Category: Sustainable Finance

Mastercard Announces New Opportunity for European Startups
FinanceSustainable Finance

Mastercard Announces New Opportunity for European Startups

The Start Path Europe program is a 12-month effort providing startups with customized support to solve specific priorities for each company. Participating startups receive mentorship from a global pool of MasterCard experts, introductions to MasterCard partners to explore pilot opportunities, and the ability to leverage existing MasterCard solutions.

“Start Path Europe is unique, because we tailor the support to match the individual needs of a startup, rather than applying a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” said Stephane Wyper, Global Lead of MasterCard Start Path. “Our goal is the success of each startup and helping them grow faster than they could on their own.”

MasterCard welcomed the inaugural Start Path Europe class in 2014, which consisted of companies chosen from applicants from more than 30 countries; Ridango, Zencard, Xpreso, Instabank, MePin, and Storee.

“Start Path Europe has been hugely beneficial for Xpreso” said Simon Pleass, co-founder and CEO of Xpreso. “With MasterCard’s support, we have engaged with a number of large organisations about commercial opportunities and accelerated our sales pipeline.”

Up to eight companies from across Europe will be selected to participate in the 12-month hybrid onsite and virtual program that will launch in April 2015. Start Path is open to companies working across the commerce space. Full eligibility details and the online application are available at deadline to apply is February 19.

CBI report from Davos
FinanceSustainable Finance

CBI report from Davos

Trade, productivity and growth for everyone As we dig out our snow boots and warm coats, and prepare to join the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, now is a time to focus our minds on global issues. We’re a few years into the global recovery, but the benefits are not being felt by everyone. Youth unemployment is over 50% in Spain and Greece. And in many of the advanced economies, while employment growth has picked up, real wage growth is lagging behind. Households aren’t feeling an improvement in their pockets.

In the United Kingdom, we are now enjoying a healthy recovery, with growth of around 2.5% expected this year; employment in the UK now stands at 30.8 million, a record high. But at the same time, the average household has seen its income drop by 6% in real terms since the financial crisis.

The key to addressing this is to improve productivity and skills, so companies can grow faster and pay their workers more. In the UK, while job growth has been strong, productivity growth has fallen 15% below its pre-crisis trend. There’s an urgent need to raise productivity, which is a crucial part of addressing living standards and promoting sustainable growth. Improving productivity is not just a UK issue but a global one — with slower but more balanced growth, China will need to keep focusing on innovation as it moves to a more services-led economy with the urban consumer at its heart.

The focus on productivity needs to go hand in hand with improving skills. As the new wave of innovation hits, jobs are becoming more skilled. By 2022, half of all jobs in the UK will need workers who have some form of higher education. But skills training shouldn’t stay within education — businesses need to focus on helping their people build careers. In the UK, one in three workers is still stuck in the lowest earnings group after 14 years in the job. That is not motivating for anyone. We all need a more modern approach to how we learn and progress in our lives and careers.

But most of all, it is important that we look outwards and not inwards. Innovation is higher in more open economies, according to 2013 research by the Centre for Economic Policy. Countries grow fastest when they trade with and learn from one another. There’s no doubt that China’s phenomenal growth has been driven, in part, by its ascension to the World Trade Organization and its success in moving up the value added chain.

With several large trade deals on the global agenda, there is a real opportunity to boost growth for everyone. An ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could boost the UK economy alone by £10 billion every year. Reducing tariffs and boosting trade in services has tremendous potential. It’s important that we seize the opportunity and get the global economy kick-started.

What CEOs Need to Lead in an Uncertain and Hyper-Connected World
FinanceSustainable Finance

What CEOs Need to Lead in an Uncertain and Hyper-Connected World

The role of CEO is structurally unique and preparation is therefore always incomplete, the report notes. Embracing a mind-set of continual learning and curiosity is necessary for CEOs to cope with the uncertainty around them.
Based on in-depth interviews with more than 150 CEOs from around the world and across business sectors, The CEO Report is one of the most comprehensive, in-depth studies of CEO leadership capabilities. It identifies a suite of integrated skill sets that today’s senior-most leaders leverage to help them grow and thrive in a business environment marked by constant change and dissonance of competing stakeholder interests.

