22 Sep 2020

How can action on climate change form part of the plan for business and finance?

Focus

Digital content team

In an exclusive Focus Talk, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown and Tanya dos Santos share ideas on climate action, opportunities and building back better in a post-pandemic era.

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Our panellists

Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Investec board member and former UN deputy secretary-general

Tanya Dos Santos, Investec global head of sustainability

 

Mark Malloch‐Brown served as UN deputy secretary‐general and chief of staff under Kofi Annan. Before this, he led global development efforts at the UNDP. Lord Malloch-Brown covered Africa and Asia as minister of state in the Foreign Office and was a member of Gordon Brown's cabinet. He also served as World Bank vice president and vice chairman of the World Economic Forum.

 

He is active in business and international affairs, and sits on several commercial and non-profit boards, including the Open Society Foundation and the International Crisis Group.

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The key themes of this Focus Talk:

Taking responsibility and action

Governments increased their focus on climate change in response to activity from businesses, suggested Lord Malloch-Brown. This means the private sector carries influence as well as control over its contribution to emissions.

 

"It was only when the private sector came on board that the level of government ambition raised because there's so much of global economic activity is in the private sector.

 

“Private sector decisions around innovation and transformation to new business models underlies so much of the collective outcome around climate change as to whether we're going to be able to arrest its worst impacts or not,” he explained.

 

Pointing to the commitment to the Paris Agreement by Investec and others, Dos Santos said: “I absolutely agree with you however, we do require much more participation from other players." She acknowledged greater input from regulators and rating agencies in climate action. 

 

For her, internal and external stakeholder engagement is a crucial first step in any climate commitment. “We were very fortunate, we got some great advice from one of our stakeholders and that was to go and engage with as many people as possible and get lots of perspectives on this and I think that was one of the best things we could have done.”

$12 trillion
estimated value of business activity related to the implementation of the SDGs
15%
jump in global GDP should SDGs be met
Business opportunities

The Sustainable Development Goals represent business opportunities in a changing world said Malloch-Brown. He was confident action by business could help create a 'virtuous cycle'. “There are 17 of these goals… in truth we were able to identify 12 trillion dollars of business activity. And just to kind of contextualise that, we were talking about really close to a 15% jump in global GDP, offset of course by transitioning out of some older industries,” he added.

 

The man on the street is also a lot more likely to want to do business with brands who have committed to the SDGs, says Malloch-Brown. "The consumer too buys into these purpose-driven brands and so ultimately it's about shareholder return and performance and it becomes a virtuous circle."

 

Investec stands ready to help said Dos Santos. “Our main focus is to work with our clients, we’re telling our clients we want to help in the transition [to a sustainable world]."

Building back better

What does building back better actually mean? “In the first sense it means, you know, where is government going to put its financial incentive and regulatory stick in terms of use of recovery funds? And probably most notable is the EU funds some 750 billion euros which really do comprise a strong green component,” said Malloch-Brown.


“I think we are at a real pivot point, a watershed moment when more and more corporates are embracing this transition,” he added, agreeing with Dos Santos who said: “Building back better is critical from a sustainable development perspective".

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