CITYPRENEURS x CES ASIA 2019

SUSTAINABILITY INVESTING AND VENTURES

2019 CITYPRENEURS x CES ASIA PANEL 1

 

PANELISTS

PANEL MODERATOR

Senior Partnerships and Innovation Officer, WFUNA

JOE LIM

SUMMARY

01 [The role of investors and policymakers in pushing for ESG investment]

Investors play a key role in building entrepreneurial ecosystems. Every dollar invested should create value, but it can be challenging for new impact startups to generate robust returns. The development of a supportive startup ecosystem can facilitate both business and societal returns. One way to enable this development is for investors and policymakers to work together to implement ESG (Environment, Social and Corporate Governance) investment policies and fund green initiatives. In the case of Seoul SIB (Social Impact Bond) for instance, Seoul city is the project guarantor and an intermediary raises capital; investors provide funds to the intermediary. As returns are realized, investors get returns on their investments and the government benefits1. Impact Investors particularly play an important role setting best practices for investors, corporations and governments to implement standards in line with society and sustainability.

02 [What makes an attractive social impact startup]

In the past, ESG startups were seen as high-risk ventures. While this view is changing in cities such as Shanghai, startups should clearly define their mission and develop scaleable business models to attract investors. The key lies in social impact startups acting like businesses, not as NGOs or foundations. Impact investors seek sustainable growth models that can maximize profits without causing harm to society and the environment. B Impact Assessment2 is a great resource for founders and investors that provides (a) independent and transparent standards of social and environmental performance, (b) publicly available benchmarks on corporate impact, and (c) practical, easy to use tools to help businesses not only assess, but improve their impact over time.

PANELISTS

PANEL MODERATOR

Associate Sustainable Development Officer, UNESCAP

LI ZHOU

Deputy Director of Tokyo College, 
University of Tokyo

Satoru OHTAKE

IS EMERGING TECH HELPING OR HINDERING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?

2019 CITYPRENEURS x CES ASIA PANEL 2

 

SUMMARY

01 [Aligning tech objectives with the needs of society and sustainability]

Rapid advancements in biological, physical and digital technologies are having profound impacts on society and are driving the fourth industrial revolution. They offer new benefits and opportunities for businesses, governments and consumers, but they can also cause irreparable environmental and societal harm. It is our responsibility to harness these technologies to benefit humankind, to solve our greatest global challenges and at the same time to prevent these technologies from generating new catastrophic challenges to be addressed by future generations. The SDGs serve as an important guiding framework to help stakeholders align tech capability with the needs of society, economy and the environment, especially in the context of cities where a larger and larger proportion of humanity now resides in.

02 [Addressing opportunity and inequality in 4IR]

New technologies and automation are disrupting existing labor markets as today’s jobs are being redefined, reshaped and recreated. Young people must prepare for the changing nature of work through reskilling and lifelong learning. Employees must adapt to shifting needs as new technologies emerge and economies undergo structural changes and cross-disciplinary integration. With the data-driven transformation of work in the next few decades, human elements such as creativity, teamwork, design-thinking and empathy will be crucial in facilitating human-centered innovation. Technology may benefit economies overall, but those benefits will not naturally be equally distributed; it is likely that some will gain whilst others lose out, therefore it is important to find ways to compensate for the tendencies of an increasingly ‘winner takes all’ market.

03 [The dual role of Government in supporting and regulating innovation]

Public policy and governments play a key role in aligning innovation with the SDGs and sustainable development. From investments in research and development to reforming infrastructure and incentive systems, governments can facilitate innovation by building up capacity and talent. Government leadership in policy, industrial, physical, digital and social infrastructure will allow all stakeholders to participate in building effective mechanisms to support innovation without harming society and the environment. Policy leaders must also stay ahead of new technologies and establish national and international policies to protect citizens and consumers – including on such issues as data privacy and responsible AI - and build trust with other nations to establish common regulatory frameworks.

DELIVERING SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH

PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PEOPLE PARTNERSHIPS

AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

2019 CITYPRENEURS x CES ASIA PANEL 3

 

PANELISTS

SUMMARY

01 [Using Technology to Enhance Public Service Delivery & Urban Growth]

Cities can develop effective solutions and partnerships with the private sector for the delivery of public services. Models are not always replicable as cities have varying priorities and infrastructure capacities. Sustainable urban growth thus requires stakeholder collaboration across all levels to bring more accessible and equitable access to core services.

02 [Civic Participation]

Inclusion and ensuring all stakeholders are heard is a key component of building meaningful partnerships. By harnessing citizen participation and innovation, governments can make strides towards achieving the SDGs. Examples of four different approaches include:

  • Poland and Estonia’s horizontal approach. Both countries built their infrastructure and fostered the growth of their technology industries through government contracts and crowdfunding for solutions.

  • Seoul and Adelaide’s collective problem-solving approach. Seoul launched an online voting system for non-political issues and Adelaide holds Citizens’ juries. These systems allow for more inclusive governance.

  • Singapore’s top-down approach. Singapore hired coders, hackers and engineers to work on its larger public policy challenges. With this approach, private individuals work directly for the public interest.

03 [The Importance of Gender and Diversity in Tech]

Companies and governments must make greater efforts to achieve gender representation and diversity while navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Specific challenges presented arise from lack of diversity, such as built-in biases with facial recognition software and AI. Increasing representation in the private sector is crucial for reducing inequalities, especially as these emerging technologies become more widely adopted. Best practices for promoting representation in the private sector are to train hiring professionals, elevate diverse role models, institute reforms at senior executive and policy levels, and to show the benefits of diversity.

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