A Rose By Any Other Name …

One of the best and worst things about our world is the diversity of our languages.  It is both a treasure and a curse.  It is an important reminder of our many histories, and is often at the core of our cultural identity.  It is what makes other countries and cultures so unique and interesting, and yet it can also prevent us from coming together.  Finding common ground requires understanding what the other party says, or better still what they mean.

In the world of sustainability, we face similar challenges.  Different jurisdictions define sustainability terms differently.  Ask what qualifies as a “green bond” in five different countries and you will likely get five different answers.  The notion of “taxonomies” is what we’re talking about, and there are a bunch of them out there.  In the world of sustainable finance, that diversity presents challenges.  But it also presents an opportunity to extract the best ideas and approaches from each.

An interesting article yesterday on the Eco-Business website nicely summarizes a number of these issues.  One important point it makes is the concept of interoperability – the effort to bring some short-term equivalency to existing regional or national taxonomies to facilitate cross-border capital flows today, all the while moving towards a consensus taxonomy tomorrow.

Shakespeare famously wrote in Romeo and Juliet that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Drawing upon the valuable learnings of my Grade 9 English class, I recall he was trying to tell us that what you name something doesn’t change what it actually is.  Perhaps that’s the key to finding common ground among sustainability taxonomies, and in turn accelerating our common sustainability journey.

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