Saving the World's Forests Can Be Done By Sustainable Investing and Financing

Leaders in the financial services industry and the environmental community will hold a first-of-its-kind summit this week in Washington DC to explore how sustainable investing and financing mechanisms can help advance the conservation of the world’s forests.

“The Trade Finance Opportunity” conference takes place tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m. at World Wildlife Fund US headquarters in Washington and brings together leading experts from financial institutions, trade groups, environmental organizations and other groups with an interest in supply-chain issues to raise awareness of the issues and opportunities associated with environmentally and socially responsible financial practices, with a special emphasis on the coffee and forestry sectors.

The event is co-hosted by The Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) and WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network, with support from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Citi Foundation.

With deforestation accounting for nearly 20 percent of all global carbon emissions, forests play a critical role in efforts to halt climate change, while providing habitat for thousands of animal species and supporting the livelihoods for millions of people around the world.

“This conference represents a unique opportunity for building a sustainable financial services sector,” said FAST President Jason Potts. “We plan on demonstrating strong leadership to promote environmentally and socially responsible finance and extend the collaboration with financial institutions and other partners committed to sustainable development.”

“Adopting and implementing responsible investing principles and standards not only contributes to conservation of the world’s most valuable and threatened forests, but is also a key driver in fostering corporate and social responsibility throughout the global marketplace,” said Richard McLellan, head of Global Forest & Trade Network, WWF. “Our goal is to encourage responsible lending from financial institutions and investors that adequately assesses environmental and social risks, especially for sectors like the forest industry where perceived risks and sensitivities are high.”

“We have seen time and time again that one of the bottlenecks for producer access to finance, particularly small and medium size producers, is a lack of institutional support from local banks,” said Miguel Martins, Sustainability Specialist, IFC Financial Markets Sustainability Group. “IFC has been working in partnership with banks operating in emerging markets to facilitate access to finance for this market segment on sustainable terms while correctly pricing loans and adequately defining tenors. If local banks are to service a growing demand for sustainable markets, they will need a stronger support network, and this conference presents a significant opportunity in building institutional support for this pressing need.”

“Citi and the Citi Foundation are committed to the vision of FAST and GFTN’s joint partnership and welcome the collaboration with key stakeholders such as the World Bank and IFC in building a more sustainable vision for trade finance,” said Bruce Schlein, vice president of Citi’s Corporate Sustainability Unit.

FAST officials said they are committed to the creation of better access to business finance for small- to medium-enterprises, which are considered a vital tool in poverty reduction and rural development. “By linking increased access to finance with sustainable production and performance, FAST is positioned to play a cutting-edge role in the promotion of a new, green economy within the US, Canada and abroad,” said FAST’s Executive Director, Noemi Perez.

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