Ben Banerjee

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Hi, I'm Ben,
President of Swiss Impact Investment Association (siia.ch)
Advisory Board Member of Climate Leadership Coalition (clc.fi)
East West Institute (eastwest.ngo)
Senator of World Business Angels Investment Forum (wbaforum.org)
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Report from Impact Investors Council

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This article can be seen as a continuation of my previous articles ‘Warnings from History’ and ‘EU-China Investment deal’ where I wrote of the depth EU is prepared to stoop with its behavior towards China. 

By signing the Investment Agreement, the EU offered legitimacy to the Chinese leadership despite all atrocities and crimes committed by them. I remember reading somewhere that Merkel and her cronies are the driving force behind this agreement. One possible reason might be that Merkel’s upbringing in Former East Germany, clouds her understanding of the value of true Freedom and Democracy. Or the greed of selling German Automobiles to China makes her abandon the democratic ideals of European nations? I shudder to think of the third obvious reason.

What still surprised me today is that while the US, UK, and Australia are strongly condemning the reports of systematic rape in the Uighur camps in China, there is (once again) silence from EU leadership. I repeat once again the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr.  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=226&dpx=1&t=1612526566

The day may be arriving soon, when the leadership and elites of EU like Pontius Pilate will be trying to wash their hands from the blood of innocent Tibetans, Uighurs, Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Indians, etc……

History is watching!!

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image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=219&dpx=1&t=1612078711Last Friday we had the opportunity to have a discussion with H.E. Prof. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. It was one of the most educational discussions I have ever had. She is no doubt one of the most learned Politicians I have had the privilege to talk with.

If you are interested in our TV program then you can find all information and recordings of this and other conversations on the website:
https://camomile.ch/page/view-event-profile?id=25
or at
https://ibmtv.tv/title/swiss-impact/

We covered many points. I found one point very interesting, which I will like to summarize here as I believe that it is valid for the whole world, including the Western countries. This point was the reason which makes Mauritius the success story of Africa nearly in every aspect whether social, economic, or ecological.

Apparently, since the independence of the country, the policymakers have focused on two important items. Free education for all and well developed Social Security System.

Free education for all, especially for women has had huge economical and social benefits. Not only did it speed up the transition to a knowledge economy but also brought the population growth under control.

The social security system brought stability and equality. She added that the Policymakers also noticed that a good social security system encourages innovation and incubates entrepreneurship. I know this to be true also in Europe, where one sees the Nordic countries and countries like Switzerland still leading Europe in many sectors. I remembered these being also the same countries relatively least impacted during Financial crisis’s.

In conclusion, I believe that there is a lesson to be learned here, by Policymakers around the world. Especially the so-called Liberal Policymakers in richer parts of Europe who are working hard to demolish its existing Educational and Social Security systems in the name of Globalization. In my opinion, the consequences will weaken Europe’s long term economic perspective but also tear away at its social fiber.

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Dear all,

With this I remind you of our show tomorrow afternoon at 15:00 CET.

This will be a weekly TV show on how Impactful investments and businesses are helping to implement the 17 UN SDG’s worldwide to preserve the world for future generations.

We will be having enlightening and in-depth conversations with newsmakers, celebrities, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, project owners, investors, politicians, business leaders and encourage them to act. We already have a list of amazing people lined up for you for the coming weeks.

We start our program with our dear friends from MAPS (Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary) who will be joining in from Canada.

We hope that all of you would be joining us at the show. You will be able to find all information on our show of tomorrow and all the future ones at the link:
https://lnkd.in/dhcKJKZ

Till tomorrow.
With warm regards, Ben

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image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=201&dpx=1&t=1610016147

Yesterday was an unprecedented day in the history of Liberal democracies. The President of the most powerful democracy in the world incited his followers to commit insurrection and lay siege to the Parliament. This act will have far-reaching consequences. This will be debated and discussed by many and to make matters worse, this may be the beginning of a new trend.

