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Buying a New Warehouse: Tactics for Logistics Companies


Buying a New Warehouse: Tactics for Logistics Companies

When launching a logistics company, the location of your warehouse is intrinsically linked to overall success. As well as the location, you need to decide whether to lease or buy a warehouse. Further, if you are looking to grow, you need to ensure that your location has the availability to do so. You will save a lot of time if you only have to run through these considerations once. Throughout this article, we will outline key considerations to make when buying a warehouse.

Workforce Availability

You will need a team to fulfill your work and having a qualified workforce will make your life easier. When you’re looking for a new warehouse, you will need to consider the demographic you’re moving into. For example, you won’t find success if you pick a warehouse in Silicon Valley because the demographic belongs to tech-savvy programmers. When you are hiring, you need to look out for areas with a large proportion of logistic businesses. You need to get a fine balance between availability and trade in the area. If you move into a business where demand for workers is high, you will find yourself competing against high salaries.


Rent Costs

The cost will be a critical factor in deciding where to buy a warehouse. After all, if you don’t have the available funds, you may be forced out of your desired location. In the US, warehouse rental costs are divided up per square foot (SF). The highest average prices at the moment are in San Francisco, CA, with $16.50 per SF. On the other end of the spectrum, Memphis, TN, comes in at only $2.56 per SF. Although the rental rates may be lower in some cities, you need to ensure you check state tax rates. You don’t want to be stung by hidden costs because you didn’t do your homework.


Whether you rent or buy, you are putting valuable assets in the warehouse and you need insurance to protect them. Having insurance for your commercial property means that you are covered for unforeseen repairs, loss of income, damage, and operation expenses. Typically, you are looking at $17 to a month for the insurance. This may seem like a worthless investment in months where nothing happens, but as soon as it does, you will wish you had it.

Nearby Transportation Hubs

When choosing a location for your new warehouse, you need to make sure it’s close to transportation hubs. To do this, analyze your most significant point for receiving goods and align your site with this. For example, if your cargo typically arrives by air, you should position yourself closer to an airport. The closer you are to your nearest source of export, the higher demands you can come with and the easier it will be to manage drayage.

Traffic and Access

The main objective of logistics is being able to move cargo from A to B. If you don’t have the industry in the area, then your business will fail. You need to analyze all aspects of the local area including peak traffic times, average speed limits, typical traffic volume, road conditions, highway connectivity, and accessibility to highways. If these factors aren’t perfected in the area, you will end up paying more than you need to in fuel consumption.

Environmental Factors

As well as being close to significant export locations, you need to find a warehouse near to other suppliers. You will need to research the large local suppliers and take into account any supply chain partners.

As well as suppliers, you need to assess the environmental factors of the nearby areas. Is the area prone to natural disasters? Will you benefit from intense sunshine? Or are you in the middle of a flood zone? If you find any of these risks at your proposed site, you need to ensure that the building adheres to certain building requirements.

Starting up a logistics business takes a lot of time and patience. You need to decide what the most important location factors are and tick them off. There will always be criteria that you have to let slide. Make sure that you carry out your homework and consider all aspects of the location.


Boosting Investments in Eco Battery Industry to Drive Global Bromine Market

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Iodine, Fluorine And Bromine – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights‘. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Rapidly expanding manufacturing of zinc-bromine batteries, strong eco-friendly competitors for lithium counterparts, is to stimulate the growth of the global bromine market. Compared to lithium analogues, zinc-bromine batteries are more cost-effective and less flammable because they can function at high temperatures. Developers and producers of zinc-bromine battery components are actively fundraising last year thanks to the high market potential. Gelion launched an IPO on the London Stock Exchange, while Neogen Chemicals’ stocks more than doubled in 2021.

Key Trends and Insights

Investors see opportunities in zinc-bromine battery manufacturing, which could drive an expansion in the global bromine market. Accumulators using a zinc-bromine gel have a competitive advantage over their lithium counterparts because of their lower production costs and initial investment to reach industrial capacity. They are less flammable and can be used at temperatures over +50’С, while at those temperatures, lithium batteries have a high risk of catching fire at those temperatures.

