29 December 2020
In a year that put to the test ICC’s ability to mobilise business behind global challenges, our pioneering spirit shone through to ensure our global institution lived up to its reputation as the trusted voice of business on issues facing people and planet.
We’re taking a look back at our ground-breaking year to wrap up just 10 ways in which we made business work for everyone, every day, everywhere.
- Saving lives and livelihoods – ICC acts against Covid-19
Before Covid-19 had a name, ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO responded to the outbreak of coronavirus in China underscoring the need for a coordinated effort to protect lives, livelihoods and the global economy.
ICC and the World Health Organization issued a joint statement committing to mobilise business in the fight against COVID-19 while ahead of an extraordinary G20 Summit on Covid-19 in March, ICC joined forces with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the WHO and B20 in calls for bold coordinated action to effectively contain the human and economic toll of the pandemic and leave no-one behind – messages echoed by Mr Denton in a CNN interview and letter to the Financial Times. ICC welcomed commitments to ease the flow of essential medical equipment, made during the summit, but warned of the dangers of empty pledges.
In early April, ICC issued a practical guide for businesses looking to build resilience in the face of the pandemic and, supporting a call for enhanced cooperation to avoid an estimated 86 million children falling into poverty as a result of widespread business foreclosures due to the pandemic, issued the ICC – UNICEF Guide to Family-Friendly Business Continuity. . ICC also issued a set of tax measures to support business continuity and minimise economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
During a socially distanced trip to Geneva in August, Mr Denton held meetings with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization Roberto Azevedo, and the Director-General of UN Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya which saw discussions on a range of ICC policy responses to COVID-19. In the same month, ICC and the International Organization for Migration released employer guidance for measures to protect migrants during COVID-19, highlighting the crucial role migrant workers play in the global workforce.
In response to corporate calls to action for private sector leaders and governments to work together to address the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic ICC partnered with UNDP, UN Global Compact, and private sector partners to launch the COVID-19 Private Sector Global Facility. The Facility was announced at the SDG Business Forum during the UN General Assembly.
Referring to the launch in October of a Private Sector for Refugees (PS4R) web portal showcasing public-private sector collaborations that integrate refugees into the global economy. ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “In the current health and economic crisis, we must not forget the needs of the most vulnerable — especially refugees and migrants — and leave no one behind.”
ICC’s new edition Intellectual Property (IP) Roadmap launched in November explains how, since the outbreak of the pandemic, disrupted supply chains, supply shortages and demand surges have aggravated existing piracy and counterfeiting, highlighting a need for collaboration between the private sector and government to address IP issues in the future.
Last month ICC welcomed the G20’s commitment on equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, but called for an emergency summit early in 2021 to deal with the risks to the real economy saying that vaccine nationalism represented the most significant downside risk to a rapid recovery from the crisis.
- Debt relief
To ensure sovereign debt would not stymie efforts to combat COVID-19 ICC, ITUC and Global Citizen called on World Bank and IMF meetings to take debt out of the COVID equation. A follow up letter was issued ahead of a meeting of G20 Finance ministers in July while in September, they called on governments to intensify their political and financial commitments to the Access to COVID tools accelerator (ACT-A) — an unprecedented collaboration between intergovernmental organisations, industry and civil society to ensure equitable access to, and allocation of, the most critical health tools to fight Covid-19. In October, the three organisations joined forces once more to call for a bold update to the G20 Action Plan to address the barriers that sovereign debt burdens present toward pandemic containment and economic stabilisation, and in November, urged G20 governments to take necessary steps to avoid a ‘lost decade’ of sustainable development.
ICC welcomed a pledge from G20 Finance Ministers to suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries that request forbearance.
In May, ICC joined forces with the UN and governments to improve flow of remittances, supporting a multistakeholder call to action: Remittances in Crisis – How to Keep Them Flowing.
In September, ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO addressed a meeting of Finance Ministers, convened by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General and the Finance Ministers of Canada and Jamaica telling them: “We are now starting to see the full effects of the crisis on the real economy, and broad, rapid – and continued – fiscal stimulus is essential to ensure the viability of small businesses until demand returns to the global economy…”
- Working to #SaveOurSMEs and support entrepreneurship
A call to action launching the global #SaveOurSME campaign stated: “This agenda is of paramount importance to safeguard the current and future functioning of the global economy and the livelihoods of billions of workers throughout the world.” ICC unveiled an SOS one-stop shop for policy recommendations, resources and support on a range of issues from cybersecurity to taxation to Save Our SMEs. covering business matters from.
