An Impactful Week at EMW 2023
Inclusive Finance, Environmental Resilience, Client Protection, and Responsible Investment.
The last European Microfinance Week (EMW), organized by the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP), took place in Luxembourg on November 15-17, 2023. Cerise+SPTF led several sessions, championing inclusive finance, environmental resilience, and responsible investment.
Distinguished as a leading event on the financial inclusion calendar, the EMW served as a global convergence point for professionals, fostering discussions and propelling Cerise+SPTF key focus points around social and environmental performance management for inclusive finance.
Throughout the week, Cerise+SPTF delivered six insightful sessions. Topics ranged from the future of green inclusive finance, client protection, and social outcomes, to the market systems work of the Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Southeast Asia (RIFF-SEA), and the impact of EU fund regulations. Concurrently, the Cerise+SPTF Social Investor Working Group (SIWG) provided a platform for investors and asset managers to collaborate on advancing responsible investment in financial inclusion.
Laura Foose, Executive Director at SPTF, remarked:
“Witnessing the tangible implementation of the Universal Standards for Social and Environmental Performance Management is truly gratifying. Throughout the week, the panels and presentations underscored the transformative impact that a steadfast dedication to social and environmental performance can have on an organisation. It came as no surprise to observe Fundación Génesis Empresarial (Guatemala) and YIKRI (Burkina Faso) emerge as finalists for the Microfinance award this year. Their unwavering commitment to incorporating these standards into their operations has been evident over the past few years, and the fruits of that dedication were evident in their impressive achievements. The recognition as finalists serves as a testament to the success that can be achieved through a methodical and persistent adherence to these essential practices.”
Marion Allet, Environmental Manager at Cerise+SPTF, delivered a compelling speech during the Opening Plenary on green inclusive finance. She emphasised the need to shift focus from performance to robustness. Cerise+SPTF has already integrated Dimension 7, focusing on "environmental performance management," into the Universal Standards. However, in light of the current environmental challenges, the call to prioritize preservation and resilience for the vulnerable population in the Global South is urgent.
Cécile Lapenu, Executive Director at Cerise, dove deep into social performance and outcomes alongside industry leaders David Muthire Njiru Chief Business Officer and SEPM champion from Juhudi Kilimo in Kenya, and Arthur Sletteberg, Managing Director of Abler Nordic Norway. Their discussion highlighted the collective efforts of investors and financial service providers in recent years, emphasising the importance of continuous improvement and informed discussions based on outcomes data.
Cécile Lapenu, Executive Director at Cerise, added:
“From field officers to Board rooms, emphasizing decision-making and informed discussions based on client outcomes data help shape responsible inclusive finance. It helps for strong client protection and for responsiveness of financial service providers to the actual needs of their clients”
Drawing collective lessons, and acting now to mitigate the risk of harm to customers were the common themes for Nitin Madan, Director of RIFF-SEA program, Anne-Laure Behaghel, Client Protection Pathway Manager at Cerise+SPTF, and Amelia Greenberg, Deputy Director at SPTF. While Nitin presented how to ensure responsible financial inclusion in Cambodia, Anne-Laure and Amelia delved into the new Frontiers in Client Protection focusing on Digital Financial Services (DFS) Standards, PAYGo solar, and agricultural value chains. Anne-Laure presented the Agri CP tool developed jointly by IDH FarmFit Fund and Cerise+SPTF. The Agri CP Tool is a pioneering step towards applying client protection to any commercial or contractual relationship with smallholder farmers, who are among the most vulnerable clients.
Addressing the downstream impact of EU Fund Regulations, Jurgen Hammer, Managing Director of SPTF Europe, moderated the closing panel of the EMW featuring Laura Gehlkopf (CSSF), Emmanuelle Javoy (Symbiotics), and David Muthire Njiru (Juhudi Kilimo). With the vast majority of inclusive finance funds being based in Europe (largely in Luxembourg), these new European regulations will impact a range of stakeholders, including major financial service providers, rating agencies, technical assistance providers, and national microfinance associations. In a nutshell, all the panelists agreed that the “wait and see approach” is no longer acceptable. Actually, the impact investing sector has already adopted a proactive approach towards SFDR, transforming it from a compliance checkbox into a tool for transparency, while Cerise+SPTF played a pivotal role in coordinating sector-wide efforts.
In his introduction to the closing plenary, Jurgen Hammer reminded the audience about the 40 years history of the microfinance industry and the need to develop transparent evaluation and disclosure on the sector social and environmental promise, which had been part of its industry’s DNA since inception. SPTF was set up almost 20 years ago, in 2005, with exactly this objective – to coordinate the global MF sector and develop a common language (i.e. standards and methodology) for transparency in Social and Environmental Performance Management and reporting.
Jurgen Hammer, Managing Director of SPTF Europe, concluded:
“The uptake and implementation of all our work to describe our social and environmental achievements has always been voluntary. And so we were always confronted with very diverse levels of commitment to align on - and implement - standard taxonomies and methodologies for transparent evaluation across our sector. The advent of a European-wide regulation, applicable to the broad financial sector for better transparency is exactly what we need!”
The pinnacle of the week was undoubtedly reached at the European Microfinance Award ceremony hosted at the European Investment Bank (EIB), where the spotlight shone on "Inclusive Finance for Food Security and Nutrition." Cerise+SPTF extends sincere congratulations to the three finalists— Fortune Credit Ltd (Kenya), Fundación Génesis Empresarial (Guatemala), and YIKRI (Burkina Faso) - and celebrates the achievements of the ultimate award-winner, YIKIRI. YIKRI is a Burkinabe microfinance institution that has received three grants over the years from the Responsible Inclusive Finance Facility for Sub-Saharan Africa (RIFF-SSA) to implement projects that strengthened YIKRI’s social and environmental performance. The RIFF-SSA is managed by Cerise+SPTF and generously funded by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) and the Government of Luxembourg through The Financial Inclusion Fund administered by the European Investment Bank.
After a very compact yet inspiring week, the journey ahead remains extensive. Nevertheless, Cerise+SPTF is committed to driving sustained positive change at the forefront of the financial inclusion sector.
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At European Microfinance Week 2023, members of the Cerise+SPTF team both moderated and spoke in six panel discussions.