Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt – Commercial International Bank (CIB), Egypt’s leading private sector bank, announced plans to launch a cross border Sustainable Finance Academy as a means to integrate climate action and awareness into education systems around the world and bridge the gap between education and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The initiative was launched during a CIB-led panel discussion entitled ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ held on COP27’s ACE and Civil Society Day on 15 November 2022 under the theme ‘COP27 Sharm El-Sheikh: From Africa to the World.’ 

The panel was moderated by CIB's Chief Sustainability Officer Dr. Dalia Abdelkader, with speakers including Dr. David Orr, Dr. Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies,             Dr. Oberlin College and Dr. James March Professor at Large, University of Vermont; Ms. Natalie Mangondo, Finance Youth Fellow, Climate Champions; Dr. Jonathan Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Business School – Africa, Dr. Dina Abdelfattah, Assistant Professor and Chair, The American University in Cairo, Dr. Helmy Aboulaish, Chairman of Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development and CEO of SEKUM Group; and Mr. Morcos Mikhail, Heading of Learning and Development at CIB.

“Although the SDGs were established under the COP21 Paris Agreement in 2015 and despite the fact that a binding agreement brought all nations together for a common cause of combatting climate change, humanity has been experiencing the fifth-warmest year on record. The regression in global warming points to critical systemic gaps. For one, global educational systems are still premised on the 20th-century mantra that sliced knowledge into fragmented disconnected disciplines. A finance student might graduate without learning the basics of the environment or nature's laws. Every year, financial institutions accommodate thousands of graduates who are not versed to meet the sector's demand for sustainable development and unacquainted with the concept of  'System Thinking' which is the core of sustainability. This gap needs to be filled, and one of the suggested novel approaches would be developing holistic educational modules that incorporate sustainability,” CIB’s Abdelkader said during her opening statement. 

With its emphasis on implementation and an eye on succeeding in mobilizing climate finance, COP27 is focused on developing innovative solutions to redress critical hurdles that derail the transformation towards a sustainable system. Against this backdrop, the panel discussed a fundamental issue: Is 21st educational global system fit for purpose, with Orr commenting, "Before economic policy or technology breakthroughs, our worsening climate predicament is a crisis of mind and imagination, which is to say one of education.”

The panel served as a platform to announce CIB's exploration to develop a Sustainable Finance Academy, which falls under its wider sustainable finance strategy. CIB is keen to extend sustainable finance knowledge, instruments, capacity building, and tools among staff, peers, and stakeholders to widen the implementation and integration of sustainability practices among financial institutions in across boarders while empowering future generations to do the same.

For his part, Foster-Pedley, added: “It's about prosperity for Africa, not profit; that’s the real role for businesses, universities and African business schools. The costs of profit-based capitalism are too high, the rising tide is drowning too many, and poverty and exclusion can only end badly. The new truth is there is no plan – or planet – B. Our common aim as African business schools must be to reduce the Gini coefficient and lead great thriving and prosperous lives rather than simply wealthy ones. The new role of universities, and African business schools in particular, is to lead the movement to conceive and build a new system of economics, instead of shoring up the outdated business approaches and merely delaying the inevitable.” 

The panel also addressed the gap between education and current corporate needs to integrate sustainability into its policies and practices to cope with evolving regulations and national guidelines.  "Sustainability education is not a luxury anymore. CIB invests generously in educating new graduates to learn the basics of sustainable finance to cope with growing regulatory mandates and CIB sustainable finance policy and strategy,” said Mikhail.

Sustainability-driven education was described as a necessary tool by which youth and future generations can adapt and mitigate rising climate challenges, with Abdelfattah, commenting, "Climate change is a reality, and sustainability is rooted in the minds of individuals and business leaders. Education should help prepare a generation of youths for the green transition."

For his part, Aboulaish elaborated on his experience establishing Heliopolis University Education for Sustainable development, noting, "The only way to address climate change and involve every citizen in the debate and actions needed is to improve the quality of education for sustainable development and include all their challenges and introduce climate change in the education system all educational stages."

Mangondo commented, "We are currently faced with the greatest challenge humanity has faced, and yet as young people, we often don't learn about it beyond abstract concepts. So how can we talk about sustainable development, when we are not even educated on sustainability? Sustainable development begins by mainstreaming sustainability across all spheres of education."

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