“Senior business leaders must operate in a new normal of unpredictable change in a hyper-connected world,” said Tracy Wolstencroft, Heidrick & Struggles CEO and President. “Volatile business climates can provide a competitive advantage for those who are able to lead and inspire their teams through this uncertainty.

“This research captures what it is to be a CEO today and the significant leadership challenges CEOs face. A picture emerges of leaders who are changing and developing as quickly as the environment in which they operate,” said Professor Peter Tufano, Dean of Saïd Business School. “This rich and detailed study gives us a deeper understanding of the needs of executives at the top of organizations and suggests ways in which we can support them in their personal development.”

Ripple Intelligence

Contextual intelligence is not enough today. CEOs need to continuously adapt to changing dynamics impacting every aspect of their business. “Ripple intelligence” – a critical finding in the research – is the ability to see the interactions of business contexts like ripples moving across a pond. It enables CEOs to envision how trends and contexts may intersect and change direction, so they can anticipate disruptions, make time to plan, and protect against being blindsided by unexpected events. Ripple intelligence also makes CEOs aware of their own impact and how it may influence contexts that might otherwise seem remote and unconnected.

“Ripple intelligence is a significant early-warning system that CEOs are using to navigate the uncertainty and unpredictability of today’s world,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Smets, Associate Professor in Management and Organisation Studies at Saïd Business School. “The report will help CEOs understand the dimensions of how to amass information and perspective so they can better navigate the ripples they can see, and anticipate those they can’t.”
The other critical capabilities identified in The CEO Report are:

The S3 of Change – The ability to determine not just the speed of change, but also the real and perceived scope and significance to the organization and its stakeholders.

The Power of Doubt – The transformation of doubt into a powerful decision-making tool is a critical skill among CEOs today. They leverage doubt similar to elite athletes’ utilization of nerves: as a source of focus and insight when harnessed constructively.

Adapting authentically – Facing relentless pressure for change, CEOs consider adaptability a requirement for the role. Yet ‘authentic leadership’ is also a demand and thus the need to balance between being ever adaptable, while remaining true to their personal sense of purpose, and thus their authenticity, is critical.

Finding balance – Faced with competing, yet equally valid, stakeholder demands, CEOs increasingly must navigate through paradoxical choices, including between “right … and right,” both for themselves and their organizations. Balancing these paradoxes gives CEOs the foundation to turn organizational trade-offs into win–win situations.

Continual growth and renewal – CEOs feel that their success today hinges on continual growth in the role, even more so than on their preparation beforehand. They recognize that the role is structurally unique and preparation therefore always incomplete. Embracing a mindset of continual learning and curiosity is necessary for CEOs to always be ready for the uncertainty around them.

“The research has given us a deep understanding of how CEOs navigate these markets,” said Valerie Germain, Global Managing Partner for Functional Practices at Heidrick & Struggles. “It is clear that they strive to find opportunity among the challenges, for both business and personal growth. There were many consistent leadership traits despite the diverse experiences of this wide-ranging group.”

WEF Annual Meeting 2015 to Address the New Global Context
FinanceSustainable Finance

WEF Annual Meeting 2015 to Address the New Global Context

The 45th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, which will take place 21-24 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, is to convene under the theme The New Global Context.

The theme reflects the period of profound political, economic, social and technological change that the world has entered, which has the potential to end the era of economic integration and international partnership that began in 1989.

Participating in the meeting will be 2,500 leaders, including the heads of 1,000 of the world’s largest and most successful businesses, heads of state or government from the G20 group and other nations, the heads of the world’s foremost international organizations alongside leaders from civil society, labour unions, the world’s major religions, media and the arts. The Forum’s New Champions communities; Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers, Global Growth Companies,Technology Pioneers and Social Entrepreneurs, will also contribute.

The Annual Meeting 2015 will provide a platform for over 50 initiatives that are currently being led by the Forum, with the aim of contributing positive, transformative change to the global agenda, as well as those of industry, business and the world’s regions. These include a public-private initiative to help achieve zero net tropical deforestation caused by key agricultural commodities by 2020; an endeavour to build a broad-based, multilateral global architecture for governing the internet; and the Forum’s Gender Parity Taskforces, which work with governments worldwide to improve economic opportunity for the female half of the population.

