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Discours de S.A.R. la Grande-Duchesse lors de l'ALFI "responsible investing conference - making a difference"

Opening speech by H.R.H. the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg

ALFI Responsible Investing Conference – making a difference, May 10th 2012, Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am particularly pleased that my dear Husband, the Grand Duke, has accompanied me to this conference. Knowing how important the theme of Microfinance and Social Business is to me, I am truly grateful that you share such an interest for a theme so dear to my heart. Your presence is a true encouragement for my ongoing commitment as well as a great motivation for all those present today.

Dear Minister Frieden, Dear Mr Saluzzi, Dear Mr Seale, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am truly grateful for the opportunity you have given me to open the ALFI conference on responsible investing and to share with you some ideas on the common challenges we face in the fields of ethical investing, microfinance, green energy and social impact investments.

First of all, I want to thank you Mr. Seale and all your team, for your ongoing commitment in sustainable finance. We have been collaborating for many years in this field and have brought together with some success, two concepts that typically never meet: the world of those working to restore the dignity of the poorest of the planet and the world of Global finance.

With other institutions in Luxembourg, we have tried and I believe that we are indeed succeeding, in bringing these two worlds together.

I am convinced that the extraordinary success story of the microcredit sector in Luxembourg can be repeated, hopefully even extended in the larger field of responsible investing. As investors from different sectors, as business men and women, financial experts and representatives from public institutions, private companies and NGOs, we have a common goal: making the world a better place. We are committed in using our expertise, resources and compassion to help making a significant difference. This is a very noble, although not an easy task: we need your courage, your selflessness, your capacity to innovate and above all a real concern for people’s and society’s most pressing needs.

As we move on and enlarge our vision, we can learn a lot from the microcredit success. We must recognize that, microcredit is to this day, one, if not the most efficient tool in the eradication of poverty. As we meet here, it is benefiting millions of micro-entrepreneurs and families throughout the world. "Microcredit is a macro idea", said US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and she pursues:

"Microcredit has positive consequences on the entire community and creates a fertile soil for democracy to grow because women and men can hope in the future of the planet again. We must realize that our destiny is strongly linked to the destiny of the poorest on this planet."

Microcredit can thus generate macro solutions!

Despite recent events in India, and with the help of healthy criticism, microfinance has definitely proven itself as a tool that has changed the lives of millions of people for nearly 40 years. 

As an evidence, I would like to remind that in many traditional societies, women have been excluded from the market economy. The pioneering women who first braved the market were criticized harshly. But today, with MFIs spreading across large parts of the globe, we know that women default on loans far less than men, and that credit extended to women has a much greater positive impact on household consumption and quality of life for children.

Through their involvement in microfinance, many women are now extending their activities well beyond their micro-businesses. They have become leaders, instigating change in social practices and relationships and mobilizing social action. They play an important role in peace-making in communities affected by armed conflict and insecurity.

The financial crisis we are still in has shown the fragile nature of our economic system. It seems unbelievable that the world has been accepting irresponsible behaviour during years. As it seems unbelievable that the poorest of the poor have been excluded for so long from the credit-system whilst representing by far the greatest numbers!

Today as never before, individual responsibility and collective sustainability have global consequences.

To promote a culture of peace and a genuine respect for human dignity and for our environment, we must dramatically change our mindset.

In the last years we have reflected on the implementation of new concepts such as the social business model developed by Prof. Yunus. In two of his books “Creating a world without poverty” and “Building Social Business”, the Nobel Peace prize develops the original concept of Social Business based on a few simple principles:

  • The business objective will be to overcome poverty, or one or more problems (such as education, health, technology access, and environment) that threaten people and society; it will not be profit maximization.
  • Financial and economic sustainability are essential.
  • Investors get back their investment amount only. No dividend is given beyond investment money.
  • When investment amount is paid back, company profit stays with the company for expansion and improvement.
  • The business is environmentally conscious.
  • The workforce gets market wage with better working conditions.

From the first funds for microcredit and microfinance we now move on to funds for social entrepreneurship, social business and renewable energy sources.

I am very happy that ALFI puts together all these efforts under the umbrella of sustainable finance, as more and more investors are concerned with the social impact of their investment.

I am convinced that the visionary concepts that are being developed are a chance for our generation and the next, to improve the situation of those who are still marginalized in our societies by transforming ideas into actions in a more active consciousness of our social responsibility. Solving a social problem by developing a sustainable non-profit-business requires courage, creativity, excellence, a true commitment to those in need, selflessness and a true openness of mind.

In this respect I would like to emphasize just how powerful ethical investing and social business can be in helping to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Charity and aid do remain vital, but the use of sustainable finance brings a fundamental new opportunity to millions of men and women who no longer live as victims but as actors of their own lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to congratulate ALFI and Luxflag, their members and partners for this new holistic approach. Today, the Luxembourg Fund Industry is through the numerous microfinance vehicles a leader in the global microfinance sector; hopefully in the future may we have a leading position in social business and ethical investing. This can only be achieved with investors and entrepreneurs who are ready to invest in our common future.

Our situation in Luxembourg is quite unique. We see more and more commitment on all levels, to serve people’s most pressing needs and to find together new and sustainable solutions: from the government to NGO’s and Foundations, from research centres to the economic world, the financial sector and the European Union.

It is our common duty to play an essential role in developing and promoting these new socially based concepts and to establish high quality standards and rules.

Please consider this introduction as an appeal for action. Working together on responsible investing is a capital investment in social justice, in peace and in our future. I wish us all great enthusiasm, during this very inspiring conference.  

Thank you very much for your on-going commitment and your kind attention.

Maria Teresa