With the United Nations Capital Development Fund and other partner organisations ICC also launched a major survey to understand the unique challenges faced by SMEs in least-developed countries
In February the first ICC Centre for Entrepreneurship hub was launched to pursue partnerships with businesses, chambers of commerce and technology partners to advance local economic development and deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The launch was followed later in the year with the launch of a hub in Beirut, in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
- Restoring international travel
Recognising travel and tourism as one of the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19, ICC, the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations (UNWTO), and AOKpass announced a partnership in September to support coordinated global efforts to more safely and efficiently restart travel.
In partnership with International SOS, ICC AOKpass mobile app – an interoperable risk mitigation tool allowing users to present digitally authenticated and secure medical records to border authorities and government administrations – was launched in May, with successful pilot tests announced shortly after in July.
Recognising the challenges faced by the travel and tourism industry, ICC and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) issued a Quick Restart Guide for Employers to provide businesses with recommendations for ensuring operational readiness, preparing staff and limiting risk of exposure to the virus within workplaces.
In October, ICC set out a roadmap for resuming international travel safely and quickly, highlighting how Covid-free travel could be achieved through a balance of the right policy settings, technological tools and industry buy-in. A letter by ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO, published in the Financial Times highlighted the private sector’s ability to help governments restore cross border travel by advancing safe and effective pre-flight Covid-19 screening of travellers and underscored advancements in Covid-19 testing, emerging as the pre-travel preferred solution to on-arrival quarantine regimes.
Last month, ICC welcomed Delta Airlines and Alitalia’s announcement of quarantine-free flights from Atlanta and New York to Rome and reported that ICC Aokpass would be used to verify pre-departure COVID-19 tests on the NYC -Rome route. ICC AOK pass also features in Spain’s plan for an International Framework for Safe International Mobility unveiled this month.
ICC announced a breakthrough for air travel when Singapore became the first government to accept digital COVID-19 test results for immigration purposes. A dedicated immigration lane at Singapore’s Changi Airport is now available for passengers using ICC AOKpass app.
ICC continues to work closely with a variety of international organisations, national governments and airports, to discuss strategies for safely reopening cross-border travel routes through the use of digital technology.
- Making technology work for all
In January, ICC signed a historic cooperation agreement with the Singapore Government and industry partners to accelerate the digitalisation of global trade and commerce, while in February we published this article rounding up seven ICC digital initiatives to prepare business for the future of global trade, including the ICC Digital Standards Initiative – a collaborative cross-industry effort to enable the standardisation of digital trade with the ambitious objective of establishing a globally harmonised, digitised trade environment – directly addressing disruptions experienced during the COVID-19 crisis as a result of the reliance of trade flows on paper documentation. Run out of ICC’s Singapore hub the initiative saw the appointment in September of Oswald Kuyler as Managing Director. Trade digitalisation took centre stage at the 2020 ICC Banking Commission Annual Meeting and virtual technical meeting in October.
In June, ICC joined United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to launch the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, who became ICC Chair in June, participated in a discussion with global leaders, outlining how the rapid adoption of digital technologies has mitigated the severe economic and human consequences of the pandemic.
Ahead of a meeting of G20 Digital Economy Ministers in July, ICC called on G20 leaders to implement policies that would enable the deployment of digital technologies to tackle the consequences of COVID-19.
Earlier this month ICC and Oxford University’s Saïd Business School announced a partnership to develop a set of all-encompassing artificial intelligence (AI) principles to enable business to implement innovative, trustworthy, and human-centric AI solutions as part of their operations while ICC and Pearson announced a collaboration to co-create educational programmes enabling companies to retrain and retain employees.
- Making trade work for people and planet
Following the first ever virtual G20 Summit on 26 March 2020, ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO wrote to G20 Trade Ministers setting out a 10-point roadmap to use trade policy to speed the health response to COVID-19, to keep trade flowing to restore growth and safeguard jobs, and to maintain momentum on reform of the trading system.
Speaking at a trade dialogue convened by ICC and the Business-20 (B20) and facilitated by facilitated by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo in May, Mr Denton said maintaining a functioning trading system was vital to protect lives and livelihoods through the COVID-19 crisis.
