INTERVIEW: COP27 puts spotlight on Egypt as nations commit to tame climate, economic, social risks

Doaa A.Moneim , Sunday 23 Jan 2022

Ziad Sharaf, the co-founder and managing director of Envirotectors International, spoke to Ahram Online about the company's core business beliefs and plans in Egypt.

INTERVIE

Envirotectors International is a company that provides consultations and certifications in the field of sustainable development, environmental, social and governance (ESG), corporate social responsibility (CSR) and carbon footprint.

As Egypt ramps up its efforts and preparations for hosting the global conference COP27 in November 2022, all eyes turn to the country’s decarbonization and green transition actions that are meant to meet the UN global sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Speaking to Ahram Online, Sharaf showcased how public and private entities could upscale their corporate governance based on the ESG and apply the corporate social responsibility (CSR) model.

Envirotectors selected Egypt to be its headquarter; especially in light of the country hosting the upcoming COP27.

AO: What is the core idea of your business and its key target?

ZS: The core idea of Envirotectors is built on bringing international tools that will support both public and private sectors to enhance their ESG to the highest global standard which bring numerous financial returns; yet, this is just the beginning, as we proceed with individual projects, companies will understand that ESG is the key to building more international partnerships that will make them compete internationally and not just in MENA or Africa.

Egypt, as an economy collectively, need to believe that education in every sector will come from integrating with the global economy, a franchise name does not mean you are international, your mindset needs to be at that level. We want to achieve diversity, equality, opportunity, stability and progression. The old ways of doing things no longer have a place if we want to become a nation that is attractive for the entire globe.

Take the tourism sector as an example, various decision makers within that sector have focused on the luxury look and local or western celebrities to advertise Egypt as a destination. But, word of mouth is more than enough if the destination itself is chosen not for its affordable prices or exceptional monuments, but rather chosen for being differentiated based on its ethical standings toward its people, the environment, its communities, its animals and on its creation of a diverse cultural atmosphere that accepts progress on all areas which is the government’s existing direction.

As we CSR Accredit and B Corp certify enough companies of all sizes and sectors, the world will know there is a change movement happening, and this is just the gateway to unlimited opportunities for the government, the people, businesses and all stakeholders alike.

We target everyone who is willing to commit to the journey of making positive impact and is going to be patient in reaping the benefits of such practices.

AO: Why do you eye Egypt as a destination for your business?

ZS: Egypt has a unique geographical location and enjoys potential as an upcoming nation which is becoming stronger every day. Egypt is now witnessing the most progressive administration in decades, doing its very best to cope with the world at an unimaginable timescale that most developed nations wouldn’t even consider to be realistic for themselves.

Hence, we know this is the right place to be, to support the collective government’s effort to make Egypt a model that can be compared to economies such as Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. We know that as a consultancy firm, we can limit ourselves to selling ESG but ESG is not just policies, it’s about education, awareness and encouragement of decision makers to join our movement of progress and ethical change and this needs a lot of determination and patience. We plan to expand internationally in the UAE and other Far East destinations to bring the same impact by bringing our ideas and influence as we grow bigger. The best location to set an example of success is Egypt.

AO: Accordingly, to what extent the Egyptian companies are expected to benefit from your services?

ZS: Our consultancy services and tailored roadmaps for individual cases would allow a dynamic shift in the market’s perception of enlisting on the stock exchange markets. There is an already growing direction from various decision makers including the government on supporting more business to enlist on the Egyptian exchange (EGX).

We believe that this could happen on the solid foundation of establishing the core foundation CSR standards and building up to the highest international ESG standards and getting certified for it; which is the core of what we do at Envirotectors Intl.

This enables businesses to gain diversified exposure when being enlisted on various ESG indexes globally with the strongest being the MSCI ACWI ESG Index that has outperformed the normal MSCI ACWI Index every year from 2013 to 2020. Alongside, other indexes such as NASDAQ, ISS ESG, DJSI Indices, Ecodavis and FTSE4Good Index.

We believe that as more companies become enlisted based on the solid foundations of ESG in the stock exchange, their share value will begin to increase and they will gain the right exposure to attract foreign investments.