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=199&dpx=1&t=1610016020I am afraid that going forward, Republicans will try to whitewash (even with using misinformation) and forget the whole incident as quickly as they can. Media giants like Rupert Murdoch have still to learn that the consequences of playing dangerous games for monetary gains, usually take unanticipated turns and never ends well for anyone. The right way to solve this is to bring to justice all those who are directly and indirectly responsible, including the sitting President who initiated it. They should be held responsible for their words and actions and made to pay for all material and immaterial damages. A good place to start is laying claim on Trump’s US$ 200 Million plus Save America PAC Fund.

This event should not be seen as one limited to only the west of the Atlantic. Europe will do better not to sit on its laurels. This event could have as easily, happened here in a country like Germany.

In conclusion, I think that the main lessons to be learned from yesterday are:

When senior politicians or established parties, flirt with demagogues, appease his fantasies and sometimes even accept him as a leader, in return for power. The usual consequence is that in long term, they themselves get burned. History has more than enough examples of this and as the quote goes “Snakes in your backyard won't bite only neighbors”.

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=200&dpx=1&t=1610016020The political elites of democracies should not alienate themselves from large sections of the societies. They should listen and address the issues of their citizens, however far-fetched they may seem. Otherwise, events like yesterday or developments of parties like AfD in Europe prove that unaddressed issues can lead to severe disenchantment which is deadly for Democracy.

Social tensions are fueled by Inequality in the action of authorities. There was a stark difference between image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=198&dpx=1&t=1610016020how the Law Enforcers acted yesterday against Trump supporters and those in Washington on 2nd June 2020 against the black protesters after the death of George Floyd. This is another feather in the cap of the Republicans from Trump's legacy. The only way to correct it is to make Trump and his supporters face the same consequences as any other.

This is once again a warning and prelude of what is yet to come if our present leaders do not learn and amend their ways.

Ben Banerjee, 7.01.2021

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I had the privilege to join an esteemed panel on 24th December afternoon for a short while. The topic was ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities in the 21st century’.

Today I will just try to summarize what my thoughts were on this topic and also points mentioned by my fellow panelists in the short time that I was in the Panel before I had to run to celebrate my Christmas Eve. J

Initially I started by mentioning that I have had some previous experience with the topic of Smart City in Georgia, DRC, Turkmenistan, Hong Kong, Algeria, and of course the Netherlands and Finland. In my opinion, although the term ‘Smart City’ might not be very old the methodology being used has been there for some time.image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=193&dpx=1&t=1609066527

I summarized the requirements which are important for the successful implementation of Smart Cities are:

  • Long Term Planning. Smart City development is not something done in a few months or years but takes decades.
  • Support from Authorities. Without the full support and buy-in of local authorities and citizens, it won’t succeed.
  • Cooperation between all stakeholders. All stakeholders will have to work together.
  • Availability of resources. You need access to huge resources, from funds to technical advisors to city planners, etc. 
  • Fund and Investors. As we know from our experience that if the Smart Cities are designed sustainably then there are enough pools of funds available for investment in its development. The source of the funds can be from institutional investors and Impact Investors (due to their characteristic of long-term thinking and investment with impact).
  • Major Contractors. You need experienced and resourceful Project Developers.
  • All kinds of liabilities have to be very well thought out, documented, and mitigated.
  • Very strong and experienced management team to guarantee the success of the project.

Many aspects of Smart Cities were discussed, even the definition. It should not only planned as Efficient and Sustainable but fulfill many criteria, which might differ from city to city. 

