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Stock exchanges and academics join forces to enhance progress on SDGs

Abu Dhabi, 18 October 2023 - The United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative launched the SSE Academic Working Group at the UNCTAD World Investment Forum with eleven founding members from academic institutions in six countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Founding members include academics from Columbia University, Oxford University, Imperial College London, University of Geneva, Singapore Management University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The Graduate Institute of Geneva, IMD, University of Texas Austin, Northwestern University, and The Graduate School of Business AAST. 

Sustainable Development Goal 12 target 12.6 is to ‘encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainability reporting,’ - a target that stock exchanges are ideally placed to contribute to. However, exchanges’ role is often overlooked in research evaluating the transparency and sustainability of market-based systems. Together with an esteemed group of professors from academic institutions around the world we aim to shine a light on the important and unique role that exchanges play in creating sustainable and transparent markets and to bridge the gap between academics and capital market practitioners,” said Dr. Tiffany Grabski, Head of the SSE Academy. 

The inaugural meeting that launched the SSE Working Group was moderated by the the working group chair, Caroline Flammer (Columbia University), and included participation from Rajna Gibson Brandon (University of Geneva, Switzerland), Jie Cao (Hong Kong Polytechnic University), Vanina Farber (IMD, Switzerland), Jingdong Hua, (IFRS Foundation), Dawid Bastiat-Jarosz (Graduate Institute, Switzerland), Lloyd Kurtz (Kellogg School of Management and Wells Fargo, USA), Mohammed Omran (Graduate School of Business AAST, Egypt) and Tiffany Grabski (UN SSE).

The session began with an overview of the many activities that stock exchanges are undertaking to create transparent and sustainable capital markets. Practitioners including Jingdong Hua, Vice Chair of the IFRS Foundation’s International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), and Lloyd Kurtz, Senior Portfolio Manager at Wells Fargo, highlighted the essential role of stock exchanges in building confidence in financial markets through improved disclosure, transparency and standardization. The academic participants confirmed the clear gap in academic research on the role of capital market infrastructure and stock exchanges in the transition to sustainable economies.


From left to right - Rajna Gibson Brandon, Jie Cao, Mohammed Omran, Vanina Farber, Dawid Bastiat-Jarosz, Caroline Flammer, Tiffany Grabski, Lloyd Kurtz, Jingdong Hua

Comments from the session include:

One of the most valuable aspects of this collaboration is to have the inputs of the practitioners, so Academics know how to address the challenges of the SDGs”, said Professor Caroline Flammer, Founding Chairperson of the SSE Academic Working Group. 

Companies fear that they can’t be perfect on day one when disclosing new information. But we should consider the IFRS Sustainability Standards as a new global language and we must remember that one cannot speak a new language perfectly on day one. Companies should start disclosing, even if it is imperfect. Academic research can identify different stages companies go through in their disclosure journey,” said Jingdong Hua, Vice-Chair of the ISSB, IFRS Foundation. 

Stock exchanges are uniquely positioned to encourage engagement in the topic of climate and human capital that are urgent priorities. Engagement is only possible with disclosure, however, and exchanges play a key role in enabling stronger disclosure and in educating markets,” said Lloyd Kurtz, Senior Portfolio Manager, Wells Fargo (also visiting scholar and faculty co-chair for the Moskowitz Prize at Northwestern University and former member of the SASB Standards Board)

There is a gap between academia and the market. The missing point is about data collection. Detailed information from stock exchanges and regulators is hard to have access to. The work of academics is very important because it provides financial literacy to stakeholders. We need to teach exchanges to disclose. Academia is not just words, it has impact.” said Professor Mohammed Omran, Professor of Finance Graduate School of Business, AAST (former CEO of the Egyptian Exchange and Chair of the Egyptian Regulatory Authority, FRA).

There is a total disconnect between metrics to measure impact between academics and practitioners.” said Dr. Rajna Gibson Brandon, Professor of Finance, University of Geneva.

The SSE Academic Working Group was created to foster dialogue and collaboration between stock exchanges and the academic community. Scant scholarly attention has been paid to the important role that market infrastructure plays in enhancing transparency and sustainability of capital market systems. The new group gives academics and stock exchanges a space to collaborate on sustainable business practices, sustainable finance and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The working group will be chaired in its first three years by Prof. Caroline Flammer, Professor of International and Public Affairs and of Climate at Columbia University.