In 2021, developers and producers of zinc-bromine components successfully attracted investments thanks to growing interest in this new alternative source of storing energy. Gelion PLC, an Australian zinc-bromine gel developer, launched an IPO on the London Stock Exchange to expand its domestic capacity, create additional production facilities in India and become profitable by 2024. The share price for Neogen Chemicals Ltd, the largest Indian manufacturer of bromine-based and lithium-based compounds, doubled last year. The company’s financial results showed a growth in revenues to Rs. 113.2 crore in Q2 FY22, 38% larger than the same period of the previous year.

Global Imports of Iodine, Fluorine and Bromine

In 2020, approx. 163K tonnes of iodine, fluorine and bromine were imported worldwide, picking up by 6.8% on the previous year. In value terms, iodine, fluorine and bromine imports rose remarkably to $1.5B (IndexBox estimates).

China was the major importer of iodine, fluorine and bromine globally, with the volume of imports amounting to 60K tonnes, which was approx. 37% of global purchases. Belgium (25K tonnes) ranks second with a 15% share, followed by India (8.3%) and France (4.8%). The UK (5.1K tonnes), the U.S. (5.1K tonnes), Norway (3.4K tonnes), Saudi Arabia (2.8K tonnes) and Canada (2.6K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

In value terms, China ($415M), Belgium ($212M) and the U.S. ($147M) constituted the countries with the highest levels of purchases in 2020, together comprising 51% of global imports.

The average iodine, fluorine and bromine import price stood at $9,252 per tonne in 2020, increasing by 4.4% against the previous year. The most notable increase in prices was attained by the U.S., while the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth during 2020.

Top Largest Suppliers of Iodine, Fluorine and Bromine

In 2020, Israel (62K tonnes) was the leading exporter of iodine, fluorine and bromine, committing 43% of total exports. It was distantly followed by Jordan (23K tonnes), Chile (20K tonnes), Belgium (14K tonnes), Japan (7.8K tonnes), the U.S. (7.5K tonnes) and India (6.9K tonnes), together comprising a 54% share of global supplies.

In value terms, Chile ($659M) remains the most significant supplier worldwide, comprising 44% of total exports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Israel ($222M), with a 15% share of global supplies. It was followed by Belgium, with a 13% share.

Source: IndexBox Platform


Fintech Market to Reach $324 billion in 2026

U+ today released “The State of Fintech 2022,” a report that analyzes disruptive fintech trends and industry projections including banking, payments and insurance. The report outlines how and why investors have poured $91.5 billion into fintech firms in 2021, nearly doubling the previous year’s figure. As a result, analysts predict the fintech market to reach $324 billion by 2026.

“The growth and investment in fintech points to closer collaboration between startups and incumbents, as well as regulators, investors and even consumers, as the industry searches for cost reductions, client-friendly experiences and technology upgrades,” said U+ Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jan Beránek. “Since technology use has redefined the financial services industry, incumbents and challengers are competing to acquire and analyze customer data. In an attempt to secure brand loyalty, developing client-friendly experiences is a key focus.”

With convenience and enhanced customer experiences at the top of the priority list in fintech, the U+ report also reveals a demand for software engineers to help businesses keep up with the fast-paced tech initiatives.

Innovative banking solutions have arrived in a major way, with about 30% of all global banking customers using at least one non-traditional financial service. With more than 26,000 fintech companies worldwide, now is the time for all financial service providers to secure their place within this sector, even if it means collaborating with innovative partners to lead the industry using big data and artificial intelligence, for example.

U+ also selected the Top Fintech Innovators after extensive market research, leveraging databases including CB Insights and Crunchbase. Market share, along with the amount and date of funds raised, were also considered as selection criteria.


How Executives Can Increase Their Company’s Financial Efficiency

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, opportunities for logistic companies expand. While this is good news, it also means competition within the industry is rising. If supply chain businesses want to stand out from competitors, they must increase their financial efficiency.

Many investors and potential business partners use financial efficiency metrics to determine a company’s economic health. Consequently, financially inefficient businesses may miss out on valuable strategic opportunities. Partnerships and investment aside, an efficient company is a more successful one.

Here are seven ways executives can increase their company’s financial efficiency to attain these benefits.