Supporting these endeavours, the Meeting’s programme will feature over 250 sessions, each researched and designed using input from the Forum’s Global Agenda Councils, a network of over 1,500 world-class experts that is focused on identifying and delivering solutions to over 80 individual global, regional and business challenges. This programme will be more open to the public than ever before, with over 20 televised sessions and an expanded multilingual webcast capability covering 60 sessions, all contributing to a real-time conversation to be played out over social media as well as the Forum’s own blog.

IMF Issues Warning Over Excessive Risk Taking
FinanceSustainable Finance

IMF Issues Warning Over Excessive Risk Taking

Courtesy of Shutterstock

Issuing a warning, the IMF said the dual threat could undermine what is already an uneven and weaker recovery than had been expected.

The warning comes as part of a report prepared by the IMF which will be put in front of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Australia this weekend. The report also discusses problems in the US economy and the eurozone. Together with challenges facing the economies of China, Japan, Latin America and Russia, the IMF said the growth target of 3.6% for this year will not be achieved.

However, looking ahead to next year, the Washington-based body said that the rate of growth should pick up. Citing the long-term low interest rates across the world, supportive measures introduced by central banks and the steady increase in share prices, the global prospects and challenges said that there will be a number of key contributing factors to the growth increase.

US Set to be Strongest 2015 Economy

This better news was itself tempered however. The IMF went on to say that further new threats could be on the horizon, causing further disruption and an unsettled atmosphere in investment markets.

The other threats it sees approaching are:

• Low inflation
• Permanent growth rate slowdown in the west
• Lower growth in emerging economies
• Potential disruption as a result of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates

Analysing individual economies across the world, the IMF paper continued to say that it expects the US economy to perform best next year. It also said that the growth forecasts in the UK should remain ‘solid’. The same is true of growth forecasts for many developed Asian markets, as well as the economies of Australia and Canada.

However, it went on to say that the eurozone will continue to see an ‘uneven’ and ‘more gradual’ recovery, despite recent measures to stimulate activity by the European Central Bank.

Though backing the US and the UK, the IMF went on to advise Washington and London policymakers to prepare to remove their stimulation efforts that have been in place for over five years.

Branson Steps in to Give Food Entrepreneurs a Tastier Slice
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Branson Steps in to Give Food Entrepreneurs a Tastier Slice

The competition Foodpreneur Fest 2014 invites start-up food firms to pitch their business to Branson is open to retail products, restaurants, nutritious foods and kids’ food.

Winning start-ups in each of the four categories will receive a prize which includes mentoring. The prize will also offer winners a:

“Money-can’t buy support to reach new customers”

Branson will be on the judging panel deciding the winners personally, being joined by such foody luminaries as Paul Linley, the founder of Ella’s Kitchen founder and Hemsley Hemsley founders Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley.

The panel will vote on four categories:

The ‘Most exciting new brand’ award will go to new products looking at getting on supermarket shelves.

The ‘Tastiest start-up’ category is for every type of catering operation, including pop-up restaurants and mobile operations.

The “Best healthy food business” gong is aimed at those offering nutritious foods.

The fourth award will be presented to the winner of the ‘Most loved kids’ food’.

The entry process for the Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur Fest 2014 has already started. Firms interested in applying have until September 3 at 10am to apply, with the shortlisted entrants invited to present to the panel on September 17.

The announcement of the new Virgin awards comes as the Faculty of Public Health in the UK issued a warning that increasing numbers of people are suffering from malnutrition. The cause, according to the faculty, is higher levels of food poverty, with medical conditions such as rickets becoming more apparent as an effect.

New Appointment to Rockefeller Foundation Board
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New Appointment to Rockefeller Foundation Board

The Rockefeller Foundation, now in its second century of advancing the well-being of humanity, has announced the appointment of Ravi Venkatesan to its Board of Trustees. Venkatesan is the former Chairman of Microsoft India and currently Founder and Chairman of Social Venture Partners India, a network of philanthropists addressing social problems. He is also a Venture Partner at impact investor Unitus Seed Fund.

“With our commitment to catalyse new ideas and innovations at The Rockefeller Foundation, I am delighted to welcome Ravi Venkatesan, a proven leader with strong business and technology backgrounds,” said Board Chair David Rockefeller, Jr. “His experience will be invaluable in advancing the Foundation’s commitment to scaling innovations that expand opportunity, realize shared prosperity, and create jobs for more people globally.”

