Perspectives from our Buenos Aires roundtable
We caught up with Carlos Serano (Business and Development Lead for LAC, IFC – Financial Institutions Group) who attended our roundtable in Buenos Aires on March 20, 2018, as well as Marcela Ponce (Climate Finance Lead for LAC, IFC – Financial Institutions Group).
What interests you about the work of the WBA?
“Whilst we are seeing companies adopting the SDGs and their respective targets, the lack of a tool, or platform, which can measure the impacts of this commitment and performance is blocking wider private-sector engagement. Because of this, market- and societal-wise expectations of the relationship between businesses and the SDGs remains unclear. I value the unique drive of the WBA to work globally and across stakeholder groups. Benchmarking corporate performance on the SDGs requires methodologies which are both relevant and adaptable to the context – across sectors, country, company group of size, for example – as the status quo differs extensively from place to place. Latin and Central America is a clear example of this.”
Where and for who do you see the WBA’s benchmarks having most impact?
Carlos: “I believe the WBA must begin towards the larger end of the scale. With our region in mind, I believe working with the companies with largest greenhouse gas emissions would generate the biggest impact. If you deploy an benchmark in Mexico, a significant economy and country within the region, other central and southern American countries will follow. When we talk about scales and the distinctions which define one country from another, it’s this interaction, or acknowledgment and learning between places, where I believe the WBA can exert most impact. We must enable stakeholders to learn from the benchmarks as well as from the responses of others within their field of relation. Having a critical level of comparability within the benchmarks will be central to achieving this change-dynamic.”
Do you foresee any particular challenges for the WBA? If so, what improvements can the WBA make to help address these challenges?
Carlos: “Due to the culture of business informality within the region, sustainability reporting is certainly falling behind. A challenge for the WBA will be working with and measuring informal business performance, and then subsequently connecting these businesses with the larger, regional corporations. Marcella mentioned the importance of comparability within the benchmarks and I do agree with this, but this is no easy task. Guidance, from the WBA’s part, must play a central role in two ways. Firstly, ensuring credibility of the benchmarks will take time and the WBA must be sure to guide learning of benchmark relevance so companies understand where action is and isn’t required within their business parameters. Establishing these distinctions will be pivotal towards more sector-wide cooperation. Secondly, whist I appreciate the multi-stakeholder approach and the democratisation of the data will no doubt strengthen participation, this would be stepping into relatively unknown territory. The WBA must strike the balance between letting the benchmark, and its data, talk for itself whilst at the same time instructing stakeholders on how to use the data in the most effective way.”