Automate Back-Office Tasks

Most businesses have repetitive, manual tasks that take time away from more valuable work. According to one study, more than 40% of workers spend at least 25% of their time on these tasks. Since these inefficiencies are so common and so impactful, automation can bring considerable rewards.

Many of these inefficiencies are in back-office operations like data entry, scheduling, and approvals. These tasks are also easily automatable through robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. By implementing these tools, companies can free their employees to focus on other, more important work, accomplishing these goals sooner.

RPA is also often faster than humans at these repetitive tasks. As a result, companies will improve the efficiency of these back-office processes as well as the more valuable manual operations.

Increase Fleet Visibility

Another common source of financial inefficiency in logistics companies is a lack of visibility. Fleet operations are prone to disruption, and when businesses can’t predict or see them as they unfold, these disruptions can have far-reaching consequences. In contrast, increasing visibility can help respond to developing situations faster, minimizing delays and costs.

Many companies now track fleets with GPS systems, but businesses can go further, too. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can monitor and communicate data like location, driving patterns, maintenance info, and product quality in real-time. With this timely information, fleet managers can see issues as they arise, leading to quicker, more effective responses.

Faster reactions lead to better customer service, less disruption, and sometimes avoiding serious delays entirely. Businesses’ financial efficiency will rise as a result.

Address Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable turnover is one of the most popular metrics for financial efficiency, so businesses should strive to collect debts as quickly as possible. In the delay-heavy and prone-to-disruption world of logistics, that can be complicated. However, a few options can help.

One way to improve this ratio is to provide multiple payment methods for clients. This allows customers to use whatever best suits their needs, leading to quicker reactions from them. Similarly, payments will be faster when customers can use a process they’re already familiar with.

Another way to improve accounts receivable turnover ratios is to employ automation. Automated billing, reminders, and processing services are abundant today and can streamline the process for both companies and their clients. Employing these solutions while providing multiple payment methods will ensure businesses collect outstanding payments as quickly as possible.

Refinance or Consolidate Outstanding Debts

Outstanding debts are another common obstacle to financial efficiency. Having debts is normal for a business, but that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t continuously reevaluate their loans. Periodically addressing these to see if there’s a way to refinance or consolidate them can help cultivate financial agility.

Many logistics companies may have outstanding vehicle loans, for example. These ongoing payments can easily fade into the background, but refinancing them can save $150 per vehicle per month in some cases. That seemingly small change frees up extra monthly revenue that companies can then put towards something else.

Alternatively, some companies may want to consolidate some of their debts. Doing so can make it easier to manage them and lower interest rates. Businesses may then be able to pay them off sooner.

Improve Cross-Department Communication

One aspect of the business that may fly under the company’s radar is communication between departments. When things get lost in translation moving between teams, it can lead to mistakes or take more time to achieve the desired goal. These mistakes and delays hinder financial efficiency, so improving communication can increase it.

Communication barriers cost $62.4 million annually in lost productivity on average. Consequently, companies should strive to remove barriers to effective collaboration, especially between different departments. Using collaborative software, holding frequent meetings, using instant messaging apps, and similar steps can do that.

When teams can communicate efficiently, confusion-related errors will decrease. Similarly, cross-department projects will have shorter completion times thanks to easier collaboration.

Reorganize Inventory

Inventory turnover is another aspect of financial efficiency to address. The longer items sit in warehouses or distribution centers, the less agile a company is. While logistics businesses may not be directly involved in the sales side of this issue, they can take steps to improve inventory inefficiencies.

Like fleets themselves, most inefficiencies in this area come from a lack of visibility. When organizations don’t know exactly where every item is at all times, it can take time to retrieve the correct one. Similarly, this lack of transparency can lead to confusion and errors that require correction down the road, leading to delays.

According to one survey, 34% of businesses have shipped items late because they sold out-of-stock items. Warehouse management systems, IoT tracking, and RFID tags can all help keep better track of inventory levels, avoiding mistakes like this. Logistics businesses can then pass these benefits along to their partners, creating positive ripple effects.

Train Employees More Thoroughly

One risk factor that can affect financial efficiency in any department in any business is human error. Even small mistakes can lead to considerable disruptions over time as more employees make them. Many may suggest automation as an answer, but that isn’t applicable in every circumstance and isn’t always necessary.