Few interesting points mentioned where like:

  • The planned implementation of Transportation. For example, a smart traffic system can guide the traffic, study the flow of traffic, adjust the traffic lights in a way to reduce the idle time, thus decreasing CO2 emission sharply
  • Existing and new infrastructure have to be well synchronized. It was mentioned that US cities sometimes have similar issues like that of the Developing World, as quite a few cities were developed without planning. So here we speak of retrofitting. 
  • Cities sometimes seem to also have different needs, so the planning has to be customized to their requirements. Complete buy-in from all stakeholders (including governments and individuals) is required. It was mentioned that the buy-in doesn’t have to be 100% but still, agreement on main points is very important
  • There will be foreseen and unforeseen side-effects. For example, as many countries are rolling out 5G implementation, soon technologies like the ‘Internet of things’, self-driving cars might make use of Traffic Lights obsolete

One point is quite clear, that Smart Cities offer huge potentials to businesses and entrepreneurs, especially the technical ones. A few points and examples mentioned were:

  • Social Networks. Covid-19 seems to have underlined one of the uses of Social Media. Proceeding in the same way, AI can be used to study social networks and determine the existing and potential bottlenecks in the city. Or analyze at which location most crimes are taking place or likely to take place and allocate the police resources accordingly.
  • Traffic. As mentioned earlier, the traffic situation can be studied and analyzed. This information can not only be used to determine the traffic flow but also to plan parking locations and availability.
  • Health. The roads can be planned such to encourage the use of Cycles instead of cars but also make it safer for them. Also, access to the location for the physically challenged.
  • Environmental friendly technologies are developing at exponential speed. LED Bulbs to Permeable concrete (allowing excess water to soak into the ground), to urban gardening to small scale renewable energy production technologies are easily available and will be easily available to keep the cities adhering to Paris Climate Agreement.

Here I did mention two issues to be considered. Firstly I noticed that my distinguished Panel consisted mainly of members from countries with new cities. While myself being from Europe, with quite many centuries-old cities. In countries like the Netherlands, which is also quite densely populated, it is not always easy to build large infrastructure inside the cities, like Roundabouts, huge Parking Spaces, etc. The second issue, will be that citizen buy-in might not be easy with data sharing, as Europe has strong laws guarding privacy data and has historical reasons for it.   

Thus, in conclusion, Smart Cities are the future of many reasons, but it requires determination, resources, and long term planning, stakeholder management and most importantly sharing of knowledge and experience and global thinking. 

Ben Banerjee, 27.12.2020

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As my friend Jeroom Remmers (Managing Director at TAPP Coalition) pointed out that, in 1972 OECD countries had decided that they will implement the rule of 'Polluter Pays Principle. In other words, those who buy meat will have to pay extra to compensate for the environmental costs like Water, CO2, and Nitrates. Thus the farmers are rewarded for their extra efforts in the fields of environment, nature, and animal friendly. Unfortunately not much happened since then.

Fast forward 50 years, presently the same is happening with the Paris Agreement. Despite most countries signing it, and many coming forward with bold statements and commitments, In reality, the CO2 emission is still going up and there is still no light in sight.

Unless we start following up our agreements with measurable actions, with clear consequences, I am afraid, 50 years from now, our children will be fighting for survival on scorched earth and wondering at what happened with the Paris Agreement, like we are reading this attached document now......

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Whether intentional or unintentional, it seems that Covid-19 has become a weapon for some. It seems to have caused more havoc and disasters to the liberal world than to the illiberal world. The impacts of this virus can be summarized in separate paragraphs.image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=185&dpx=1&t=1607888848



Economic impact

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=179&dpx=1&t=1607888846As per World Bank, Covid-19 has reduced the world GDP by more than 4,2%. The advanced countries have been hit more disproportionately with a shrink of more than 7%. Added to it, the end is still not in site and will most likely continue till deep in the next year. We are told that China (an illiberal country) where in fact Covid-19 originated, not only got the pandemic under control but has also managed to restore their economic growth.

China has also used the distraction of Covid-19 to buy into the technologies, businesses, infrastructure and intellectual properties at highly depreciated value. Once the pandemic is over, this will add to the unfair advantage that illiberal countries have over liberal ones.


Environmental impact

The respite that Covid-19 brought to the environment clearing of smogs in India, reduction of pollution caused by the aviation industry, however, was all short-lived. The world's biggest polluter, illiberal China has soon after has restarted its industry, and pollution continues. The Pandemic increased the use of one-use plastic significantly, in the production of gloves and masks, which are soon going to end up in the rivers and oceans.

