Blog Sustainability gets the royal treatment

Sustainability gets the royal treatment
The latest fashion choice of the British royal family is not often a topic that comes up for discussion at Credit Suisse’s Asian Investment Conferences (AIC). So when the audience was asked in one session at the 22nd AIC to comment on what was unique about the picture of Megan Markle that was appearing on the screen, there were some bemused faces in the room.

Javier Goyeneche, Founder and President of ECOALF, discusses the importance of a circular economy at the AIC.

But with sustainability a core component of this year’s conference – the disposable coffee cups were made from a fully compostable material – the decision of the Duchess of Sussex to wear lab-grown diamonds served to highlight how consumers are changing their purchasing habits and the need for companies and investors to sit up and take notice. And if there was one message that was shared by all the speakers who gave their insights on the topic, it was that sustainable business and sustainable investment are not a compromise. 

As Javier Goyeneche, Founder and President of ECOALF, a company that makes clothes from recycling the rubbish found in the sea, explained, being sustainable does not guarantee success: the product has to stand up to scrutiny. 

“Our experience has not been that a consumer says, ‘well your product is not very good but I like your story so I’ll buy it’. At the end of day, we are not only competing with sustainable brands but also with brands that are not sustainable,” he explained.

John Wood, Founder of Room to Read, explains in an AIC panel how businesses can use purpose as a competitive advantage.

Purpose and profit

Not that failing to incorporate sustainability into a business plan is viable anymore. While it may be easy to make fun of millennials, they are the best-connected generation in history and are using that connectivity to research the products they buy, according to John Wood, Founder of the charity Room to Read:

“The world has changed to a world where people say business has to stand for something bigger than profitability. We think companies need to embrace purpose – as if they don’t, they risk losing market share.” 

And while it makes commercial sense for companies to embrace sustainability as a way to maintain competitiveness, Marissa Drew, Credit Suisse’s CEO for Impact Advisory and Finance, made it clear that there is no need for the buyside to have to compromise between investing to make a difference and generating returns.

“We feel it’s really important fiduciarily that we’re able to deliver options for investment that are targeting market returns. This is not a soft cause; this is a market opportunity for return.” 

AIC 2019: Marisa Drew on the value of sustainable investing in disruptive times

While sustainable and impact investing has made significant recent strides in Asia Pacific, clearly defined standards and new products are needed to take the sector to the next level, says Marisa Drew, CEO of the Impact Advisory and Finance Department, Credit Suisse.