The overwhelming majority of global trade contributes negatively to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to new research, which calls for better guidance for banks and corporates around what sustainable trade should look like.
Released this week by trade data and analytics provider Coriolis Technologies in partnership with MEP Saskia Bricmont and the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, Measuring sustainability through trade maps countries’ export and import data against the 17 SDGs to identify negative and positive contributions.
It found that, on a scale of -1 to +1 where -1 means that all trade makes negative contributions, zero is neutral and +1 means that all trade makes positive contributions, world trade scores -0.58, with 80% of global trade by value being unsustainable.
A closer look at the numbers reveals some interesting findings. First, if the SDGs are broken down into their environmental, social and governance (ESG) elements, world trade scores -0.73 with regard to its environmental impact, and an almost entirely negative -0.91 for its social impact. However, when it comes to the ‘G’ in ESG – governance – global trade scores a positive 0.43.
“In other words, the world of trade and trade finance, alongside regulators, has put in place the governance structures to minimise economic risks in the form of employment, economic growth and provisions of basic health, but the price for the environment and for social equality and justice is overwhelmingly high,” the report says. It adds that trade policy can do “significantly more” to promote the basic human rights of trade as represented by the commitment to fair and open trade to promote sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption, and to shore up the institutions of trade that help peace and justice.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the most advanced economies that have the least sustainable trade, with the G20 nations accounting for some US$18.5tn in value terms in negative contributions to responsible consumption and production (SDG 12).
“These are economies where automotives, consumer electronics and machinery and components are routinely among the top five sectors for both imports and exports,” the report says.
However, while the poorest nations in the world score better, this is because imports are often for subsistence purposes rather than being aimed at luxury or consumption-based markets.
“If we are to meet the ambitious targets laid out at Cop26, we cannot afford to ignore the messages here – that the majority of world trade is unsustainable, and where it is not, it is a symptom of under-development,” the report says.
In its research, which it calls “an initial contribution to the process of creating an automated and consistent mechanism for measuring sustainability”, Coriolis Technologies has built on a methodology established by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which takes HS codes – the internationally standardised system of names and numbers to classify traded products – and compares them against the 17 SDGs.
For example, trade in tobacco negatively contributes to SDG 3 – good health and wellbeing – while trade in medicine would be a positive contributor. Because the methodology uses HS codes at six-digit level, it is able to distinguish between, for example, a diesel car (870332) and an electric car (870380) or, indeed, a hybrid car (870360), each of which have varying impacts on SDG 7 – clean and affordable energy, and SDG 12 – sustainable consumption.
The methodology isn’t without its shortcomings. For example, while specific goods may not in themselves be sustainable, they can often be used for purposes such as sustainable infrastructure. The same also applies in reverse when it comes to the trade of sustainable goods for non-sustainable purposes. What’s more, Coriolis Technologies adds that the scope to distinguish between resource utilisation for the same product in different countries is limited: “For example, a fruit such as a strawberry produced in the Middle East requires more water and energy to produce than in its indigenous environment,” the report says.
However, industry bodies and regulators are in wide agreement that the SDGs are an adequate taxonomy of reference to enable a comprehensive framework for sustainability, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which refers to them in its recent position paper on defining and setting common standards for sustainable trade and associated financing.
By providing a quick and simple measurement, Coriolis Technologies has laid bare the enormous amount of work ahead to make global trade more sustainable – but has also provided a call to action for policymakers.
“Since we know the sustainable development goals where the largest negative contributions are likely to be across world trade, we know the levers we should pull,” the report says, adding that too much of world trade contributes negatively to zero hunger, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sustainable cities.
“We also know the sectors which are to blame for the low scores of some countries: automotives, consumer electronics, machinery and components, plastics, iron and steel, and oil and gas. Oil and gas alone contributes some 10% to the value of EU trade, so if we can reduce our dependency on it, we can also reduce the negative contributions to the SDGs,” the report says, adding that the countries that have the worst scores all have automotives in their top five imports and/or exports. As a solution, it puts forward policy incentives towards the use of electric cars and clean energy in order to address the negative role that automotive and fossil fuel trade play at present.