In addition, there have been a few other noteworthy effects.
Many Governmeimage_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=181&dpx=1&t=1607888846nts have even lesser resources to protect endangered natural habitats, forests, etc., thus giving free hand and opportunities to poachers and loggers to go into protected areas.

Even rich economies like the European Union, where lots of resources were put aside for environmental plans and investments are being redirected to shield weaker economies. Recently I was told that the UN SDGs which are meant to be achieved by 2030 will most likely be pushed further back. 


Impact on Society

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=182&dpx=1&t=1607888846Societies have been severely impacted. As per UN estimation, Covid-19 has pushed 118 mln, people, into poverty and nearly half-billion into unemployment. This will soon start transforming to events like social unrest, migration, etc. These numbers are not including those who are already fleeing war.


Disarmament

Recently I was in a Panel discussion with Hon. Izumi Nakamitsu, the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of United Nations. She said that Covid-19 also has had negative effects on disarmament. It has reduced much-needed attention and investment into areas of disarmament, conflict resolution, and image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=183&dpx=1&t=1607888847sustainable peace, while global military spending and violence are at an all-time high. Thus, putting Global Arm Control regimes further under stress.

To my knowledge, Covid-19 has complicated arm control measures, thus increasing the risks of a sudden outbreak of conflicts. What is clearly visible is that Terrorist groups and Criminals are fast-moving in to fill the gaps which are left behind by diminishing government controls.


Military adventurism

It seems that the distraction of global attention has also given the opportunity to a few illiberal countries to go on Military adventurism. 

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=184&dpx=1&t=1607888847In Europe, while the liberal countries remain distracted by Covid-19, Azerbaijan broke 26 years of Peace. The last was supported by the Turkish (another illiberal country) military, weaponized by Pakistan, freely used mercenaries from Syria to commit asymmetrical warfare against the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Liberal countries remained silent and conveniently forgot the Armenian genocide of the last century. It was finally Russia, who acted and enforced temporary peace. While Turkey again got a foothold in that region. In Asia, China the most illiberal country unilaterally trespassed into the borders of India and Bhutan using military force to change ground reality. China also increased its hegemony over the citizens of Hongkong, once seen as the most liberal place in Asia.

Ambassador Tuula Yrjölä, the Officer in Charge/Secretary-General and Director, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conflict Prevention Centre recently mentioned that we seem to be entering Cold War settings, only now with regional powers. 

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=180&dpx=1&t=1607888846One positive news among all these gloomy tidings is the victory of President-Elect Biden of the United States. Hopefully, he will bring the US back on the World Stage, and empower the activities of the UN.

In conclusion, the points above explain my choice of the title of the article. I believe that the world today needs more multi-lateral engagements and stronger transnational institutions.
 This will motivate the illiberal countries and the new Regional powers to stop trying to use Pandemics like Covid-19 for their own benefit to advance their agendas and instead learn that long-term thinking brings greater and long-lasting benefits.

I will end with the quote of William Lamb, who said in 1817, "The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility”. 

Ben Banerjee, 8.12.2020

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Presently the Conservative media of the US and the Republican leaders are branding the Democrats as ‘Socialists’ and ‘Communists’. Am not sure whether the policies of Democrats are that of Socialism or Communism. But this short essay of mine is on the evolution of the Republican Party.

The Repubimage_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=161&dpx=1&t=1607426880lican Party (or the GOP) started as the Party in the 1850s having Abraham Lincoln as first President. It was under this very Party, slavery was banned.

Then in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, the core of the Party started shifting towards the Southern State. And today it is a Party of the Rural areas, white evangelists, and a base having mostly non-college-educated males.

Under Trump, the Grand Old Party seems to have evolved into a Party of environmental denialists, ultranationalists, evangelical Christians, militarists, xenophobic, racist, and white supremacists. That is why, the fact that more than 70 million Americans voted for this Party last month, does not seem to speak well for United States nor for the world.