ICC’s 11th annual Global Survey on Trade Finance, published in July, revealed bank optimism about the evolving nature of trade finance, though also revealed that they expected a range of industry-wide challenges and disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September ICC launched a high-level advisory group to prime trade finance to inform policy reforms and interventions to prime the trade credit ecosystem for a Covid recovery. The group is co-chaired by two former ICC Chairs: Victor K. Fung, Chairman of the Fung Group, and Marcus Wallenberg, Chair of SEB. In November the two leaders issued an urgent call to G20 leaders to take action to avert the risk of widespread insolvencies among SMEs globally, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In September the Financial Times published a letter penned by Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO calling on G20 leaders to heed warnings over the real-world consequences of banks retreating from financing commodity traders warning of the threat to the livelihoods of small businesses who rely on funding and work on narrow margins.
In May, in response to an announcement Roberto Azevedo would step down as WTO Director General, Mr Denton issued a statement applauding Mr Azevedo’s efforts and stating that his departure came at a critical time for the organisation and the global trading system.
- Making Climate Action everyone’s business and reversing biodiversity loss
ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO made environmental and sustainability initiatives the focal point of his participation at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. ICC contributed to several environmental initiatives, tools, services and policy recommendations launched at the Forum.
In April, we launched the ICC Carbon Council to drive greater liquidity in carbon markets while on World Environment Day in June, ICC and partners launched the SME Exponential Race to Zero initiative aiming to help SMEs build business resilience by providing them with concrete tools to work towards halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, while reducing costs, enhancing access to capital and increasing business preparedness.
ICC was part of a coalition of major organisations that launched the SME Climate Hub at the 2020-edition of New York Climate Week. The ground-breaking Hub is a one-stop shop climate action platform for SMEs to curb carbon emissions, build business resilience and gain a competitive advantage. Maria Fernanda Garza, ICC First Vice-Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Orestia, became one of the first signatories of the UN-recognised SME Climate Commitment, forming part of the SME Climate Hub. Ahead of the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement signing on 12 December, the SME Climate Hub announced it had joined forces with Oxford University to provide the platform tools and resources to help SMEs take climate action.
Ahead of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity in September, ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO joined global leaders in pledging to Reverse Biodiversity Loss by 2030 for Sustainable Development. Speaking to the Summit Mr Denton said: “If now is not the time for us to act, when will it be?”
In November, ICC announced support for the UNDP-led Lion’s Share Fund to reverse biodiversity loss and protect threatened wildlife while ICC and Business for Nature recently issued a Business Guide to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to help businesses understand the process and what’s at stake at January’s COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
- Enabling access to markets through e-commerce
ICC highlighted the need for a globally competitive market in e-payments in February publishing a paper on the liberalisation of global markets in electronic payment services as part of a series aimed at assisting WTO members in their plurilateral negotiations on the trade-related aspects of e-commerce.
ICC also issued a memo to World Trade Organization Members participating in the Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce (JSI), calling on negotiators to accelerate progress and conclude a high standard agreement by the next WTO Ministerial Conference.
- Strengthening the voice of African business
ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO, participated in an historic summit to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in May. The Summit brought together the heads of global trade organisations and recognised the importance of private sector collaboration in restoring trade confidence and flows in the fight against COVID-19.
In May, as part of a series of ICC outreach initiatives aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID crisis on the private sector in Africa, ICC convened an inaugural Sub-Saharan Africa regional meeting bringing together participants from close to 20 African countries while in July, we celebrated the opening of a new representative office in Cameroon.
ICC joined forces with the Ministry of Business Development of Ghana, the UNDP and the Business for Peace Foundation in October to launch the For Better Business Together programme (4BBT) operating as a focal point for global and local initiatives in Ghana of the three partners to support economic recovery and strengthen the sustainability and resilience of businesses for the future. ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO described the programme as a concrete example of the potential of public-private collaboration to have a real impact on the ground. ICC Executive Board member Valentina Mintah also announced ICC plans to launch an Accra Hub of the ICC Centre of Entrepreneurship to harness the untapped potential at local level while thinking globally on standards and opportunities.
ICC also contributed to a Pulse Check report, gauging the views of Sub-Saharan banks on the current response from multilateral development banks (MDBs) to maintain a well-functioning trade finance market, while in November we announced a commitment, with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council (CBC), to strengthen private sector development in Africa.
With the end of year in sight, ICC and Africa investor launched a global eTrade partnership to digitise five million SMEs in Africa. Supporting ICC’s efforts to make technology work for all, the campaign will facilitate access to trade and supply chain finance, digital logistics, trade data, capacity building and training tools for SMEs across Africa.
- Chambers of commerce in action
Chambers of commerce are playing an essential role to keep businesses afloat during the Covid pandemic. With the support of ICC’s World Chambers Federation (WCF) the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a report on the preparedness of chambers of commerce to adapt their services in the face of COVID-19.
Read also: 8 ways ICC led dispute resolution in 2020