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RFI Summit 2019 – A New SRI: Can Sustainable, Responsible & Islamic Finance Deliver More Impact Together?

On 29 April 2019, members of the DDCAP Group attended the RFI Summit 2019, held in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).  DDCAP Managing Director and RFI Foundation Trustee Stella Cox CBE, Head of Corporate Responsibility and RFI Foundation Emissary Jennifer Schwalbenberg and Product and Services Manager Callum Burgess attended from London and were joined by Dubai Head of Sales Kazi Hussain. DDCAP was a named sponsor of the Summit which was organised by the RFI Foundation and the Swiss Arab Network. 

Gathered in the pristine space of the ADGM Auditorium, bankers, financiers, fintech professionals and members of academia, government and NGOs came together to discuss the Summit’s theme “A New SRI: Can Sustainable, Responsible & Islamic Finance Deliver More Impact Together?”.  Previously held in Europe and Southeast Asia, this was the first time the Summit was hosted in the MENA region and it was an important step in further developing engagement with the local Islamic finance industry and sustainable and responsible initiatives. Blake Goud, CEO of the RFI Foundation, gave the opening address followed by remarks from Monir Khouzami, President & Co-Founder of the Swiss Arab Network, and Thomas Hirschi, Banking & Insurance Executive Director, Financial Services Regulatory Authority ADGM, who collectively helped set the tone for the day to follow. 

The Summit was honoured to have H.R.H. Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan give the Keynote address: “Why do we need A New SRI?” A known activist and champion of female and maternal health, she spoke about her experiences with women and girls in refugee camps and the difficulties they face during pregnancy and motherhood.  She called attendees’ attention to the importance of proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life (conception to the second birthday) and its impact on mental capacity and brain power and asked attendees to consider how much intellect, artistic talent and genius has been lost to poor maternal health and child nutrition.  In light of these startling statistics, she called on attendees “to come together and initiate a sustainable, responsible and Islamic approach to address the seismic challenges facing humanitarian settings globally. Let us commit, act and reconvene next year with progress and solutions”.

The day also included a panel session regarding the role of risk management in the changing world and presentations by responsible finance champions from both the banking and asset management industries. Rafe Haneef, CEO, CIMB Islamic, outlined CIMB’s sustainable finance initiative and Deia Markova of Société Générale presented the positive impact deals they have pioneered.  On the asset management side, SEDCO described its ethical investment initiative as well as its role as the first Saudi-based Sharia’a compliant asset manager to be a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), whilst KOIS presented its impact sSukuk structured to improve the livelihoods of Syrian refuges.  In addition, Ramya Gopalan, Global Innovation Coordinator and Alternative Financing Lead for the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) presented information regarding an upcoming impact Sukuk to fund WASH, an initiative to improve hygiene and combat water-bourne diseases in the developing world.  

One of the highlights of the day was the finalists’ presentations and the announcement of the winner of the “Support Disruption for Good” Challenge (the SDG Challenge), which DDCAP Group sponsored alongside the RFI Foundation and ADGM.  The SDG Challenge seeks out fintech and other platforms which have developed technology to help financial institutions measure, manage and/or mitigate their indirect exposure to three key environmental and social risks. In 2019, these were waste, emissions to air & water and workplace safety and health. Two finalists, Dr. Shalini Sharma (CEO, Sanshodhan: An E-waste company) and Ian Choo (Founder and Managing Partner, Ekofolio) came to Abu Dhabi to present their award-winning technology. Thehe judging panel reviewed their submissions in light of their alignment with the environmental and social risks identified for the SDG Challenge, the adoption potential by financial institutions, and the degree to which they can generate an impact in line with the UN SDGs. Sanshodhan was announced the winner of the 2019 SDG Challenge and presented with a cash prize to help bring their idea to market.

The day’s activities concluded with an “unconference” moderated by Daud Vicary Abdullah who facilitated a lively discussion on the barriers the industry faces to transforming responsible finance and the role technology, Islamic finance and Islamic social finance can play to help effect this transformation.

About the RFI Foundation: The RFI Foundation, a think tank for responsible finance, was established to support the convergence of the responsible finance sector to incorporate sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investing; environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations and Islamic finance.  DDCAP Limited has been a longstanding observer member of the RFI Foundation and Stella Cox CBE is a trustee.

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