It also allows Egyptian companies to become eligible for expanding into other global markets through their stock markets such as London Stock Exchange, Hong Kong, Singapore and others; when they meet international ESG mandates. We cannot present exact figures as cases differ from sector to sector and market to market. But, ESG practices will definitely present opportunities to the Egyptian market to expand internationally which enables them to attract foreign investments allowing an overall boost to Egypt’s foreign currency reserves.

There is also a scenario where Egypt gets recognized for the saturation of incorporating ESG within its mega projects and legislations in sectors from all sizes. This will draw the World Bank to increase investment in Egypt’s green transition when enough businesses are showing that transition. Egypt might also be able to negotiate interest reductions and exemptions which will automatically reflect on the economy.

AO: How do you see Egypt’s green transition efforts have been made, so far, and how can these efforts support your expected activity in Egypt?

ZS: Egypt’s issuance of national sustainability strategies, green bonds and regulations that support and enforce the green transition of different businesses and entities which include issuance of green bonds, and grants and easing of processes for companies that comply with regulations and government policies; such as the new ESG FRA regulations that directly influences any business' financial performance, which would positively or negatively impact a company’s value.

The direction the government is taking helps us support companies to take action. A lot or the majority of decision makers in Egypt would not want to be involved in ESG practices unless it’s fully enforced by law as they mainly look into short-term gains rather than long-term impact and success and that places them at huge risks in the very near future.

So far, we have been successful in bringing decision makers to the table and it mostly involves spreading awareness, educating stakeholders and promoting the returns before they take any action.

AO: Is there any kind of cooperation between your company and the government?

ZS: We are in vast communication with several government bodies including the ministries of trade and industry, environment, communication and information technology as well as the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) in order to promote our unified ESG solutions to their enrolled associations and business and to offer support to the implementation of their regulations.

We work to establish further ties with more government bodies as we expand our operations and portfolio of international partnerships. We do not only offer the policies and implementation but also we support obtaining the necessary tools and partnerships regionally and globally to achieve them.

AO: Does your company have an intention to collaborate with the Egyptian Sovereign Fund (TESF) as a cornerstone in terms of Egypt’s investment boosting strategy?

ZS: The main objective of establishing this fund based on the Prime Ministerial Decree was: “Contributing to sustainable economic development by managing its money and assets and achieving optimal utilization according to the best international standards and rules, to maximize their value for the sake of future generations, and for the sake of that, Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund has the right to cooperate and participate with Arab and foreign counterpart funds and various financial institutions.”

The statement above aligns with the purpose of Envirotectors as we support entities to contribute to the sustainable economic development through adopting the highest international ESG standards based on the B Corp framework. It is necessary for us to have the direct link with TESF firstly in supporting our mission that so far is funded by its Co-Founders (Myself and Sam Safwat) in order to boost our efforts in promoting our solutions on a more intimate/ step by step scale with individual companies within various sectors along with having the ability to fund our clientele in achieving green transition specifically when it comes to minimizing their carbon footprint through the  GHG Scope 1 & 2 with 3, a global protocol focuses on corporates’ gas emissions, as a potential in the near future, also in relation to the ​​Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures being applied in the UK.

For instance, a plant operating machinery utilizing fossil fuels that has a significant carbon footprint would require enormous funds to switch to sustainable energy solutions whilst monitoring and minimizing various aspects. We want our onboarded clientele to be able to feel that they can achieve that transition without risking enormous financial losses in the short term; as in all scenarios businesses and the government will collectively benefit from such transition whether now or in the near future.

AO: How do you perceive Egypt’s COP27 hosting, and how could that unleash the private sector hand in terms of green investment?

ZS: Egypt’s hosting of COP27 took us by surprise. The UN’s conference plays the most vital international role in taking action against the unprecedented risk of climate change. This puts the spotlight on Egypt as a nation where unified goals can be determined and agreed on by the majority of nations to control climate, economic and social risks.

This is an opportunity for Egypt to lead the world under one decision by proving its commitment and reflecting more action until November in order to boost credibility to its international role. COP27 for Egypt goes beyond attracting attention to the tourism sector or having propaganda, it can be the time where our administration can voice the global population’s suffering from environmental and economic risks. Following that, the government`s green transition legislations will become tougher on the private sector to provide real tangible deliverables and that will circulate more capital into Egypt’s green economy.

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