The Sustainable Development Goals and Governance Workshop
This event was held at Istanbul Sehir University in collaboration with Durham University academics. The event was an intensive weekend workshop on SDGs that hosted many internationally leading academics.
There were 11 sessions in total running over three days, covering a variety of topics related to SDGs. The first session focused on introducing the workshop and SDGs, delivered by Prof. Ahmet Aysan. Prof. Omneya Abdelsalam then discussed contemporary issues in ethical reporting and governance. She discussed a variety of corporate governance best practices and ESG (environmental, social and governance) performance databases. She also presented the latest research in informal governance institutions such as culture and trust.
The third session, delivered by Mr Vehbi Zeqiri, CEO of START Microfinance, discussed a recent project where START reported on its contribution to SDGs through an Integrated Report. In linking START’s performance with SDGs, START’s ‘Social Enterprise’ approach (i.e. maintaining all the elements of a business but acting with a completely humanitarian approach and intention), START was found to contribute to most of the goals, with particular strengths in SDG 1, 8 and 10.
Dr. Antonios Chantziaras presented a workshop on research methods for sustainable development, with a focus on quantitative methods for SDG impact analysis. He discussed programmes and packages that assist to aid researchers in data management, particularly when information is gathered from multiple sources. Moreover, he shared techniques for data dependencies identification and transformation such as normalisation, data transformation, descriptive statistics and correlation matrixes. He also guided participants on data analysis techniques, post-estimation tests and how to graphically illustrate results.
The second day had Dr. Masoud Shahmanzari discuss data analytics in the context of SDGs. He began by reviewing well-known concepts such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. Then he went on to discuss potential and actual applications that could benefit society and contribute to the UN-SDGs.
Dr. Thomas Renstrom followed this with a session on SDGs and Ethical Funds. He discussed the role of green mutual funds in achieving SDGs. This talk was based on his research which found that green funds have lower pollution than conventional funds, and hence can contribute to SDGs revolving around the environment and climate change. His second presentation was based on a recent paper he published with others on ‘Optimal taxation, environment quality, socially responsible firms and investors’, where they characterise the optimal pollution-, capital- and labour-tax structure in a continuous-time model in the presence of pollution (resulting from production), both in the first- and second-best, allowing investors to be driven by social responsibility objectives.
Later that day, representatives from the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Istanbul Chamber of Industry and MUSIAD each introduced their organisations and how they contribute to the SDGs.
Finally, the day ended with Prof. Abdelsalam discussing the global analysis she conducted with colleagues on firms’ SDGs performance. Their analysis covered a global sample of 4,643 firms (34,177 firm year observations) across 43 countries. They had many findings that they presented, including that firm size, visibility, stability and profitability are contributing factors to superior performance towards the SDGs. Moreover, they document the impact of institutional ownership, country governance indicators and the nature of the ultimate shareholders on SDG performance.
On the final day, Prof. Abdelsalam shared the impact digitalisation, and specifically, Blockchain can have on the SDGs. She introduced the concept of Blockchain, and its main features that can help in tackling some of the major obstacles faced by humanitarian organisations. This includes blockchains ability to verify transactions in seconds (while banks can take days), the costs saved in transaction fees, its ability to function in spite of the political or economic state of a country, and the ease in monitoring transactions all over the world. Thus, she argues that these benefits can advance the work of humanitarian organisations and therefore directly contribute to SDGs.
The event attracted a variety of attendees from different backgrounds both academically and culturally. SDGN intends to hold this event on an annual basis to raise awareness of SDGs among academics, professionals and students.
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