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Commitment 17 Nov 2021

Antoni Ballabriga: “It is urgent to build a universal language to measure the impact on sustainability”

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“Despite there being multiple initiatives, frameworks, standards and guidance tools, it is urgent to build a global system to measure the real impacts of businesses on society and the environment,” said BBVA Global Head of Responsible Business Antoni Ballabriga, speaking at an event organized by UNEP FI (UN Environment Program – Finance Initiative).

UNEP FI organized a panel discussion, in the context of the virtual event entitled 'Regional Round Table on Sustainable Finance for Europe,' which took place on November 10 and 11, in which a group of experts shared their insights into everything that still needs to be done with regard to measuring and managing sustainability impacts and the actions that need to be implemented.

The establishment of the ISSB (International Sustainability Standard Board) announced in the framework of the recent COP26 and the pending work to define a global reporting standard for sustainability-related matters, represent two significant steps towards a much needed convergence at a global level. However, the standard, which will initially focus on climate-related information, will essentially focus on the returns yielded by sustainability in terms of company value and not so much on businesses’ impact on their communities or the environment.

Antoni Ballabriga, global director of Responsible Business at BBVA and co-chairman of UNEP FI, detailed BBVA’s view as a bank regarding the management of sustainability impacts from its standpoint as a bank. For Ballabriga, “we need to incorporate a dual materiality vision in the information reported by businesses to the market, as proposed by the EU.” Regarding climate change, “for financial institutions it is important to gauge how it affects businesses from a financial standpoint, but also to understand businesses’ impact on climate change in terms of emissions and decarbonization plans.”

The ISSB will incorporate sustainability impact metrics in as far as they are material for the financial value of businesses, but one of the major challenges is the lack of a global reference framework. “Despite there being multiple initiatives, frameworks, standards and guidance tools to measure impact, it is urgent to build a global system to establish a universal language that facilitates companies’ work,” said BBVA’s Global Head of Responsible Business. “We really need to converge to foster data consistency, comparability and quality,” stressed Ballabriga.

Antoni Ballabriga

BBVA Global Head of Responsible Business Antoni Ballabriga, during his participation in the event organized by UNEP FI (UN Environment Program – Finance Initiative).

Managing sustainability impacts: towards a system of norms

In this sense, Antoni Ballabriga and the remaining panelists welcomed the launch on November 17 of the Impact Management Platform, the result of a coordinated effort by leading suppliers of standards, frameworks, tools and guides for managing sustainability impacts. All the speakers expressed their willingness to work with this new initiative, a joint undertaking led by members of the Impact Management Project, a forum that represents 15 supranational organizations and which has played a key role in promoting this global standard.

Impact Management Platform, promoted by the OECD and the Financial Initiative of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP FI) and also supported by BBVA, is a candidate to become the world’s new impact measurement benchmark. “This platform will play an essential role in converging towards a universal sustainability impact measurement framework,” said BBVA’s Global head of Responsible Business. “It is pivotal that there is a close collaboration between ISSB and this new platform to gradually incorporate into the global reporting standard those metrics deemed material for the value of companies, as it progressively broadens its scope beyond climate,” he concluded.

Joining Antoni Ballabriga as panel speakers were Clara Barby, CEO, Impact Management Project; Eric Usher, Head, UNEP FI and Shelagh Whitley, Chief Sustainability Officer, Principles for Responsible Investment, while Careen Abb, SDGs and Impact Lead, UNEP FI, acted as moderator.

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