Environmental Sustainability

Changing how we think about economic growth and nature

Earlier this year, Sri Lanka’s census and statistics department released a new version of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculation. The existing National Accounts had been ‘rebased’ from the year 2010 to the year 2015. In explaining the re-basing, the department noted that “a number of improvements” to GDP compilation was done, the first item on the list was ‘Inclusion of generated value addition from the reclaimed land of Colombo Port city project’. It further went on to note that, “The GDP levels increased significantly over the period of 2015-2018 as a result of the[…] reclaimed land of Colombo port city project”, and “by the year 2019, the land reclamation had been completed and as a result […] the GDP growth rate was lower when compared to 2018”. The fact that the creation of an 269 hectare artificial land parcel attached to the capital, with sand extracted from nature, materially changed the country’s GDP base was startling. It triggered within us, again, a growing discontent we have felt for a while on how we think about economic growth and an unease with how we assess progress. For some years now, stemming from a love for the natural world, interest in biodiversity, and enthusiasm for photography, we had begun to think about critical issues with our current approach to economic growth. To be sure, neither of us are environmental scientists, ecologists, or experts on nature. But we realised that in our own professional worlds of economics and finance in Sri Lanka, there was little mainstream understanding of the threats faced by the natural world and their knock-on effects for our prosperity, health, and well-being. Particularly, there was little appreciation for the value of nature - for instance the emerging agenda of the valuation of natural capital.

Introducing Sri Lankan corporates to climate risk disclosure standards

In mid-January 2022, the Centre for a Smart Future - under its 'Natural Capital Forum' initiative - collaborated with the Climate Disclosure Standards Board in the UK and the Colombo Stock Exchange to bring new accounting and analytical tools to Sri Lankan corporates. With practice facilitation and outreach by CSF to the CDSB, Sri Lankan listed and unlisted companies were able to learn about new accounting, reporting and disclosure standards relating to climate risks, for the first time in the country. The Colombo Stock Exchange(CSE) organized the training programme, which saw participation of nearly 200 participants. The programme was supported by the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative(SSE)

ECONOMICS x ENVIRONMENT:
Are Marine Conservation and Sri Lanka’s Maritime Hub Ambitions Compatible?

In this interview in the 'Economics x Environment' series of Smart Future Forum (SFF), Nishan Perera - Sri Lanka's leading marine ecologist, an avid diver and underwater photographer - shares some vital insights  on. Nishan is a marine ecologist with an interest in coral reef ecology and Marine Protected Area management. He is a co-founder of Blue Resources Trust, a Sri Lankan marine research organization, where he currently heads the coral reef programme.  His recent work has included research on impacts of climate change on coral reefs, small scale fisheries management and supporting Marine Protected Area management in Sri Lanka. He has previously worked with IUCN, Project Seahorse and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

SMARTER SUSTAINABILITY:
Sri Lanka Must Use GSP+ for
Smarter Positioning on Sustainability

When Sri Lanka regained the GSP+ trade concessions to the EU, exporters from a range of sectors got a renewed opportunity to compete in this lucrative market. Yet, prospects for future growth will rely on Sri Lanka boosting its sustainability and governance credentials, to position exports more strongly, for the longer term. In this interview in the Smarter Sustainability series, Anisha Rajapakse explores key issues for Sri Lanka in strengthening its positioning as a trusted and preferred sourcing location for EU buyers, using GSP+ and beyond.

GLOBAL VOICES:
Interview with Leonora Milan,
Mexico’s Leading Young Science Communicator

Leonora Milan, a leading science communicator in Mexico and featured prominently in Mexican media, shares her thoughts on the shape of the public debates on science, climate change, environmental issues, and policy in Mexico. She observes that in Mexico people have a newfound interest in scientific topics than a few years ago, but there are still gaps in bridging the science-policy divide. Some 'bright spots' have emerged, however, in training young people in climate change negotiations and breeding new technical advisory on environmental  policy issues. This interview is part of the 'Global Voices' series, which brings to Sri Lanka the views of young professionals from around the world.

SIGNALS OF CHANGE:
Three Emerging Post-Covid Trends for Sri Lanka’s Apparel Sector

Sri Lanka’s apparel industry – a significant export revenue earner and employer – was substantially hit by the pandemic. Aside from the short-term supply and demand shocks, the pandemic accelerated trends that were in motion prior to the crisis, and these provide signals of change and point to the direction in which the Sri Lankan apparel industry needs to head in. Moving from recovery to resilience and a new wave of growth will be shaped by three emerging trends - attracting new investment that drives innovation (in business models and products) and plugs into new supply chains and on focussing on meeting more stringent sustainability and other compliance requirements of buyers and preferences of consumers.

Looking Beyond Tariffs to Win in
Export markets: A New Focus for SMEs

Tariffs often take centre stage in discussions around market access for exporters – especially SME exporters. But this view is increasingly out of date. Standards are a new differentiator, even to markets where preferential tariff advantages are not available. Standards compliance should not be seen as a barrier, but as a way for firms to find new sources of competitiveness and branding