On the evening of the 15th of January 2014, in Zürich, Clarmondial hosted its first event: The Natural Capital Roundtable. This event was intended to initiate dialogue on Natural Capital within the Swiss financial services industry, and to foster collaboration between interested stakeholders. The event also coincided with Clarmondial being designated a Natural Capital Declaration Supporter.
The Zürich Natural Capital Roundtable featured presentations by Clarmondial, United Nations Enivonrment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), SwissRe, Credit Suisse, the Global Canopy Program and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. The Sustainability Forum Zürich, on behalf of a coalition of Swiss financial institutions, also introduced plans to build a Swiss sustainable finance association. Presentations were followed by a lively discussion amongst the 38 participants. Discussions centered on the importance of integrating Natural Capital in both domestic and international contexts, and on how Natural Capital could be integrated into the Swiss financial services industry.
Challenges to increasing integration of Natural Capital within the Swiss financial services industry, identified by the discussants, included:
- The need to strengthen the drivers for incorporation of Natural Capital issues, e.g. the role of regulation and of client pressure.
- Improving clarity with respect to timing of decision-making on Natural Capital issues within organisations, for example, when to de-vest from the fossil fuel economy.
- Building the business case for organisations to consider Natural Capital risks and opportunities. One specific example stated is the challenge of convincing the Swiss stock exchange to create opportunities for listed companies to differentiate themselves based on sustainability metrics.
- Keeping the pace of decision-making with international developments in the area of sustainable finance, for example Denmark’s revised Financial Statements Act, requiring disclosure for large companies.
- Addressing challenges linked to gathering relevant data and mainstreaming robust measurement systems to enable comparability between companies and industries.
- Gathering evidence of suitable, bankable products and projects, which successfully promote and integrate Natural Capital.
- Meeting demand from institutional investors for funds that consider sustainability/environmental, social and governance issues in competition with leaders in other financial markets (at least US$13.6 trillion of professionally managed assets, mainly in Europe and North America, currently consider ESG issues in investment selection and management).
Specific opportunities identified by the group included:
- Building on the current momentum and maximising the timeliness for Switzerland to re-brand itself as a global leader on ‘quality’ finance, with Zürich and Geneva becoming global centres of sustainable finance.
- Growing possibilities for the development of new products including those linked to financing adaptation and conservation. One participant described the significant unmet demand for conservation finance. Other opportunities discussed included certified commodities and green bonds.
- The emerging possibilities for collaborative engagement across sectors, industries, and decision-making spheres (private sector and government): Switzerland plays a leading role in research and development, finance and international diplomacy, and consumers are also increasingly tuned in to sustainability issues. There is growing interest in these matters, both within the financial services industry as well as with regulators, corporations and the public.
The event concluded with a lively Apéro, and encouragement to groups within the industry to engage in ‘shaping the space’ in advance of regulation and through voluntary measures. In particular, Swiss financial services industry players were encouraged to, on an:
- Engage with the Natural Capital Declaration and Roadmap to learn about Natural Capital and how to integrate it, as well as to be part of global working groups to address related risks and opportunities.
- Provide feedback to the Swiss Government, to help inform and test Government policies on biodiversity and the Green Economy, and;
- Engage with the emerging Swiss association on sustainable finance.
The Clarmondial team would like to thank the participants for attending, and to encourage attendees and interested parties alike to get in touch to learn more about the event and its outcomes: It is our sincere hope that this event will help to foster the dialogue and collaboration needed to mainstream Natural Capital, both internationally and within Switzerland.
Selected images from the event