“Our century of investment in Asia has focused on addressing our dual goals of promoting more inclusive economies and building greater resilience against shocks and stresses,” said Dr Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Ravi, with his commitment to philanthropy along with his eye for solutions and relentless drive for innovation, will provide essential guidance to our work in the years ahead.”

“I am thrilled and honoured to be joining The Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees,” Venkatesan said. “The Rockefeller Foundation’s history of supporting the ingenuity of innovators who have transformed and improved billions of lives of poor or vulnerable people is unparalleled, and I very much look forward to contributing to its legacy.”

As Chairman of Microsoft India between 2004 and 2011, Venkatesan helped build India into Microsoft’s second-largest presence in the world and one of its fastest growing markets. He was instrumental in creating Microsoft India’s Project Shiksha, a computer literacy program which has so far trained over 40 million school children in India.

Prior to Microsoft, Venkatesan was the Chairman of Cummins India, a leader of power solutions and engines. He is also the author of an acclaimed book “Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere,” published by Harvard Business Review.

Are Gift Aid Small Donations Working?
FinanceSustainable Finance

Are Gift Aid Small Donations Working?

Charity Finance Group, the Institute of Fundraising and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), have released a new survey to find out how the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme is working.

Following recent figures released from HMRC which show £7million had been claimed in the first year of the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, this new survey aims to find out the experience amongst the voluntary sector on how the scheme is working. Estimates from government forecasted the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme could bring in around £50 million a year for charities.

Anna Bloch, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Charity Finance Group said: “As early indications show that the government’s Gift Aid Small Donations scheme has fallen well below the intended target, we want to understand why this is happening. A number of reasons could be responsible such as a lack of clarity around the eligibility criteria or an overly burdensome claiming process. This research will allow us to have an informed conversation with government about how to improve the scheme, so that the sector can make full use of the value of this scheme. It is crucial that government engages with the sector on this issue to ensure the effective use of charitable funds.”

Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and Research at Institute of Fundraising said: “We want to see the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme be as successful as possible, contributing extra resource to thousands of charities’ income. With only £7million claimed so far, we think this is the right time to explore whether the scheme is operating as well as it can and for organisations to tell us their experience of the scheme. We want to know whether the scheme is easy to use for those charities who have made a claim and find out the reasons why others have not yet done so. We hope that this survey provides us with some useful knowledge that enables us and government to best ensure the scheme is a success.”

Change Needed for Sustainable African Growth
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Change Needed for Sustainable African Growth

Sustainable economic growth in Africa will require a step change in approach from both investors and governments, according to new research released today by FTI Consulting, Inc., the global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organisations protect and enhance their enterprise value. The research reveals major shortfalls in the way governments attract investment, as well as how companies engage with key stakeholders.

The research, based on the opinions of investors, political and business leaders attending the World Economic Forum on Africa, shows that public opinion now holds significant influence over the business operating environment in Africa. Despite this, 76 percent of those polled believe that companies do not effectively communicate the benefits that their investment brings to their host countries. As nations in Africa become more discerning towards Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”), a poor communications strategy could jeopardise the initial approach and long-term success of a company’s investment.

On the other side of the investment partnership, host governments must review the way they attract and handle FDI. The research conducted by FTI Consulting shows that 73 percent of those surveyed believe that governments have not been very effective in encouraging investment, and 79 percent think governments impose unreasonable expectations on investors. Although the benefits of investing in Africa are widely recognised, 52 percent of respondents believe investment still comes loaded with risk. This, compounded by unfair demands from governments may deter future investors.

“Companies need to modernise their approach to investing in Africa. The old way of doing business, isolating a company and its investment from the local and regional communities, is no longer effective. Rather than putting barriers around investments, engagement is now the key to recognising and avoiding the risks so many are still concerned about,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, Chairman of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region at FTI Consulting.

Lord Malloch-Brown continued, “Governments have a pivotal part to play in communicating the tangible benefits of FDI. Although natural resources have created pockets of wealth in certain nations, 51 percent of those we polled believe oil has hindered sustainable economic growth in Africa. Future success in Africa relies on companies and populations sharing wealth and growing in tandem. Host governments have an important part to play in brokering partnerships that allow African people to access the benefits that FDI brings.”

