Bond Framework is endorsed by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), an independent research centre associated with the University of Oslo, Norway.

The SEK 850 million bond has a five year term and was issued with SEB as sole bookrunner, SEB also acted as an advisor on the green bond framework.”

Friday, March 28, 2014

republishing David Boyles excelent blog

The real fault line in the Lib Dems

Well, people say to me with conviction: the Liberal Democrats are hopelessly split – between libertarian free marketeers and socialists.

I protest in vain that I've never met either in the party, and I've been a member since 1979.

I tell them, that rather against everyone's expectations, the party has been staggeringly united through the trauma of coalition.

But it is too late to complain.  The Great Division is now part of political mythology. It is said that a group of 'economic liberals’ – not a term I recognise – gathered around The Orange Book to wrest the party away from the wispy idealists.

It is all so terribly reminiscent of the early 1980s, when a group of worldly and sophisticated social democrats were supposed to have stolen the centre ground of politics from the wispy-bearded idealists in the Liberal Party.

These were both supposed to be victories by the realists over the idealists.  But it didn't happen then and it hasn't happened since, and there is nothing I can do to prevent people from believing it.

Yet there is a division, and it isn't a very comfortable one, so we should be honest about it.

It is between the Whigs and the Technocrats.

The Whigs are the radical constitutionalists, but they are not free marketeers - at least not in the sense that they are free market fundamentalists.  They just have such a conservative idea about economics that they have become blind to it. Human rights, new settlements with local government, yes, bring it on - but economics?  Well, perhaps it is terribly important but ... what was it again?

The great disadvantage of having Whigs at one end of the party is that they are not actually interested in economics at all and are blind to the tyrannical effects when our economic institutions are faulty.

Then there are the Technocrats, drawing as much from the social democratic tradition as they do from the liberal one, but a social democratic tradition that seems terribly old-fashioned – and which leads them to identify uncritically with the great welfare institutions, and the frontline professionals, the teachers and doctors, who serve in them, believing that it is the workforce which needs defending more than the punters who use them.

The great disadvantage of having Technocrats at the other end of the party is that they are strangely stuck in the 1970s, and desperately need releasing from their exhausted Fabian dream.

Of course, most party members are somewhere in the middle.  Nor is this somehow the result of the 1988 merger between the Liberals and SDP - these have been fault lines inside the old Liberal Party since its founders met in an upper room in St James' to launch it in 1859.
The old Liberals were an alliance between the old Whigs and the Utilitarians or Radicals, who were Technocrats each and every one of then (except John Stuart Mill, who I hereby forgive).

But there was a third element in the old mix that seems now to be missing: the old non-conformists who brought the radical traditions, drawn from the English Civil War, and added the reforming zeal to Liberalism.  They also brought it a fierce spiritual edge too.
Where are they now? Are they the greens, the community politicians, the community activists?  I'm inclined to think so, because I feel instinctively that I'm on their side.  I don't think I'm a Whig - I'm too interested in economic change - and, heavens, I'm certainly not a Technocrat.

So there is my solution to healing the rift.  Forget about the division, both the real one and the imaginary one, and re-discover the fierce Liberalism that still aches to give real power to people - and does so without ignoring the need to shift economics, and without ignoring people either.
There we are.  You read it here first.  But the new Green Manifesto, which I am proud to have my name attached to rather more prominently than I expected (that's what happens when your name begins with a B), is a good place to start.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Declaration from the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference


Building Integrated Approaches into the Sustainable Development Goals
A Declaration from the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference in the name of the Co-directors held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, March 5th to 8th 2014
Submitted to the UN Secretary-General, the President of the UN General Assembly and the Co-chairs of the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group on the 26th of March, 2014
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Some 300 delegates from 33 countries representing governments, intergovernmental organizations, academic institutions, companies, environmental and development organizations and other stakeholders met at an internationally supported[1] conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from March 5th to 8th 2014 to explore how addressing interlinkages and an intersectoral approach can enable stakeholders to further the post-2015 agenda and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals currently being discussed at the United Nations.  

The following declaration is based on discussions, research and contributions associated with the Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference and outlines how integrative approaches might best be built into the UN’s forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda.  

A comprehensive conference report that expands on the issues contained in here is available online at www.nexusconference.unc.edu   under the header Conference Documents. 

We submit this declaration to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and commend it to the chairs and members of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals and to all those concerned with the post-2015 agenda and the creation of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Sincerely,
Felix Dodds and Jamie Bartram
Nexus 2014 Conference Co-directors[2] 

DECLARATION Downloadable here


[1] Conference partners include the World Bank, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Human Settlement Programme, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, International Renewable Energy Agency, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, United Nations Global Compact, Futures Group, WWF, Stockholm Environment Institute, Millennium Institute, Global Water Partnership, Biovision, World Society for the Protection of Animals, and Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research.

[2] Conference Partners include those who significantly contributed to the development of the Conference’s agenda and vision. Additional organizations generously provided financial support and are thanked online at http://nexusconference.web.unc.edu/2014-sponsors/