Although Coriolis Technologies admits that the challenge of ensuring trade becomes a positive contributor to sustainable development is not an easy one to address, its development of a model to map out ESG weaknesses in trade should go some way to focusing minds as the trade and trade finance industry attempts to become more sustainable.
How a new generation of entrepreneurs is tackling the world’s biggest challenges head on could not be a better story to illustrate the current goings-on amongst all and above all the doers in this world of today. It is by the World Economic Forum. Here it is.
How a new generation of entrepreneurs is tackling the world’s biggest challenges head on
From the climate crisis to the destruction of natural ecosystems, the world faces an unprecedented set of interconnected challenges.
Innovative entrepreneurs are building businesses that protect and restore the planet and everything that lives on it.
UpLink is helping over 260 entrepreneurs find the resources, experts and funding they need to take their promising solutions to the next level.
The impact driven by innovative entrepreneurs
From drones that detect illegal fishing and robots that sort plastic waste, to sustainable solutions for the world’s forests and remote learning tools for students struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic – these are just some ways entrepreneurs are using their creative energy to tackle issues within their communities and beyond.
The World Economic Forum created UpLink, an open innovation platform launched in partnership with Salesforce and Deloitte, to unlock an entrepreneur revolution and support positive systemic change for people and planet. Its mission is to create the necessary bridges to the expert help that entrepreneurs need to take their innovations to the next level.
Since its launch in January 2020, UpLink has identified over 260 individuals with highly promising solutions and is working to support their growth through visibility, access and introductions that allow them to scale their businesses. These entrepreneurs are already achieving tremendous impact and, in 2021-2022, they were able to collectively secure more than $942 million in funding to support their activities.
UpLink’s 2021-2022 Impact Report highlights how Top Innovators are addressing issues spanning the environment, economy and society, including protecting or actively managing some 10 million hectares of natural habitat and restoring over 812,000 hectares. They have provided 16.4 million people with access to essential health services and ensured 1.87 million people have gained access to basic sanitation. Additionally, they have successfully educated or trained 5.5 million people and ensured more than 25 million people benefited from greater market access.
“We must ignite an ecopreneur revolution, which is why I’m so excited about UpLink.”
— Marc Benioff, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce
Which challenges are entrepreneurs facing today?
The world faces an unprecedented set of global issues. From the climate crisis and the destruction of natural ecosystems to the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant income inequality, there is a critical need to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Yet, there are a number of entrepreneurial solutions that can already accelerate the SDGs. Indeed, as US Climate Envoy John Kerry recently said, almost half of the emissions cuts needed to achieve net-zero will come from early-stage solutions and future technologies.
But for many of these entrepreneurs, finding the mentorship, resources and – crucially – funding they need to scale their operations, expand their teams and widen their impact is often beyond their reach, especially for those operating in developing economies.
Unleashing the creative energy of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs is essential and it is crucial to build a collaborative framework around them that can support their innovations and help them thrive.
“Problems and issues that we face as a global community cannot be solved by individual entities or governments. We have to collectively address these issues.”
— Punit Renjen, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte
Our approach to collaborating with entrepreneurs.
UpLink Since its launch, UpLink has been dedicated to creating this collaborative environment for the world’s entrepreneurs.
The platform is building a digital space where investors, experts and other organizations can work together to elevate and support innovations.
This innovation ecosystem is enabled by:
An open digital platform, which sources entrepreneurs from all over the world through innovation challenges in a range of critical areas, including nature, the ocean, plastics, climate change, the circular economy, water, health and education – with many more to come. These are designed and run in collaboration with a diverse set of partners across the public and private sectors, including Accenture, HCL, IKEA Foundation, Friends of Ocean Action, Nestlé, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization.