ING Group Publishes Latest Sustainability Report
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ING Group Publishes Latest Sustainability Report

The updates are supported by data on key priority areas such as sustainable financing and investment, increasing the financial capability of our customers, environmental performance of our operations, its community investments, and on being a responsible employer.

ING’s CEO, Ralph Hamers, says: “Our business, like any other, is affected by a rapidly changing world. Although we are a financial institution, our role goes beyond delivering monetary returns. We have an opportunity to use our scale, reach and expertise to help society achieve long-term sustainable prosperity.”

Some of the key highlights of the report include:

– Expanded and strengthened ESR Framework and Sustainable Procurement programme
– €845m increase in Sustainable Assets Allocated to €6,570m
– The carbon emissions per FTE decreased more than 8%
– 105,121 children reached this year through partnership with UNICEF

The report has been aligned with ING Group Annual Report 2013, reflecting its ambitions towards a more integrated approach to financial and non-financial reporting.

Award for Innovative Investment Platform
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Award for Innovative Investment Platform


UKSIF member Abundance Generation has been named as the winner of the Sustainable Finance category of the Sustainable City Awards 2013-14. Resonance Limited’s Real Lettings Property Fund (RLPF) received the ‘highly commended’ award.

Abundance Generation is an online retail finance business, which has created an innovative regulatory structure that allows anyone in the community and wider UK public to invest in renewable energy projects with a minimum investment of only £5. Using a low cost model, operating through an internet platform, investors can follow all the news on their projects and get real-time updates on electricity generated and money earned.

Resonance Limited’s Real Lettings Property Fund (RLPF) is a landmark investment fund developed by Resonance Limited and homelessness charity Broadway, in response to a growing failure in the rental housing market resulting in rising numbers of people at risk of being homeless in London.

Ecology Building Society, Impax Asset Management and Schroder Investment Management were the  runners-up, having all been shortlisted as innovative contributions for the Sustainable Finance Category.

An expert judging panel tasked with collectively deciding on the winner and highly commended entry for this year’s ‘Sustainable Finance’ award featured Kieron Boyle, Head of Social Investment and Finance at  the Cabinet Office, Emma Howard Boyd, Sustainable Investment and Governance Director at Jupiter Asset Management, and Lauren Iannarone, Head of Citizenship at Barclays, together with the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Mark Boleat who chaired the panel.

UKSIF has worked in partnership with the City of London to deliver the ‘Sustainable Finance’ category of the Sustainable City Awards since 2007. The ‘Sustainable Finance’ category focuses on innovation in the sustainable investment and finance industry, advancing sustainability through financial services with demonstrated positive impact.

Standard Chartered Launches Sustainability Review
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Standard Chartered Launches Sustainability Review

The annual review details how the bank has delivered against its sustainability priorities: contributing to sustainable economic growth, being a responsible company and investing in communities.

In 2013, Standard Chartered contributed to sustainable economic growth across its markets by promoting and extending access to financial services, and sharing its expertise. Some highlights of its work in these areas include:

– Providing US$20.6bn of financing to small and medium-sized enterprises across 32 markets

– Pledging to increase financing to SMEs by 45% to US$30bn between 2013-2018 as part of its commitments at the   Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)

– Under the Standard Chartered Saadiq brand, the bank expanded its Islamic banking services into Africa and increased its lending globally to US$20bn

– Providing US$774m of project financing to support the power sector

– Pledging to finance US$2bn in power projects by 2018, as part of the Power Africa initiative led by the US government to promote access to electricity across Sub-Saharan Africa

– Offered more than 30 workshops to central banks and ministries of finance on topics such as the internationalisation of the renminbi, Islamic finance, debt capital markets and the use of derivatives to manage financial risk

– Worked closely with the communities in which it operates to promote sustainable development through a number of community investment programmes.

Peter Sands, Group Chief Executive at Standard Chartered PLC, said: “Our strategy is to bank the people and companies driving investment, trade and the creation of wealth across Asia Africa and the Middle East. We are committed to supporting our clients and customers, creating value for our shareholders and making a broader social and economic contribution to the markets where we operate.”