Does Covid-19 Challenge Sustainable Development?

Within the last couple of years, sustainable development and impact have started to permeate companies’ agendas – especially thanks to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But then the Corona crisis hit, and companies suddenly had to focus on survival. We asked four impact experts what the pandemic means for sustainable development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Georg Engström
Entrepreneur and Advisor within impact investment

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect the corporate agendas regarding SDG contributions through fintech solutions?

The fintech industry has gained strength through the Covid-19 pandemic. We all now understand that there is an even greater need to adapt to a digitised and sustainable world. New fintech solutions not only digitise our access to borrowing capacities, insurance, pension programmes, investments, and other services. It also strengthens sustainable development. With crowdlending, you can go even further and create additional opportunities than the existing solutions. For the long-term unemployed at home and people in vulnerable areas of the world, we can now lend each other money outside the banks and other lending institutions. It strengthens the need for sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8) and reduces inequality (SDG 10).

The Covid-19 crisis has slowed development towards 2030. But how can fintech solutions be the means to get back on track?

Covid-19 has created new opportunities. In rocket speed, the crisis has motivated increased use of existing solutions and accelerated development of innovations and technologies. Here, the fintech industry can facilitate sustainable development. Danish solutions already do that – such as Unumed, which makes healthcare more accessible to all, November First and Tradeshift, which improve the possibility of international trade, or M-Payg, which makes solar cells and batteries accessible to low-income households.

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect the investment landscape in the fintech industry?

A recession in the global economy will reduce most investors’ wealth and, thus, their willingness to take risks in the coming years. The valuation of startups is already starting to decline, and investors will be taking longer to invest because the due diligence processes are becoming more rigid. This is not necessarily a bad development. But it is a challenge for many small businesses that need new capital. I hope that the Corona crisis in a positive way helps to show that the world is connected – that you, as an investor, must prioritise investments that contribute to creating resilience, coherence, and sustainability. This is where the value creation lies in the startups of the future. And new fintech solutions enable this in many ways already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marianne Haahr
Executive Director at Green Digital Finance Alliance

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect  the fintech industry’s work to promote  the SDGs?

In many developing countries, fintech, which has not previously been utilised to promote the SDGs, has become crucial in ensuring the fight against poverty (SDG 1) and the fight against hunger (SDG 2) during the Corona crisis. It is especially mobile payment platforms with many users in African countries that have become involved in executing Covid-19 action plans because they have gathered data on the citizens that the government does not have. They help by using their data to generate social profiles of users and citizens so that aid packages can be targeted to those most in need. And the aid packages can be received directly on the smartphone, so it is both fast and traceable – and the risk of misuse of the schemes is reduced.

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect the corporate agendas regarding SDG contributions through fintech solutions?

Covid-19 has highlighted the need to be able to supervise one’s value chain from a distance during a possible lockdown. This means that fintech solutions that can secure operational value chains in future crises will experience increasing demand. In relation to green fintech, the issuance of green bonds decreased in 2019 due to Covid-19, but social bonds’ issuance has increased. The rise in social bonds is a trend that will last for some time, and here digitalisation is crucial to ensure low transaction costs and reporting the social results to maintain the credibility of the instrument.

The Covid-19 crisis has slowed development towards 2030. But how can fintech solutions be the means to get back on track?

Fintech is the key to realising the EU’s Covid-19 plan. The green elements can be grouped into four categories: 1) energy efficiency of households, 2) nature restoration, 3) accelerated renewal of renewable energy, and 4) green transport. Each of these categories can use one or more fintech tools to deliver the desired results for use in financial decision-making processes by, for example, a bank that is to issue energy efficiency loans. The energy efficiency of households can be informed and facilitated by fintech. It is a way back on a green track as it reduces emissions, creates jobs for workmen, revenue for companies, and helps deliver on the Paris Agreement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Rosenberg
Executive Sustainability Tech Advisor and Author

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect  the fintech industry’s work to promote the SDGs?

The global health crisis has led to a system change for industries and companies, where sustainability and responsibility are at the core of how operations are conducted. Sustainable solutions are no longer ‘nice to have,’ but instead ‘need to have.’ It has influenced how you report, build technology solutions, make services available, and much more. As a consequence of the health crisis, consumers will demand a greater focus on sustainable solutions in the fintech industry in the future. The way a company or an industry innovates must make sense in relation to how we as human beings live.

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect the corporate agendas regarding SDG contributions through fintech solutions?

The Covid-19 crisis has changed the sustainable agendas from being an option to being a necessity. This means that fintech solutions are required in relation to responsibility and sustainability – both from the industry and, even more so, from the consumers. All fintech solutions must be sustainable in the future, and we have already seen examples of this today.
We have seen several examples of digital wallets that have revolutionised payments around the world. With both Apple Pay and MobilePay, digital wallets are designed to make consumer payment convenient. It is a sign that technology has sustainably evolved over time.

The Covid-19 crisis has slowed development towards 2030. But how can fintech solutions be the means to get back on track?

The crisis has shown that we are good at identifying solutions and acting. It is currently about health, but in the future, it might as well be about climate, so I do not reckon that the crisis has put a temporary stop to promoting the SDGs. As fintech solutions are the economic infrastructure behind everything, you need to optimise these in terms of being sustainable, accessible, and responsible. Doing so will help meet the UN’s overall goal of 2030 going forward. This also applies to investments – we must invest in sustainability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rasmus Stuhr Jakobsen
Executive Director at Care

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect  the fintech industry’s work to promote the SDGs?

The Covid-19 crisis has pushed the SDG agenda into the background. I almost have the experience that it has been a relief for some that now, instead of all this sustainable thinking, which is certainly complex, we can return to dealing with national concrete challenges that are easy to translate politically. But in my eyes, it is a slippery slope. The SDGs are precisely the platform we need to focus on to move sensibly forward and combat the crisis – both economically, socially, and for the climate.

How does the Covid-19 crisis affect your agenda to advance the SDGs through fintech solutions?

Our access to fintech is about inclusion. We can see that Covid-19, like climate change, is hitting the weakest hardest. Covid-19 has illustrated and created greater inequality in the world. If fintech can not help address this, in my view, it can not contribute to something exciting. It is clear that with increased inequality, we are faced with an even greater task of closing that gap. Therefore, we need, to an even greater extent than before, serious fintech solutions that work with inclusion.

The Covid-19 crisis has slowed development towards 2030. But how can fintech solutions be the means to get back on track?

Several markets are suffering heavily under Covid-19, but then many markets are growing quite significantly. All the green, the digital, the local, and the near. How can fintech support the extreme development that is currently seen in the green and sustainable economy? How can fintech help reduce the growing inequality between people that we all know is extremely destabilising and creates migration and conflict? If fintech solutions can play a part in that space, then the possibilities are immense.

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