The convening and amplification power of the Forum, which offers increased access to events, initiatives, multi-stakeholder communities and funding opportunities for innovators.
Over the last two years, 46,000 users have joined the UpLink platform and entrepreneurs have submitted 3,500 solutions via 34 innovation challenges. The community has recognized 265 Top Innovators in four categories who are now receiving support to grow their companies.
“Initiatives shouldn’t just come from enlightened business leaders or governments. We have to engage people. They have ideas. We have to give them the means to translate their ideas into action.”
— World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.
How can you get involved?
We invite visionary leaders, organizations, businesses, governments and philanthropists to join UpLink in driving the entrepreneur revolution. Through UpLink, we are accelerating progress on the SDGs by sourcing and scaling innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues, raising awareness for key sustainability issues and unlocking funding opportunities.
Announced at the 2022 Arabian Travel Market, the Tourism Authority shares vision to become the region’s most sustainable destination by 2025 with ambitious new approach at the heart of the Emirate’s tourism strategy.
New Delhi, India – Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) announces its bold new approach to sustainability – Balanced Tourism, a key milestone in its strategy to drive overall sector growth and become the regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025.
Unveiled at the Arabian Travel Market 2022, the region’s leading travel and tourism event, the vision underscores the Emirate’s leadership in conscious tourism and aligns with its identity as a nature destination with a desire to progress, grow and evolve.
Under the all-encompassing banner of Balanced Tourism, the Authority is shaping tourism in the UAE by placing all aspects of sustainability (environment, culture, conservation and livability) at the center of its investment and development strategy. By ensuring issues surrounding ‘over tourism’ – such as over development, crowding of heritage sites, and the spoiling of its unique natural environment – are avoided, it is creating a destination that will resonate with today’s responsible traveller.
Balanced Tourism follows the Authority’s announcement in September 2021 of its Sustainable Tourism Destination Strategy to secure the Emirate’s long-term sustainability and drive overall growth through four key pillars: Sustainable Development; Cultural Conservation; Attractions Built with Purpose; and Community and Liveability.
Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said: “The need for good stewardship of our cultural heritage, environment, people and infrastructure has never been stronger, especially in post pandemic times. Balanced Tourism does exactly that as we become ever mindful of the economic, social and environmental impacts on tourism. Simply put, it’s time to move beyond just using less plastic to adopting an all-inclusive approach – from ensuring new projects such as hotels are developed at an organic pace to building new attractions with sustainability at their core.”
Known as the ‘nature Emirate’, Ras Al Khaimah boasts 64km of pristine beaches, mangroves abundant with wildlife, rolling terracotta deserts, impressive wadis and stunning mountains. These natural assets form the backbone of the destination’s key values, and their protection is a key focus. With this in mind, the tourism board has applied a mindful approach to new hotel developments, consulting with hospitality partners to ensure spacious venues, with thoughtful, sustainable landscaping, and maintaining a measured pipeline, limiting new properties to just two per year, to avoid rapid, less well-planned expansion and overcrowding.
As the licensing authority for all new hotel developments, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is able to set guidelines and protocols to regulate sustainability standards and work closely with hotels to ensure sustainable practices. This includes the recently announced integrated Wynn Resort, scheduled to open in 2026, that will be developed as per the Barjeel Green Building Regulations. There is also Earth Hotels Altitude, an eco-based pop-up hotel concept set to open on Jebel Jais in Q4 2022 featuring 15 fully fitted accommodation units, an activation center and swimming pool, and Saij Mountain Lodge, opening on Jebel Jais in 2023, a protected and sustainably managed mountain resort featuring sustainable lodges made from natural and sustainable materials.
