The Deloitte & CISI Islamic Finance Forum 2019 took place on Tuesday 10 December at Deloitte’s London offices. The full day event, sponsored by Deloitte and co-sponsored by CISI and DDCAP Group, brought together leading industry figures from across the Islamic finance community to discuss the role of sustainability in Islamic finance.
DDCAP Managing Director Stella Cox CBE moderated the first panel discussion leading panellists Peter Casey (IFSB), Farmida Bi (Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright), Anjalika Bardalai (Senior Economist, The City UK) and attendees in a discussion on the regulatory and policy support required to spear growth of the sustainability initiative within Islamic finance. In Ms Cox’s opening remarks she stressed the need to review the unique issues surrounding sustainability in Islamic finance. She highlighted the asset backed and asset based characteristics of IF structures which require not only the validation of proceeds of green projects but also validation of the underlying assets used that current green validation fails to capture. Following on from this, Mr. Casey stressed the need for convergence and consensus with regard to sustainability procedures. Additionally, Ms. Bi urged the industry to focus on the hows, not the whys, concentrating not on rebranding but going back to fundamental structures of Islamic finance and Islamic economy (e.g., waqf) as they are the means by which impact and sustainable finance can be achieved.
Later in the day, DDCAP Director and Deputy CEO Lawrence Oliver moderated a panel reviewing whether good corporate governance is sufficient to promote a corporate responsibility and sustainability agenda. Joined by Richard de Belder (UKIFC), Harris Irfan (Gateway Global), Sultan Choudhury (Precept Finance) and Andrew Cunningham (Darien Analytics Ltd), Mr. Oliver focused on the need for top down approach to sustainability to promote staff engagement and allow it to properly embed within a corporate culture and therefore prevent such initiatives from becoming tick box exercises. Mr. Oliver also spoke about DDCAP’s own SRA initiative and the quarterly townhalls where staff are encouraged to ask questions about the focus of DDCAP’s initiatives and how it pertains to their role.
In the day’s final session, DDCAP Associate Director and Head of Corporate Responsibility Jennifer Schwalbenberg joined a panel with Stuart Hutton (Simply Ethical) and Khairul Nizam (FAA) to discus how to support the sustainable transition in Islamic financial services. Moderated by Ali Kazimi (Hansuke Consulting), the discussion focused on the key capabilities and skills needed to enable the transition and the role of standards setting boards and professional services firms in facilitating the transition. Ms. Schwalbenberg stressed the importance of engaging not only with internal teams and Islamic finance industry bodies but also international initiatives such the UN Principles for Responsible Investing and UN Principles for Responsible Banking to ensure that the unique considerations of Islamic finance institutions and the geographies where they are concentrated are taken into account. If the industry itself doesn’t take a proactive role in these initiatives, she cautioned, then it may end up without a structure that properly fits its needs, echoing Ms. Cox’s earlier statements.
In response to an attendee’s question about the sustainability of commodity used in support of Islamic structures Ms. Cox and Ms. Schwalbenberg discussed DDCAP’s commitment to sustainability and responsibility in selecting its commodity inventory and commodity suppliers and highlighted how it would welcome more industry participant engagement on selecting commodity to facilitate green and impact investments.