Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The second day of the 5th Anniversary Future Investment Initiative (FII), which kicked off in Riyadh on Tuesday with world leaders, global CEOs, investors, and policymakers in attendance, saw another day of lively debate and discussions including the impact of climate change, investing in green initiatives, ESG and sustainable food security and their influence on humanity.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, a global non-profit foundation with one agenda: Impact on Humanity, is hosting the 5th Anniversary of FII under the theme “Invest in Humanity”. Bringing together world leaders, experts, innovators, and media, the three-day conference will include interactive summits on Investing in Education; Investing in the Metaverse; and Investing in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).
Day two discussions placed ESG, the impact of climate change, investing in green initiatives, and sustainable food security high on the agenda. Business and leisure travel for a sustainable world, looking to sustainable tourism, regenerative tourism, and redesigning tourism also discussed.
INVESTING IN THE CIRCULAR CARBON ECONOMY ‘Science in Action’ sessions debated investing in the circular carbon economy and explored how the investment community, business, and government work together to achieve progress towards the G20 recommendations of last year. In 2020, under Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20, the world’s largest economies endorsed the concept of circular carbon economy — an integrated and inclusive approach to transitioning toward more comprehensive, resilient, sustainable, and climate friendly energy systems that support and enable sustainable development.
HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Energy, KSA, encouraged leaders to recognize energy strategies that will drive improved health on a global scale. He said: “There are three pillars any energy leader recognizes – energy security, economic prosperity & wellbeing of people and climate change.”
Matthew Harris, Founding Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners, said collective efforts between governments, corporates and private capital to transition into a new age of energy. “But what in
existing businesses today can be repurposed? There is infrastructure that can enable the circular carbon economy. Pipelines that carry oil and gas today – there is no reason why they can’t carry hydrogen in the future.”
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, Lanzatech, noted: “We think about recycling carbon itself and we imagine a future where we can refine CO2 to make the products we need in our daily lives. For example, we have already fueled a flight from Orlando to Gatwick with sustainable aviation fuel made from recycled carbon ethanol.” William Winters, Group CEO, Standard Chartered Bank, added: “All of these transitions cost money. But when we look at developing countries – accounting for major contributions to global emissions – we see a disconnect between the funding that exists and the ability to get that into the hands of people who can drive the projects.”
‘TOURISM IS TOO BIG TO FAIL’
Sustainable tourism development to help the sector recover from the devastating pandemic was front and center in many discussion areas and debates throughout the day.
Talking about regenerative tourism, John Pagano, Group CEO Red Sea Development Company and Amaala, said: “We serve nature best by not just protecting it but by enhancing it. That’s what I mean when I talk about regenerative tourism. Regeneration goes further than sustainability. It’s leaving the place better than when we arrived. It’s what I’m passionate about and I believe we’re leading the way.”
HH Princess Haifa Al Saud, Assistant Minister for Executive Affairs & Strategy, Ministry of Tourism, KSA, said there was a need to redefine the principles that govern tourism and create a roadmap that creates new opportunities for job creation, investment and innovation. “As a sector tourism is too big to fail but we need to focus on the environmental, social and economic sustainability of tourism as it lacks resilience,” she said.
Julia Simpson, President & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council, said now is the moment to leapfrog several generations of innovation and technology to embrace a new era of truly contactless, frictionless travel.
Talking about ‘Business and Leisure Travel for A Sustainable World’, Eng. Ahmad Arab, Deputy Minister for Strategy and Business Intelligence, Ministry of Tourism, KSA, said sustainability and training are two of the fundamentals of our tourism development strategy. “We are committed to simultaneously safeguarding our natural resources and investing in our people for a sustainable future on every level,” he said. “It is why we have already trained 127,000 people across 14 sectors in the hospitality sector.”
ESG IN SPOTLIGHT
ESG was in very much focus with many sessions addressing various facets of Environmental, Social, and Governance principles and models. The ‘G’ in ESG session on how better governance can create more sustainable business delved into questions such as whether the lessons from large corporations promoting the “G” in ESG, can be leveraged to develop better management among early stage companies, entrepreneurs, founders, and small business owners, and eventually lead to sustainability and growth.
HH Princess Nouf bint Muhammed Al Saud, Chair of C20 and CEO King Khalid Foundation, said: “We cannot leave governance to the benevolence of shareholders, it has to be a top-down, bottom-up approach. NGOs need to be involved.”
Rania Nashar, Head of Compliance and Governance, Public Investment Fund (PIF), said Saudi Arabia has the ambitious goal to ensure the contribution by SMEs to the economy grows to 35 percent from 20 percent. “SMEs are a major contributor to the economy and to job creation and it is important to embrace them.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister, Canada, noted: “In my business we hear ESG all the time. But if you want to be effective at the “S” and the “E” you have to have the “G”, the governance that structures that. Everything flows downstream from governance.”
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT
Delegates also listened to wide-ranging conversations on climate change and its impact. Akim Daouda, CEO, Fonds Gabonais d’Investissements Stratégiques argued that: “A lot of promises were made on climate change so far, but too little has been delivered. Massive capital is needed to achieve this and while the intent is there, but there remains is a trust issue in delivering real change. To succeed there must be strong collaboration across global institutions.”
Noel Quinn, GCE, HSBC Holdings, noted: “If we have to overcome a public trust deficit, we have to bring definition to the statement of transitioning to net zero and deliver against that definition. We have to go beyond just a high-level phrase.”
Talking in a session about the impact of climate change on communities, Walid Al Saqqaf, CEO & Cofounder, Rebalance Earth, said we live in an interconnected world, a world where we cannot operate anymore in silos. “A rich and thriving biodiversity can help to significantly capture carbon and is one of our best weapons to combat climate change,” he added.
‘WEALTH OF NATIONS’
In this session, that touched on new legal policies to supercharge FDI, The Hon. Dan Tehan, Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment, Australia, said: “We are working to secure a strong and sustainable economic recovery, powered by the private sector and FDI. Getting investment flowing is one of the most powerful things we can do to secure our recovery.”
HE Khalid Al Mudaifer, Vice Minister, Mining Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, KSA, said that since Saudi Vision 2030 was approved, the Kingdom has made more than 400 changes and updates to its legal framework. “This has helped Q1 2021 record FDI of over $14 billion. It shows we’re on the right track and we are delivering on the transformation,” he added.
Dr. Mustapha El Bouhssini, Professor of Entomology and Program Lead, Biodiversity and Plant Sciences, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, said: “When we look at innovations to help make food more sustainable it is clear that looking into alternative crops can hold the key for global food security.”
Dr. Ahmed Amri, Honorary Head of Genetic Resources Unit, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, said: “It has become clear from our research how crop diversification can both protect public health and enhance the quality of the land while ensuring the sustainability of our resources.” But Gregory Lu, CEO, Natufia, said: “The current global business models that are in place limit the ability we have to enhance quality and diversity of seeds, thus removing rich tasting and healthy products off our tables.”
About FII Institute:
FII Institute is a global nonprofit foundation with an investment arm and one agenda: Impact on Humanity. Committed to ESG principles, we foster the brightest minds and transform ideas into real world solutions in five focus areas: AI and Robotics, Education, Healthcare and Sustainability.
We are in the right place at the right time – when decision makers, investors and an engaged generation of youth come together in aspiration, energized and ready for change. We harness that energy into three pillars – THINK, XCHANGE, ACT – and invest in the innovations that make a difference globally.