The integrated approach also includes cultural conservation. In addition to being the most fortified Emirate, with over 65 forts due to its importance as a trade route, Ras Al Khaimah is home to four archaeological sites which are tentatively on the UNESCO World Heritage site list, more than any other Emirate. The Authority has established a long-term investment plan to protect and enhance these and other key cultural projects. This includes Suwaidi Pearls Farm, the only site in the UAE which still cultivates local pearls, all done by hand to preserve the Emirate’s culture and traditions. It has also embarked on a three phased restoration program at Jazirah Al Hamra, one of the last surviving pearl diving and seafaring towns of the Arabian Gulf. Scheduled to complete in 2025, experts are working in line with UNESCO guidelines to restore the village, using traditional and sustainable materials, to potentially make it accessible to the public as an attractive tourist destination.
Attractions with Purpose
Under the Balanced Tourism platform, all upcoming attractions will be purpose built with sustainability standards and processes. Visitors can expect environmentally conscious development around Jebel Jais as well as across the more than 20 new sustainable tourism initiatives being developed across the Emirate. One example is the planned Scallop Ranch at Al Hamra Marine, a first of its kind attraction in the UAE that will support and enhance understanding of the marine ecosystem, with seagrass and sea cucumber species within the farm.
Community and Liveability
In addition, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Authority is also embracing the concept of liveability as part of its Balanced Tourism ethos. This includes several progressive policies in place to promote employee well-being, leading to the Authority to be named the sixth best workplace in the UAE by Great Place to Work® for 2022 in the Small & Medium Organisations category, the highest placed government entity. It was also named one of the Best Workplaces for Women and a Great Place to Work in 2021, the first and only organization in Ras Al Khaimah to be awarded this certification. The Authority has also introduced RAKFAM, a series of initiatives aimed at enriching connectivity, community life and facilities for tourism sector employees in the Emirate.
Sustainability as a driver of growth
Led by the Authority in December last year, government entities, hotels and private sector industries came together at the 2021 Global Citizen Forum in Ras Al Khaimah to pledge collectively to deliver the Emirate’s Sustainable Tourism Destination Strategy that will see it become the regional leader in environmentally conscious tourism by 2025. Led by the Authority
Providing a framework for action across a diverse program of activity, the guiding principles include:
Protecting and enhancing the Emirate’s cultural and natural heritage
Delivering new sustainable tourism developments
Working with business, government and community partners to ensure economic returns from tourism investment and the development of human capital
Regular measurement and benchmarking
Minimizing energy, water usage and waste generation across the destination
Respecting and safeguarding local culture and communities
Just as the war in Ukraine is disrupting supplies and fuelling already-high inflation, economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region is forecast to be “uneven and insufficient” this year, according to the World Bank.
Growth rates in the region envisage a narrative of diverging trends. As oil exporters benefit from surging prices, higher food prices have hit the whole region.
The GCC is expected to notch up 5.9% growth this year, buoyed by oil prices and helped by a vaccination rate much higher than the rest of Mena. But most Mena economies — 11 out of 17 — are not seen exceeding their pre-pandemic GDP per capita in 2022, says the World Bank.
GCC economies have seen a relatively strong start to 2022 with the hydrocarbons sector having benefited from increased oil production so far this year, says Emirates NBD. Its survey data for the first quarter of the year point to a solid expansion in non-oil sectors as well, with strong growth in business activity in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In the wider Mena region, however, countries like Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia – home to large, mainly urban populations, but lacking oil wealth – are struggling to maintain subsidies for food and fuel that have helped keep a lid on discontent.
Egypt has been struggling to maintain a bread subsidy programme used by about 70mn of its citizens with the coronavirus pandemic hitting the national budget, and surging wheat prices are exacerbating the challenge.
The World Food Programme has warned that people’s resilience is at “breaking point,” in the region. Global foods costs are up more than 50% from mid-2020 to a record and households worldwide are trying to cope with the strains on their budgets. In North Africa, the challenge is more acute because of a legacy of economic mismanagement, drought and social unrest that’s forcing governments to walk a political tightrope at a precarious time.
The MENA region’s net food and energy importers are especially vulnerable to shocks to commodity markets and supply chains resulting from Russia’s war on Ukraine, according to the International Monetary Fund.