The solution to this problem is to put more emphasis on employee training. Organizations should look for common mistakes and, as trends emerge, emphasize these points in training. Periodic refresher courses over high-value or complicated processes can help too.

When workers better understand how to perform their jobs correctly, they’ll also work faster. More thorough training will boost confidence, leading to less second-guessing and higher efficiency.

Financial Efficiency Is Critical for Any Logistics Business

As the logistics market grows increasingly crowded, businesses must improve their financial efficiency to stay competitive. Higher efficiency will lower operating costs, attract investors, and open new strategic opportunities. These seven steps can help any business increase its financial efficiency. Companies can then become as agile and profitable as possible.


Accepting Gas as Sustainable Will Hurt Korea’s Green Finance Credentials

After six months of resisting industry calls to add liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its green taxonomy, the South Korean government this week finally succumbed to gas lobbyists. 

This is surprising as, only 2 weeks ago, President Moon Jae-in made a well-received, new emissions pledge—cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40% by 2030.

The obvious dichotomy here is that recognizing gas and LNG as an environmentally sustainable “transition” fuel will likely lock South Korea into a high-emitting future, which directly contradicts the policy and market incentives created by President Moon’s new emissions reduction targets.

Released last week, the draft green taxonomy, known locally as the K-Taxonomy, prescribes an end-use emission technical screening criteria of 320g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt-hour (kWh). A life-cycle emission standard is also expected, but it will only apply from 2025.

This means that new unabated LNG-power projects, of which around 10 gigawatts are expected to flood South Korea’s energy market by 2025, would qualify for green bond and loan financing if the draft K-Taxonomy is finalized without changes.

Emissions-wary ESG investors should be on alert

South Korean green debt amounted to US$42.8 billion on 30 September 2021, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A third of it, around US$14.22 billion, funded power and energy companies.

If the current draft of the K-Taxonomy proceeds as is, ESG investors may find themselves inadvertently backing gas.

Gas is a fossil fuel that contributes carbon and methane to the atmosphere through its combustion, with lifecycle emissions that are dangerous and significant. Moreover, methane from gas has a warming effect up to 80 or 90 times more powerful than carbon over a 20-year period, making gas worse for the climate than coal in the short term.

The tension around the limited role for gas in energy transition is evident in the taxonomy work playing out in all global markets.

After much controversy, the European Union (EU) accepted gas-powered generation as a ‘transitional’ asset class under its Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, provided that a project’s lifecycle carbon emissions are limited to 100g CO2 per kWh.

At this specification, gas-powered projects in the EU will likely require the use of carbon capture technology (CCS), which is yet to be proven economically or technically viable at scale anywhere in the world. Under these conditions, gas is unlikely to be funded in the short to medium, or even the long term, under the EU’s taxonomy.

The K-Taxonomy is expected to be finalized by the end of 2021, and with its current draft not consistent with the gold-standard EU Taxonomy, investors are right to be wary.

The Moon administration risks missing out on new pools of global capital

With the inclusion of gas in the K-Taxonomy, Korean policymakers have effectively signaled they aren’t up to the task of leading market development with a green taxonomy.

Instead, they are showing a preference for remaining in lock-step with emerging market Southeast Asian counterparts who have flagged their intention to recognize gas-powered generation as “green”.

This puts South Korea at risk of deterring serious ESG investors who typically prefer “dark green” assets—solar, wind and geothermal for example.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) inaugural sovereign green bond issued in September 2021 demonstrated that risk when it provided a mixed portfolio of green and controversial assets like “blue hydrogen”, which uses methane gas in its production. Several leading debt investors immediately expressed criticism over the sovereign’s opportunistic ‘green’ bond and avoided it entirely.

China is working with the EU to harmonize their respective taxonomies

By contrast, China—the largest green debt market in the region—took a different and much more strategic approach, learning from market trends and adapting.

Its first green taxonomy in 2015 categorized “clean coal” as a green project that qualified for the issuance of green bonds, drawing widespread criticism, particularly from foreign investors.

