Expert views

Can sustainable finance save the world?

1 November 2021
Sandrine Salerno, Director, Sustainable Finance Geneva

Sustainable Finance Geneva takes impact into account and integrates environmental and social factors into risk assessments, redirecting capital towards economic sectors that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals


The 21st century is a challenging one

In 70 years, industrialized countries have developed a system of growth and economic development based on fossil fuels, which has led to extreme climate disruption including melting ice caps, heating and rising ocean levels, heatwaves, forest fires, droughts and flooding.

This strain on our ecosystems has a catastrophic effect on biodiversity. Moreover, these results impact the quality of our lives, reinforce inequality, and have considerable consequences for the economy.

Although every country around the world feels the effects, developing countries pay the highest price.

© Shutterstock

The way we do finance impacts our lives

Sustainable Finance Geneva was born in 2008 based on the belief that finance needed to change its perspective. Rather than concentrating on returns on investment and risk assessment only, the financial ecosystem has a duty to integrate impact.

Taking impact into account and integrating environmental and social factors into risk assessments, means redirecting capital towards economic sectors that align with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Thirteen years ago, this prospect seemed idealistic, if not utopian. Who really thought then that the world of finance could change its model? However, the world has evolved, forcing policymakers to legislate, and financial and economic stakeholders to revise their business models and create new investment solutions.

© Shutterstock
Green finance is indispensable for social inequality and environmental challenges

The role of green finance in this new model is key as it facilitates ecological transition. Although there is still a long road to cover in a short period of time, the trend remains firm. Green finance provides economic opportunities that are indispensable if we want to overcome the challenges of social inequality.

Finance can help save the world if it considers both social and environmental factors, if from the outset it looks at the impact of financial solutions, and if it supports the real economy.

No success without collaboration

However, finance cannot save anything on its own. To face current challenges, it needs to collaborate with every part of society: politicians, universities, international organizations, civil society, and of course, the economy.

To make this collaboration possible, a new movement was born in 2019: Building Bridges. This unique initiative brings together stakeholders who wish to move from words to action. Imagining a new world is good, but creating one is even better.

To this end, from 29 November to 2 December 2021, the second edition of Building Bridges will take place in Geneva. This four-day conference on sustainable finance in Switzerland and the world will propose concrete ways in moving ahead.

Four days in which the heart of the debate will be finance and the economy, environmental factors and social impacts. These four days will not change the world by themselves, but I sincerely hope that they will contribute.

© Shutterstock