That’s in countries where the rising cost of living helped trigger the Arab Spring uprisings a little over a decade ago. The region’s GDP is forecast to rise 5.2% this year after an estimated 3.3% expansion last year and a 3.1% contraction in 2020.
“Even if this high growth rate for the region as a whole materialises in this context of uncertainty, and there’s no guarantee that it will…(it) will be both insufficient and uneven across the region,” according to Daniel Lederman, World Bank lead economist for the MENA region.
Countries that are net importers of oil and food and which entered 2022 with high levels of debt as a ratio of GDP are most vulnerable, he said, pointing to Egypt and Lebanon as examples. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, food prices had been rising around the world, driven by the higher shipping costs, energy inflation and labour shortages that have followed in the pandemic’s wake, along with extreme weather. Food crisis was likely to worsen in the Middle East and North Africa as Covid-19 continued, according to a report from the regional directors of Unicef, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, WFP and World Health Organisation in July 2021.
Start-ups are these days rewriting the big MENA growth. A story that sums up the new trend at this conjecture in business life in the MENA region. Most importantly, it is showing the way of a hydrocarbon-based economy moving into a more diversified one . . .
The above featured image is of World Economic Forum that explored the same topic back in 2019. Here is the story as it stands in 2022:
Saudi start-ups rewriting the big MENA growth story
Start-ups from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) had raised nearly $375 million during the past month, with the Saudi firms taking a sizeable chunk of the pie, netting $219 million across 23 investment deals in February, according to a report.
With 58% of overall funding in the wider region going towards Saudi Arabia, it is no surprise to hear that headcount has grown by 20% within the kingdom’s start-ups over the past 12 months, said the report by leading recruitment consultancy Robert Walters Group, adding that this figure is expected to grow further this year as the government continues to create the ideal environment for start-up growth and international investment.
The competitive recruitment landscape between big corporates and start-ups continues to grow, with approximately 3 times the number of jobs posted vs available talent.
Faisal Saqallah, the Consultant from Robert Walters Saudi Arabia, shares his thoughts on why start-ups are winning the race on talent.
The Career Accelerator
With relatively flat structures and hands-on founders and CEOs – new starters can find themselves lining up into the senior leadership team from day one, explained Saqallah.
By taking on several different responsibilities and working closely with senior members of the team, start-up environments enable you to prove your worth early on, as well providing an opportunity for your work will be recognised if it has had a direct impact on the business, he stated.
Unlike within corporate structures, leaders will be able to clearly see your involvement in a project’s initial stages to completion, and as a result, the rate of advancement at start-ups tends to be much faster.
According to the Robert Walters Report – Act Like a Start-Up and Win the War on Talent – 50% of professionals in Saudi Arabia are interested in working for a start-up for their next career move.
“This is not surprising therefore to see that our survey found that over half of professionals (52%) would be willing to take a pay cut and join a start-up if they saw an opportunity to progress much quicker than they would do within a corporate set-up,” stated Saqallah.
“After any period of economic change, we typically see a wave of entrepreneurial or start-up activity – and so it doesn’t surprise me to hear of the success of this sector, so much so that Saudi Arabia now ranks sixth in global entrepreneurial competitiveness,” he stated.
“But what is most interesting is how these relatively-new 10-30 person companies are managing to draw some of the county’s top talent away from established firms who typically offer much higher levels of job security,” noted Saqallah.
“Post pandemic we have seen a significant shift in what professionals want from their employer – with purpose, culture, and people, rated above competitive pay and the well mapped-out corporate ladder,” he added.
Start-ups are designed to have high growth potential – and so it is not surprising to see that on average decisions are processed 4x quicker in a start-up than within a large firm (250+).
The changing and fast-paced nature of a start-up will keep employees on their toes, encouraging them to develop new skills as they go, and push boundaries beyond the initial job description.