Recognizing the significance of a truly green taxonomy, in mid-2021, China removed fossil fuel-related projects and the new Green Bond Endorsed Project Catalogue—its equivalent green taxonomy—now excludes gas, LNG and coal-fired power activities.

Like South Korea, China relies on burning fossil fuels to power the country. However, President Xi Jinping’s pledge to accelerate the country’s transformation to a green and low carbon economy, and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, has opened the door to a much more strategic view on how China’s green finance market should develop, and which technologies should be incentivized.

China is also working with the EU to harmonize their respective taxonomies by the end of 2021. This is a positive initiative between jurisdictions in response to investor requests for a common standard on green or sustainable projects. The move also indicates that the Asian giant is ready to compete for global green capital.

China understands that ESG-focussed investors have become more forensic in their research and decision-making on what the different taxonomies recognize.

More notably, China’s mindset for justifying green energy activities appears to be unfazed, at least for now, by its need to finance new coal and gas-related projects, said to be required to see them through the energy transition phase—reasoning that its Asian counterparts, including South Korea, have defended and used to classify their own gas-powered projects as green.

But fossil fuel projects have a long history of being successfully financed. The existence of a green or sustainable finance taxonomy does not prevent assets or projects that the taxonomy excludes from being funded through conventional sources of finance. As in the past, fossil fuel power projects will continue to raise funds through traditional non-labeled debt market instruments.

Investors want green taxonomies

Meanwhile, investors around the world are urging governments to step up and commit to clear, strong and investable policies that will unlock the capital needed to transition to a net-zero economy.

Despite its now hollow new emissions pledge, the Moon administration appears unprepared to rise to the occasion. It risks missing out on new pools of global capital if it does not get the policy settings right, and instead chooses to pander to the fossil fuel industry.


Christina Ng is a Research and Stakeholder Engagement Leader – Fixed Income, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

digital currencies

Central Banks to Adopt Their Own Digital Currencies to Eliminate Potential Risks

Digital currencies backed by central banks, or central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), are becoming a reality for residents in a few countries around the world. The evolution from checks, to debit cards, and now to digital payments give cause to wonder if we really need cash anymore. While economists agree that we still need cash for now, some governments are discussing the effects of implementing a CBDC nationally. 

However, not everyone is as interested in the prospect of implementing a nationwide digital currency. Commercial lending and banking would be affected, as the widespread use of CBDCs could take a bite out of commercial deposits and put the industry’s funding in jeopardy. But with China currently developing a digital Yuan, that leaves government and supply chain leaders wondering about the potential trade risks of not competing in the global economy with CBDCs. 

Luckily, lawmakers have come up with a slew of solutions that include strict regulations and controls, hard limits on transfers and holdings, and a long-term transition period before the new digital assets could be launched in full effect. In the meantime, central bankers in the US are contemplating adopting their own digital tokens for instant, low friction international transactions. 

What is Central Bank Digital Currency?

A CBDC is the virtual form of a certain fiat currency. You can think of it as an electronic record or a digital token of how currency is spent, held, and moved. CBDCs are issued and regulated by central banks and backed by the credit of their issuer. They aren’t really a new kind of money, it just changes the way we track transactions. 

While seemingly very similar at first glance, CBDCs are not cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that are secured by cryptography and exist on decentralized blockchain networks. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not backed by any government or banking entity and are purely digital currencies. CBDCs, in contrast, are backed by legal tender and are only a digital representation of fiat money.

Part of the draw to create CBDCs is inspired by their crypto-cousins’ distributed ledger technology. DLT, or blockchain technology, refers to the digital infrastructure and protocols that allow access, validation, and continuity across a vast network. This means that, in contrast to fiat currency that exists today, digital currencies can be tracked and verified in real-time, limiting the risk of theft and fraud. 

Blockchain technology is usually associated with cryptocurrency, but it has the potential for numerous applications that could help governments organizations and banking entities run more smoothly with accountability and transparency. Another reason why countries are drawn to CBDCs is they have the ability to help increase banking access for otherwise underbanked populations. 

Currently, there are 81 countries exploring CBDCs. China is racing ahead of the pack with their development of the digital Yuan, putting pressure on countries that will want to remain competitive. It raises the question of whether China will at some point accept only digital currency, meaning other countries would need their own CBDCs to remain competitive on a global scale. 

