Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Sustainable talks for sustainable actions
We spoke with Ekkehard Ernst, President of Geneva Macro Labs - a platform for networking and amplifying the concept of sustainability among public and private sector actors
30 Jun 2021

What does Geneva Macro Labs do exactly?

Geneva Macro Labs aspires at making sustainability a reality. Convinced that now is the time to bring our combined knowledge and understanding to tackle global challenges, we offer a new, innovative way of leveraging the expertise of a large and growing network. Born as an initiative to THINK and DO, we foster the collective intelligence of our community through conferences, webinars, design thinking workshops and training activities. Constantly expanding our network, we partner with international organisations, such as the United Nations, the private sector, financial institutions, and academia. In short, Geneva Macro Labs is an intellectual catalyst for best practices to achieve sustainability.

At the heart of our mission lies the conviction that only by bringing together leading minds, entrepreneurial spirit and sustainable finance can we successfully jump-start impact projects to address global problems. We believe that the most innovative ideas only emerge from collective intelligence, which we foster by connecting idea generators, impact investors and implementers. To get our ideas off the ground, we rely on a wide range of sustainability partners that we bring together through regular calls for impACT projects, through events and on our meeting platform. Amazing ideas have emerged from these activities: Tokenizing blue whales to preserve ocean ecosystems, for instance, is our signature project to develop innovative sustainable finance, for which we have successfully attracted investors.

Even with generous funding, however, the best ideas will not get off the ground without dedicated entrepreneurs. We are nurturing an active community of business minds that design and implement our impact plans. As a Do- and Think-Tank, Geneva Macro Labs is the ideal breeding ground for combining ideas with action. But we do not only cultivate a traditional business mind-set. What we seek are social-entrepreneurs, women and men who understand that sustainability requires both profitable business ideas and new social ecosystems in which they can thrive.

Building ecosystems for sustainability is the final cornerstone in our approach. Geneva Macro Labs’ large and quickly growing community brings together both innovators and regulators that help prepare a fertile ground where such impact projects can thrive. Only within a network of different players can innovative sustainability projects grow and succeed. Nurturing a common culture and mindset constitutes an essential element of our approach that we promote through regular conferences, speaking engagements and webinars. Since the start of our activities four years ago, we have organised numerous conferences that attracted several hundred participants. Our bi-monthly webinars on various suitability related topics have gained world-wide attention with participants from over 50 countries that actively engage with our speakers.

Thinking beyond boundaries, leveraging existing resources and designing concrete projects that can make a difference is what is driving us. To help us in this endeavour, Geneva Macro Labs is fortunate enough to be able to rely on a Scientific Advisory Board with representation from academia, international agencies, civil society organisations and the private sector. Together, our Board offers us advice and insights into new opportunities to generate impact for sustainability. Fostering knowledge transfer in both directions, we make this expertise available to our community and organise sustainability training for our partners, such as UNITAR or IMD, and participate in international expert panels.

Ekkehard Ernst, President of Geneva Macro Labs.

What is your assessment on the SDGs towards 2030?

Achieving the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals by 2030 has united leaders around the world. Policy makers, businesses, civil society organisations and ordinary citizens share this sense of urgency to address global existential risks, especially since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tackling climate change, restoring inclusive societies, guaranteeing healthy lives, or achieving peace are not nice-to-have but essential for our own survival. So far, however, progress has been slow and affected by setbacks. The need for a far more encompassing answer to these challenges is widely felt. What is missing are convincing answers that don’t exhaust themselves in declarations and well-meaning intentions.

How the pandemic is going to impact on the SDG deadlines?

The pandemic has laid bare how much we rely on global solutions to our existential problems. No country can go it alone, no private actor is strong enough to rely only on its own force. Challenges to achieving the UN Sustainability Goals by 2030 have grown larger, be it in eradicating poverty, providing food, health and education or addressing climate change. Global initiatives such as the Paris Accord or COVAX, the worldwide initiative for an equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, are proof that joint action is required to address these challenges.

According to your experience, how active is the current role of the UN with the private sector towards the SDGs?

What such initiatives have in common is that they require partners on the ground. People who help implement these goals, carry out concrete action to help achieve these goals. The UN has undertaken considerable efforts over the past decade to reach out to and bring on board manifold partners from civil society. Geneva Macro Labs is proud to be one of them. Partnering with the UN Joint Inspection Unit in 2019, we shared our insights on the potential of the Blockchain technology for impact projects with a wider, UN community. Today, we are partnering with UNITAR to share our insights and passion for impact projects with its learning community. And tomorrow, we strive for expanding our partnerships across the whole network of UN families to become the go-to place for creating impact, always with the vision to address global priorities through collective intelligence to promote sustainable solutions.

* Julián Ginzo is a member of the Editorial Board of UN Today.
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