Working for a start-up, you’ll understand how the whole company works and develops commercial acumen not expected of you when lower down in corporate structures. Some start-up leaders argue that these on-the-job business lessons are in fact better than an MBA.
Our survey found that 33% of professionals are leaving their corporate jobs in order to ‘try something new,’ with a further 15% looking to reskill.
Being a start-up team member comes with great responsibilities. No matter what your title is, your work will make an impact on the company’s growth and success – and so in turn this will make you feel like the job you’re doing has an actual purpose and is a huge motivation.
In fact, a third of professionals (34%) state that the reason they move to a start-up is for challenging and interesting work – with many stating that the skills they adopt in self-management and task prioritisation then cross over into their personal life.
According to the Robert Walters, working for a fast-growth start-up can be an intense experience, so you’ll inevitably become more proactive and ambitious outside of work too.
You’ll be constantly thinking about how to improve things, be more aware of problems and how to solve them and become more open to new cultures and ways of thinking. You’ll also learn to love challenges and even look for them!, it stated.
True Team Spirit
Almost half of professionals (42%) state that the most important value when looking for a future workplace is ‘colleagues and culture that inspire them to do their best – that’s why the company culture at start-ups is something to be valued.
Due to their smaller size, start-ups tend to foster a close-knit, collaborative environment, that encourages people to help where they can on tasks outside of their original remit.
“You’ll be surrounded by highly hardworking, talented, and ambitious people willing to do the impossible. There is a huge motivation to learn from others and contribute with your own knowledge and experience,” explained Saqallah.
Start-ups often favour a fluid structure over a rigid corporate-inspired hierarchy, enabling open discussion and co-operation between all team members.
It is not surprising then to hear that 30% of professionals state that the most appealing thing about a start-up is the open & effective management structure.
Talent the only criteria
Start-ups have a core focus of finding the very best talent who can help achieve their ambitious goals, and as a result, remove any sort of socio-economic or geographical barriers in order to find their stars.
As a result within a start-up, it is not surprising to come across all kinds of co-workers, from all kinds of nationalities, backgrounds, and ideologies – and due to the small nature of the teams, there will naturally be ample cross-over working with colleagues with different skill sets or working styles.
This strong multicultural environment can open your mind beyond work and tasks. It also leads employees to have a global vision.
And diversity doesn’t just rest with the people, it is safe to say that almost no two days are the same within a start-up. Typically, most members of the team have to ‘juggle many hats and take on duties outside of their specific role to contribute to the success of the wider business.
The diversity of tasks helps you to develop new skills very quickly, added to that you will often be learning directly from the founder of the company and/or senior employees.
This an invaluable opportunity when you are in the early stages of your career. Not only will this keep you stimulated in your day-to-day role, but it will also give you the opportunity to find out what you are most interested in and discover what you are best at.
Innovation is the key
Start-ups are different from traditional businesses primarily because they are grounded on disruptive innovation, created to address a perceived ‘problem’ in the market.
Joining a start-up means adopting an ‘out of the box’ mindset – an ability to think on your feet and get creative with smaller budgets and fewer resources.
Autonomy is not considered a perk within a start-up but a given – in fact, it is the reason why 28% of professionals leave a corporate job to join a newly established business.
However, it is not all ‘small-time,’ in order to aid your creativity you’ll find yourself learning and using the most modern and innovative tools and platforms on a daily basis – whilst shaky to start off with you’ll soon start to embrace and speak the ‘start-up language’ in no time!
Many start-ups have an ‘exit strategy’ in mind, which means you will be working towards an ambitious deadline right from the get-go, according to Robert Walters Group.
Growth targets will be ambitious, but if achieved by the team then they stand to cash in from significant rounds of funding as shares are often offered as part of job packages as a way of competing with corporate pay, it stated.
At a start-up, your hard work can payback sometimes 10x the amount you’d get in yearly corporate bonuses within 5-7 years of joining a fast-growth start-up. The key here is to join a business whose product and vision you will truly believe in, it added.
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