The Liechtenstein financial center can become the model for a sustainable financial economy in Europe. That was the clear message at this year’s Banking Congress, when the Liechtenstein Bankers Association celebrated its 50th birthday. Sustainability is more than simply addressing climate change.

Liechtenstein banks have an important role to play in the country’s development, said foreign minister Katrin Eggenberger in her opening address at this year’s Banking Congress. According to Eggenberger, long-term thinking is a hallmark of the financial center. This was also expressed in the name of the event, “Thinking in Generations, Acting Sustainably”. “Sustainability has become mainstream,“ said Hans-Werner Gassner, chairman of the Liechtenstein Bankers Association (LBA). “We will soon be at the point where sustainable investments are the norm.“

According to Tycho Sneyers from LGT Capital Partners, sustainability now goes beyond excluding from a portfolio investments in certain companies that do not behave in a sustainable manner. Many investors now want to have a positive impact, making the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) an important tool in this regard. He pointed out, however, that most investors are still uncertain as to how they can concretely integrate the SDGs into their work. 

Reynier Indahl, founder of Summa Equity, has found that there is a clear relationship between sustainability and profitability. The fund company, which is active in Northern Europe, makes targeted investments in topics related to the sustainable transformation of society: resource efficiency, healthcare and technology companies. Summa Equity was launched in 2016 with assistance of LGT and the Princely Family of Liechtenstein.

According to Wim Mijs, CEO of the European Banking Federation, Liechtenstein can become a benchmark for sustainable finance in Europe because it can implement new models more quickly. “Liechtenstein is a role model for Europe,” Mijs said. But sustainability is far more than simply environmental protection or climate change. “We cannot forget about the social components,” said LBA president Gassner, referring to the Liechtenstein Initiative, a public-private partnership to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. It is supported by Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and Australia, and by private actors including LBA, LGT and the Hilti Foundation.

Christian Wenaweser, Liechtenstein’s ambassador to the UN and initiator of the Liechtenstein Initiative, pointed out that modern slavery is illegal everywhere and yet is the most profitable crime in the world. Legislation alone is not effective, he said, and instead requires close cooperation between public authorities and the private sector. Daniel Thelesklaf, head of the Swiss Money Laundering Reporting Office and a member of the commission of the Liechtenstein Initiative, said that part of the profits from modern slavery, some $150 billion, flows into the financial system. If you follow these flows, he said, you get to the criminals themselves – and this requires cooperation with the financial sector.

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