On 9 December 2015, the Global Infrastructure Basel Foundation (GIB) hosted a session at the Cities & Regions Pavilion to launch SuRe® – the Standard for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure. The session explored how the Standard can be applied in urban areas and ways in which the Transformative Actions Program (TAP) can make use of this new tool.
The launch signaled the availability of a tool that helps infrastructure projects to be designed, built and operated in a sustainable and resilient way. It is a decision support tool for project developers and contractors and provides a method for investors to choose sound investment opportunities in infrastructure. The Standard encourages evaluation of risks linked to sustainability and resilience, and on-going actions to mitigate them.
Dr. Bruno Oberle, Swiss State Secretary, opened the session by highlighting the role of instruments like SuRe in thinking about whether infrastructure investments will effectively lead us to a sustainable future. “We have to change,” Dr. Oberle stated with regards to global patterns of consumption, “and we have to change in a quite radical way.”
Hans-Peter Egler, CEO of GIB, agreed that now is the time to invest in sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Investment opportunities are growing, but there has been a notable lack of appropriate evaluation tools and ways in which to measure their impact, Eglar observed.
“Public sector, financial sector and project developers speak a different language,” Egler explained. When it comes to infrastructure development, these three stakeholders must reach a common understanding of resilience as well as environmental, social and governance issues – also known as ESG. In developing the SuRe Standard, GIB has taken each stakeholder into account, defined the impact criteria and ensured all projects are comparable.
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is exploring how TAP projects can best use the SuRe Standard, Maryke van Staden, Low Carbon City Program Manager at ICLEI explained. The TAP was created to capitalize on the potential for transformative change through climate actions that are ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive – and these projects require access to project financing in order to effectively move forward. SuRe can support the bankability of TAP projects by providing concrete evidence of their benefits.
The Standard will be piloted with TAP projects and ICLEI and GIB will hold joint trainings on its use. “We will offer that service to the next TAP applicants,” stated Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI. “The [climate] agreement will not be implemented by 2020. It is up to the other levels of government to step in.”
Tikender Panwar, Deputy Mayor of Shimla, India noted that the integration of the TAP and SuRe Standard “is an innovatively designed program.” Deputy Mayor Panwar underscored the importance of inclusiveness in piloting the SuRe Standard. Many cities want to develop resilient and sustainable infrastructure, he noted, and it is important to bear in mind that dissemination should occur in cities that are at varying stages of sustainability planning. For cities of all sizes, the process of certification is an important step to help attract investments.
Thomas Salvadori, Senior Banker at Natixis – a French corporate and investment bank that co-developed SuRe – explained the importance of infrastructure financing. As a bank, Natixis is oriented toward the management of risk and innovation, which SuRe helps address. Second, from an investment point of view, having a standard grid with sustainability standards is essential, as investors are increasingly pushed to do so. Third, in working for mid to large-sized corporations, Natixis sees that sustainability and climate is increasingly becoming part of the strategy dialogue.
The SuRe Standard is also a tool that supports bottom-up project delivery, explained Van Begin. Cities can be guided by standards like SuRE, which enables early feedback, self-evaluation and iterative improvements beginning early in the project cycle, which can impact future financing and investment.
The SuRe Standard has been launched at a time when there is a booming market for sustainable and resilient infrastructure that was not there 10 years ago. The COP is an important step to continue this momentum and, as Salvadori remarked, “we hope that access to financing will be easier with the Standard.”
Overall, it is important to recall that there are many actors that are partnering to create instruments and approaches that move climate action forward, explained Egler. Climate change is happening and we have to act now. The current scenario does not represent only potential costs, but also presents opportunities to “define new approaches and define new investment opportunities and build our common more sustainable and more resilient future. We hope we are able to work collaboratively to show impressive results at the next COP.”
About GIB, Natixis and the SuRe Standard
GIB is a Swiss not-for-profit foundation based in Basel working to promote Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure. Active since 2008, GIB helps to meet the challenge of designing, implementing and financing Sustainable Infrastructure projects.
GIB and Natixis, a French corporate and investment bank, are developing the SuRe Standard. SuRe provides a standardised approach and a concrete definition of the multiple dimensions of sustainability in infrastructure projects. SuRe helps infrastructure projects to be designed, built and operated in a sustainable and resilient way from as early in the process as possible. The Standard offers an easy-to-use assessment and is a decision support tool for project developers and contractors, and provides a method for investors to choose sound investment opportunities in infrastructure. The Standard encourages the thorough evaluation of risks linked to sustainability and resilience, and on-going actions to mitigate them.
SuRe has been established in compliance with the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice. Moreover, SuRe is aligned with world-leading standards, drawing on the IFC Performance Standards, Equator Principles, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Core Labour Standards amongst others. It also satisfies basic requirements of the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), the key requirements of international climate and biodiversity conventions.
SuRe assesses the project’s performance on the basis of fourteen themes based on ESG factors. Each of the themes contains specific issues, in total there exist 90 SuRe issues, which are concretely analysed during the assessment. Within each issue, there are up to three possible performance levels, which contain the performance requirements that are the items concretely measured by the auditors.
SuRe helps moreover to promote infrastructure projects that provide solutions to sustainable development challenges by highlighting the true benefits. In this way, the SuRe Standard has the power to realize the potential of infrastructure as a driver for sustainable development and to achieve the SDGs. Despite the benefits for a sustainable future, SuRe is also decisive from a financial point of view: SuRe will lead to an improved risk/return profile of Sustainable Infrastructure and improve therewith the attractiveness of infrastructure investments.
After the launch at COP21, the Standard will enter its two-year pilot phase, which will be established in close collaboration with the Transformative Action Plan (TAP). Projects interested to be part of the pilot phase can contact Louis Downing at Louis.firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in participating in the development process of the SuRe Standard please contact Chiara von Gunten at email@example.com. There are still some slots available.
For more information on the SuRe Standard and other GIB activities, please visit www.gib-foundation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.