NYSE joins UN stock exchange sustainability initiative

World’s largest stock exchange makes historic step in joining UN sustainability drive in financial sector

NYSE is the latest edition to the UN’s sustainability initiative. (Source: Ryan Lawler)

By Nilima Choudhury

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has joined the United Nations’ Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative to explore how exchanges can encourage responsible long-term approaches to investment in sustainable projects.

Covering companies worth an estimated US$16.613 trillion as of May 2013, it is the largest stock exchange in the world to sign up to the SSE.

NASDAQ, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the Istanbul Stock Exchange and the Egyptian Exchange are already members of the scheme, which encourages transparency related to environmental, social and corporate governance issues.

“What we’ve seen over the last two decades is a tremendous growth in the CSR movement,” Anthony Miller from the SSE Initiative told RTCC.

“Today [you see] with the UN Global Compact – you’ve got thousands of companies that have signed up to that and pledged to public commitment. The same with the Principles for Responsible Investment where you also have thousands of investors signed up to make a public commitment on sustainability issues.”

Named by Forbes magazine as one of the “World’s Best Sustainability Ideas” and a finalist for the 2011 Katerva Sustainability Award, the SSE considers the New York Stock exchange a major milestone.

Miller said sustainability issues have now become a mainstream concern with stock exchanges “an important part of this conversation”.

“Many developing countries stock exchanges see the need not to make a business case for sustainability but to make a sustainability case for business,” he added.

Unique influence

In 2012, NYSE Euronext achieved carbon-neutral status for the third year in a row, making it the only global exchange operator to do so.

In the same year, the company was also named to the Carbon Development Project’s (CDP) S&P 500 Carbon Performance Leadership Index and received a Green Power Leadership Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“As the only carbon neutral global exchange group, we are proud to join the SSE initiative and partner with the UN and our industry to support best practices in corporate governance and transparency related to corporate sustainability,” said Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext in a statement.

NYSE-Listed companies make up 87% of both CDP’s S&P 500 Disclosure Leadership Index and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

Speaking at SSE’s 2012 Global Dialogues at the Rio Summit last year, James Zhan, director of UNCTAD’s Division on Investment and Enterprise said: “Stock exchanges are uniquely positioned at the intersection between investors, companies, and regulators. As such, they can play a key role in promoting responsible investment and sustainable development.”

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