I would like to mention that still many within the Republican Party do not fall in the categories mentioned above but their silencimage_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=162&dpx=1&t=1607426881e has been deafening. There have been strong warnings coming from leaders like President Bush, Late Senator John McCain (who I considered as a friend), President Obama and few more leaders.
On other hand, it is quite clear, that the Party under Trump and Mitch McConnell have nearly nothing in common with the visions of its founding fathers nor does it follow the grand ideals.

Presently the Party controls the presidency, the Senate, has majority in state governorships, state legislatures, and has 6 of the 9 justices appointed in Supreme Court. Thus their ongoing attack on all US institutions last four years and now on the democratic right to Vote has been unprecedented. It has dismantled arms control regimes, alienated its postwar allies, decapitated institutions like EPA, dismantled regulations constraining fossil fuel, opened natural areas for fossil fuel exploration, attacked media, purged the executive branches of the government of independent voices, …. And the list goes on and on and on.
Under this party at present, the US government has increased the threat of nuclear war and, environmental catastrophe and deteriorated democracy. And the ongoing mismanagement of the Covid19 pandemic is another Medal on its chest.

In conclusion, I am not surprised looking at the above chain of events when an renowned American Scholar and Philosopher Prof. Noam Chomsky, mentioned that the drift of the Republican Party has been so significant that now it can be ranked alongside the Parties in Europe with neo-fascist origins. 

Ben Banerjee, 8.12.2020

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image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=154&dpx=1&t=1607077508

I had the privilege to be invited to speak at this International Summit.

image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=153&dpx=1&t=1607077507Started with a brief introduction and a history of myself and then a quick definition of Sustainable and Impact Investment, and the reason why Impact Investment is not hype and is here to stay. Especially with the present market performance.

Then I quickly introduced SIIA and I couldn’t stop myself from being immensely proud of what it has achieved in the last five-plus years of its existence. I remembered that someone recently told me that 5 years of existence is a sign of permanency of an organization.
I mentioned that one of the major contributions of SIIA has been that the term Impact Investment has become a well-known term in the west European financial sector.

Global Family Office Summit is for Family Offices around the world. So I stated the obvious when I mentioned that one of the most important service offerings of a Family Office is Long Term Wealth Preservation for its clients. In other words, under present circumstances, it is of the highest importance to pay attention to Risks, Liabilities & Opportunities.

For me, Financial Risks must include impacts of Climate Change, Pandemics and Assets becoming Stranded Assets like Coal Power Stations, Fossil fuels, etc. Global Food Production has been severely hit by Climate Change and it brings new Risks but also huge opportunities. Timage_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=152&dpx=1&t=1607077507o explain my point, I included this picture which shows the impact of 3C increase.

In fact, Global warming is already having a catastrophic effect on food production in the Southern regions and damaging nature in the North to the level that it is turning forests from Carbon Sink to Carbon Emitter.

In my opinion, the Family Offices should study the Liabilities and the fast-changing regulations on their investment portfolios, because if not properly managed they will negatively impact Long Term investments. My own personal interest is of course on the positive effects of disinvesting. It is making businesses like Exxon Mobil and Glencore stop and reconsiders their Supply Chain.

I concluded by showing a few of the areas which have huge potential for investors and showed two concrete examples, one project and the other a Fund which is outperforming MSC index.

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When one hears of that Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the planet’s largest intact temperate rainforest, protected till now, is being opened by Trump for corporate exploitation. Or that his Southern neighbour Bolsonaro is single handedly responsible for rapidly accelerating deforestation in the Amazon and being the cause of the worst wildfires in the Pantanal region in South America. Equally from Europe, Merkel’s and Morawiecki’s thirst for Coal and Diesel industry hasn’t diminished.

And then complete lack of opposition and silence of these democracies to China's unchecked advance on the path of global environmental destruction.

One waits for the visions of the present Political Leaders. Unfortunately, the conclusion seems evident that democracies are failing to resolve these issues. 

It makes one wonder, whether the present form of Democracy as being practiced in most of the countries can answer these issues or will Humanity have to find new governing forms to avert itself from the forthcoming disasters. 

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