Informal Interactive Hearings with Civil Society and the Business Sector on Financing for Sustainable Development

  • 8 April 2015

Remarks by Mr. John Danilovich, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Remarks by Mr. John Danilovich, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Opening Plenary

Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I am very pleased to be with you today.

For those of you who don’t know the International Chamber of Commerce, we are the world business organization.

Established almost 100 years ago with a mandate to promote “peace and prosperity” through international trade.

To this day, we believe that facilitating commercial ties between nations is not only good for business but for society as a whole.

For centuries, businesses of all sizes have been at the very bedrock of society,  creating not only products and services to make our lives easier and more fulfilling…

But also driving higher standards of living, providing jobs, pathways out of poverty, taxes and crucial investment into our local communities.

We also believe in promoting responsible and sustainable business practices.

ICC has, since its inception, taken a leading role in setting normative standards for businesses operating internationally.

A role we will look to develop further in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.

Today, ICC is the largest, most representative business organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members in over 130 countries.

On behalf of the ICC network as a whole…

I wish to congratulate the United Nations for its leadership on the very important intergovernmental processes this year that will establish a new global development agenda.

Clearly, the decisions we take in 2015 will shape the future for generations to come.

So, it is an honor for me to represent the business community at this very important event in the lead-up to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development later this year.

I especially want to thank the President of the General Assembly and the Financing for Development Office who spearheaded the efforts to hold these hearings.

By way of introduction to today’s session, I would like to say a few words on each of the major themes up for discussion.

First, on infrastructure financing

The number of people living in cities is expected to double by 2030.

This rapid pace of urbanization underlines the importance of investment in the provision of infrastructure to ensure that economic growth is spread and sustained.

The scale of infrastructure financing required calls for solutions that go beyond the means of the public sector alone…

That’s why we believe the global business community is central to addressing the existing infrastructure deficit and shifting our global economy into a more inclusive and sustainable trajectory.

Second, on SMEs and Finance.

We know that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises are the primary engine of job creation globally.

However, access to capital is a major obstacle to SME growth and small companies are largely under-served when it comes to basic financial services.

A particular issue in this respect is the availability of trade finance…

Trade finance is the oil that keeps the wheels of global trade running.

It is one of the safest forms of finance and it has the advantage of directly promoting development through trade.

But the trade finance market has seen a huge amount of volatility in recent years…

At the height of the financial crisis in 2009 the WTO estimated that there was a $1 trillion shortfall of trade finance globally.

According to the Asian Development Bank, that gap has since widened and now stands at close to $2 trillion-with as much as $900bn of the shortfall in developing Asian economies alone.

Several surveys have shown recently that access to trade finance is now the single biggest barrier to SME looking to trade internationally.

That means that the shortage of trade finance is stifling the numerous opportunities international trade provides for growth, job creation and poverty reduction.

ICC is taking urgent action to address this problem, including through the launch of a new education initiative-the ICC Academy-which will address skills shortages within the banking sector and wider industry with respect to trade finance products.

But the shortage of trade credit also calls for an unprecedented policy response to address some of the supply side constraints in the financial sector…

And we look forward to the opportunity to discuss these issues with you today, and in the run up to the Addis Ababa review conference.

Finally on the third theme for today’s session: Responsible investmentand the role of Environmental, Social and Governance information.

The levels of financing required to achieve sustainable development are significant and it is quite right that governments and civil society are calling on private actors to be part of the solution.

In this context, we recognize the role that that E-S-G information can play in better connecting companies with investors, governments and civil society.

We see potential for E-S-G information to play a central role in helping companies and investors gain a better understanding of the net present value of investments in sustainability-typically with longer-term horizons and involving benefits that are otherwise hard to value.

There have been some major innovations in this area in recent years and we are committed to working with you to promote the integration of ESG information into mainstream investment processes…

And in a way that supports sustainable, long-term growth and development.

In this context, it is essential that, the new framework for development cooperation provides the means to improve the mobilization and allocation of financial resources for sustainable development.

Business has a critical role to play in accelerating progress towards sustainable development as an engine of growth and employment…

As a key contributor of government revenues…

And as a driver of innovation, capacity building and technology development.

It’s therefore vital that there is recognition in the post-2015 of the importance of establishing a business enabling environment to allow companies-of all shapes and sizes-to operate effectively and contribute efficiently to society.

And allowing developing economies to attract and retain investments in different sectors and viable industries, while also serving to shore up the local tax base-both through volume of receipts and diversity of sectors.

ICC encourages the UN, other intergovernmental organizations and national governments to continue to seek constructive engagement of business in these crucial efforts…

And to include business representatives in discussions of how to move them ahead.

Business will continue to engage respectfully and openly with communities, governments and other stakeholders around the world in pursuit of the of our shared sustainable development objectives.

Next week in Mexico, I am delighted that we will launch the new version of ICC’s Sustainable Development Charter: a progressive-but practical-tool to help companies shape their own business sustainability strategy.

It is aimed particularly at providing a common and accessible starting point for SMEs and businesses in emerging and developing markets.

We hope that you will work with us to promote the Charter as an important foundation for engaging companies across the world in implementing a future post 2015 development framework.

Thank you.