SPIEF 2013 panel discusses sustainability in Russia’s economic development
On the final day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, investors and business leaders gathered for a panel discussion on Russia’s green agenda and sustainable approaches to the country’s economic development. Participants in the panel included representatives of Deloitte, World Wildlife Fund Russia, Basel Aero and Forum, among others. Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Sergei Donskoy also participated in the discussion.
Elena Lazko, Parner at Deloitte, moderated the panel, which focused on the shift from approaching environmental initiatives from strictly the perspective of social responsibility to viewing green efforts as a mainstream investment and productivity priority for responsible corporations. She joked that “only responsible businesspeople would come this early on a Saturday to talk about green issues.”
Minister Donskoy began by talking about how environmental concerns are not only important for Russia, but for all nations. He said that while Russia is rich in natural resources, such wealth comes with significant responsibility to leave the country’s lands in good shape for future generations. He added that the government’s top priority in this area is to break the link between economic growth and a negative impact on the environment. To accomplish that goal, he said, Russia must continue updating its technology as well as enact specific environmental legislation as soon as possible.
All the panelists agreed that Russia’s economic modernization must include a strong focus on protecting the environment. The exact measures needed to accomplish this goal, however, was a topic for spirited debate.
Basic Element’s Andrei Elinson thanked the government for its commitment to green initiatives, but expressed concerns about specific components of draft legislation that would regulate corporations in their environmental impact. He called for further debate about the Duma’s oversight proposals and encouraged officials to continue to engage with the business community.
Minister Donskoy acknowledged that implementing greener business practices represents a significant challenge, but urged against further delay in implementation of government oversight: “Procrastination in is not an option…I do not want my children and grandchildren to inherit this problem.” He argued that quality of life in Russia is at stake, but also Russia’s standing in global markets.
Donskoy stressed the importance of attracting foreign investment in supporting sustainable development, but said the government also stands ready to help companies in their efforts to move toward greener practices. Talks between the government and business leaders on the best way forward are ongoing, Donskoy said, and both parties are moving closer toward agreement with each meeting. He also said that the government is working to reduce red tape in an effort to further help companies make environmentally sound development a reality.
Isaac Sheps of Baltika said that Russia’s green agenda is much more than good public relations – it is an essential strategy for sustainable success. He pointed out his company’s “Brewery Way of Sustainability,” which he said was recently endorsed by Russia’s prime minister, as an example for how corporations could make a real difference while still driving growth.
While the implementation of proposed environmental legislation was cause for debate, all panelists shared optimism that Russia can continue to drive its economy into the future while responsibly managing natural resources and preserving the environment for posterity.