Countries / Territories

Financing the Environmental Dividend: Who does What?


    Consumer Conscience: How Environment and Ethics are Influencing Exports

    8 - 11 October 2008, Montreux, Switzerland

    SESSION SUMMARY: Thursday, 9 October 08                         print icon Printer-friendly version 


    Financing the Environmental Dividend: Who does What?

    Teava Iro, Chairman, Titikaveka Growers Association, Cook Islands
    Sibyl Anwander, Head Quality Assurance and Sustainability, COOP, Switzerland
    Bold Magvan, President, XacBank, Mongolia
    Anthony Lumby, President, International Interdisciplinary Environmental Association, South Africa 

    Environmentally friendly production can be good for profits as well as for people, and even for banks and financial institutions, it can be good business to invest in companies that go out of their way to protect their environment and be socially responsible, panellists in this session agreed.

    Launching the session, moderator Anthony Lumby said that there is little dispute that trade has played an important role in promoting economic growth, but there is mounting concern about the sustainability of the way in which the goods and services that underpin that trade are produced.

    "Our bank strongly believes that if a business is concerned about the environment and society, that is a more sustainable business," said Bold Magvan.

    Magvan said that it can be hard for small businesses to face the financial costs of adopting environmentally friendly technologies, but it is here that micro-financing organization such as XacBank have a role to play.

    The bank takes account of the environmental stand of a company when assessing what level of interest rate to charge, he said.

    "If someone is taking environmentally conscious decisions, then we can lower the interest rate," he said.

    The bank is not being philanthropic; its stance also makes good economic and financial sense, he said. The reasoning is simple. By acting this way, the bank gains more respect. More respect means more clients, and more clients means more trust, which in turns means more business and higher profits.

    As Switzerland's second largest retailer, the COOP is expected by its customers to act in a socially responsible way, Sibyl Anwander said." Customers expect products to be produced in an environmentally friendly manner."

    "It is good business to be a sustainability conscious company, we have higher turnover, more product range, more motivated employees," she said.

    As much as 10% of the company's turnover is made up of organic or other certified products. Although consumers pay a premium for certified products, there is no reason why that premium should be too high, she said.

    It would be a mistake for Third World producers to assume that they will be able to rely on there always being a price difference. It makes more sense to seek ways of keeping prices down by looking for compensating cuts in costs elsewhere, Anwander said.

    "We are demonstrating that commercializing environmentally friendly can be good business for all," she said.

    Teava Iro worried that farmers face difficulties in getting for financing from banks, particularly if they are involved in new areas of production. He told the session that 'biological agriculture', which is based on nutrional values, will soon replace conventional organic farming as the most environmentally friendly and sustainable form of agriculture.

    Summing up the session, moderator Lumby said: "All speakers highlighted that it is possible to achieve a win-win situation in financing trade and environmentally sustainable production."