Central planning among the countries of communist eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union left a legacy of environmental damage. State ownership had emphasised rapid industrialisation and extensive resource extraction, with limited consideration for the environmental impact, the effect on public health or social inclusion.
When the EBRD began operations in 1991 it was working against a backdrop of high pollution, poor water quality, eutrophication of rivers, diminishing soil fertility, the accumulation of hazardous waste and the loss of habitats. These issues were leading directly to serious human health problems.
Countries in the region also lacked robust legislative frameworks, experience of implementing environmental management systems at the project level, or active civil societies that could campaign for change.
But today the situation is transformed across most of the EBRD region. Although much remains to be done, many of the most-polluting plants have been decommissioned or refurbished and sound environmental management systems and the use of best available technologies are commonplace. Labour standards have improved and workplace accidents have been reduced.
Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria are members of the European Union, while others have adopted rigorous national environmental standards. Mechanisms for access to environmental information and public participation in decision-making are also increasingly becoming the norm.
These changes have been achieved through contributions from the EBRD and other financial institutions, investments by the private sector, support from donor countries and international NGOs, and most importantly through the work, skill and innovation of the people, businesses and governments across the region.
The effects of climate change – already seen through temperature shifts, extreme weather events and rising sea levels – are certain to have wide-ranging impacts for all kinds of businesses.
Many of the countries in which the EBRD operates are particularly vulnerable to climate change: in part because of their geographical location and characteristics, but also because under-investment has resulted in ageing infrastructure and facilities.
The EBRD supports projects focused on adaptation and resilience to climate change by offering technical expertise and finance. Initial EBRD investments in these areas demonstrate that early-moving clients can reduce costs, maximise profitability and increase competitiveness.
The Environment and Sustainability Department and the Energy Efficiency and Climate Change team held a networking breakfast event at the EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Warsaw that comprised a panel; the launch of the latest Sustainability Report; and presentation of the annual Sustainability Awards 2014.
The environment has played – and continues to play – a pivotal role in the process of transition. This was the underlying theme of the panel which discussed the dramatic accumulation of change in the way that environmental issues are both perceived and addressed.
According to Stephen Lintner, “The environment drove the process of democratisation”. Many pro-democracy groups 25 years ago had roots in environmental activism and were actively engaged in open dialogue on how to improve the environment. Since then there has been a perceptible increase in civil engagement and public consultation across the transition region, as well as a growing recognition and acceptance of the role of consensus in achieving positive environmental outcomes.
Besides engagement and dialogue, what have been the principal instruments to effect environmental change over the last 25 years? The panellists cited the introduction and increasing use of problem-solving approaches, environmental assessments, self appraisal and score-carding, as well as better access to knowledge and information. But it is the notion and practice of accountability that was seen as one of the most striking changes in how the environment is approached by clients, companies and government institutions.
Josue Tanaka reminded the panel that sustainable energy is now a core activity of the EBRD – a reflection of how business and the environment are now so closely linked across the transition region. While recognising this trend, the panel stressed that we need to continue to look for and invest in innovation to reconcile business drive with environmental performance. Only then can we become “unstuck” in transition and make transition happen.
Thursday 15 May 2014
- Josué Tanaka, Managing Director, OSP, EE & Climate Change, Operational Strategy and Planning, EBRD
- Adam Pogozelski, Chief Specialist, Air Protection Department, Ministry of Environment, Warsaw, Poland
- Stephen Lintner, Former Senior Technical Adviser, World Bank
- Jacqueline McGlade, United Nations Environment Programme
Sustainability Awards 2014
Since 2006, the EBRD has been presenting Sustainability Awards to selected clients for their outstanding achievements in environmental protection and energy efficiency. Past winners have included banks, renewable energy producers, a trading company, an oil and gas producer, an iron and steel mill and an energy services company.
This year’s awards went to two banks who have proven their commitment to sustainability across their business. BNP Paribas Polska was the winner of the Energy Efficiency and Climate Change category, while Garanti Bank, Turkey won in the Environmental and Social Performance category.
BNP Paribas Polska was one of the first partners of the EBRD Polish Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (PolSEFF): its investments under PolSEFF now result in annual energy savings of 50,512 MWh and emission reductions of 15,128 tCO2.
BNP Paribas has been operating in Poland since 1990 and is seen as an ambassador of sustainable energy financing in the country. In 2013, the bank implemented a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy which includes monitoring the impacts of its activities on the environment, offering customers a range of responsible products and services that integrate sustainable development into its corporate culture. Furthermore, BNP Paribas continuously expands its work into different areas, such as an educational programme for children and the launch of a new residential energy efficiency product.
Garanti Bank is Turkey’s second-largest private bank and is an integrated financial services group operating in every segment of the banking sector. Garanti was recognised by the EBRD for both its leadership in addressing key sustainability issues within its activities and also for its continuous support for innovative financing products. Last year Garanti Bank was awarded the “2012 Turkey-Carbon Performance Leadership” award from the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Garanti is the single-largest leader of wind projects in Turkey. It has provided continuous support to the EBRD’s Sustainable Energy products through FIs (TurSEFF, MidSEFF). It is currently discussing with the EBRD the development of an innovative overarching Sustainable Energy SEFF Framework, which would include TurSEFF, MidSEFF, residential EE and resource efficiency lending. Read more about Sustainability and Garanti.
This year’s judges of the Sustainability Awards were: Lucyna Stanczak, Director of the EBRD in Poland; Ian Bailey, Regional Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Environmental Resources Management (ERM); and Geoff Lane, Partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Sustainability Report 2013
This year’s Sustainability Report highlights how the EBRD invests and works internally and it focuses on three key aspects of sustainability: Impact, Assurance and Engagement. The report describes how the Bank makes an impact across sectors and time zones, from modernising public transport, to improving water services, promoting energy efficiency and ensuring nuclear safety.