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ESG and trade: Maintaining momentum in a pandemic-informed world

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the role and responsibility of industry players to tackle environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and encouraged a new wave of innovation in trade finance.

GTR and Barclays gathered industry experts for a virtual roundtable to discuss the measures that need to be taken to ensure that progress continues to be made.

Roundtable participants:

  • James Binns, global head of trade and working capital, Barclays
  • Rebecca Harding, CEO, Coriolis Technologies
  • Alexander Malaket, president, Opus Advisory and founding partner, Managing Director
  • Annabel Ross, Banking Environment Initiative lead at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)
  • Shannon Manders, editorial director, GTR (moderator)

GTR: There has been a lot of momentum building around ESG in trade and trade finance, and parties across the trade ecosystem are increasingly buying in to the notion that sustainability is good business. How does the industry maintain this momentum and uphold the ethos of ESG and sustainability in a world where demand is outpacing supply and business costs are steadily rising?

GTR: The industry is facing a verification and scoring challenge. We’re seeing a number of industry bodies issuing guidelines on what constitutes ‘green’ and/or ‘sustainable’ – many of which are not yet being followed. There also appear to be some grey areas when it comes to ESG ratings. For example, a company involved in a heavy-polluting industry can secure a relatively strong rating, given that these systems often don’t assess a company’s fundamental environmental impact. Has the accountability of where all of this goes been proven out in the markets yet? Is this perhaps the next hurdle for the industry?

GTR: What is the role of data and technology in creating benchmarks and standards? What have been some of the recent efforts to drive the adoption of standardised ESG scoring criteria, tools and methodologies for trade?

GTR: What is ESG going to look like in the trade finance space in five years’ time? Which players are going to be driving the improvement of ESG performance?

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