China’s digital Yuan

China has long been known to resist cryptocurrencies and crypto trading, so when the news broke that their central bank has been developing a CBDC there was some confusion. However, it has now become clear that the Chinese government is creating an environment where citizens who want to use digital currencies like crypto will have to use the digital Yuan, removing any competition from DeFi banking initiatives. 

Before their crackdown on Bitcoin and crypto, local investors made up 80% of the crypto trading market. This shows promise when it comes to the adoption of the digital Yuan, with so many Chinese citizens open to adopting and spending digital currency. 

They have already started real-world trials in a number of cities and are expecting the digital Yuan to increase competition in China’s mobile payments market. It is still not entirely clear how users will hold and spend the new digital Yuan whenever it is available nationwide. Right now the most popular form of mobile payment in the country relies on QR codes scanned by merchants. 

Alipay and WeChat Pay could eventually integrate CBDC functionality, and smartphones could also potentially be used as a digital wallet for CBDCs. There is still a lot to be discussed, tested, and fixed before the digital Yuan can be distributed nationwide, but China is currently the country closest to rolling out its own CBDC. 

Where does the United States stand?

Crypto thefts, hacks, and frauds amounted to about $1.9 billion in 2020, so many leaders have reservations when it comes to enforcing and regulating CBDCs in the US. But there is evidence that CBDCs would have no issues being adopted by the American people. Crypto aside, the digital payments sector is booming with about 75% of Americans already using digital payments apps and services. 

But there is not yet a single widely accepted infrastructure available that could handle CBDCs, and lawmakers are lagging behind when it comes to regulations for fintechs as it is. The US could take a page from China’s book and explore adding CBDC functionality to existing banking fintechs like Chime, Paypal, and ApplePay. According to online trader Gary Stevens from Hosting Canada, it would also be wise to look at banks that offer trading services as well. 

In the US, banks offering online trading services (such as Merrill Edge through Bank of America) tend to provide a seamless client experience,” says Stevens. “They strive to provide a consistent login interface between the bank and its brokerage arm, making switching between these platforms easier. This also makes other tasks like moving money between these accounts more flexible. Therefore, US residents have come to expect a more integrated, holistic experience with similar core functionality.”

The Future of CBDCs

The onset of the pandemic has created the perfect storm for CBDCs to come to fruition. Telework, online education, and streaming services have experienced growth while brick-and-mortar establishments have suffered. The same is true for the financial services industry. Banks have struggled to compete with fintech solutions, and more people are utilizing digital payments than ever before. 

Since CBDCs are such a new technology, there is still much to learn when it comes to implementing CBDCs nationwide and around the globe. Offline accessibility and resilience are only a couple of concerns regarding digital currency adoption worldwide. Other issues include user privacy, using private and public blockchain networks, and how digital currencies will be exchanged on a global scale. Only time will tell how central banks choose to seriously pursue this route to make it more mainstream. 


There are a lot of details still up in the air regarding CBDCs, as well as a considerable amount of research, testing, and development left to unfold. But one thing is clear: central bank digital currencies are already under development. Whether you are getting into online trading or just like the convenience of e-payments, they might be coming to a digital wallet near you sooner than you think. 


Pandemic Raises Stakes for Success of the SDGs – with Private Sector Crucial

In this Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we hear much about how organizations, countries and individuals are stepping up their efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Despite this, the reality is that the pace of action has not been quick enough and we are already far behind on delivering the Global Goals.

The countless tragic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic bring an added layer of urgency. Yet, true to human nature, the focus has already shifted to how as a global community we can forge a new way ahead – with the ‘build back better’ mantra being highly relevant from the perspective of progress on the SDGs.

Against this backdrop and with Global Goals Week underway, GRI has analyzed the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) presented by countries at this year’s UN High-level Political Forum. Every year since 2016, GRI has reviewed how member states are involving the private sector in the implementation of the SDGs, in particular, to assess progress on SDG 12.6to encourages companies to adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability reporting. With each year seeing a different set of countries submit their VNRs, the analysis varies in terms of the sample of political systems, economies, and geographical representation, providing insights over time to global trends.


Mixed messages on private sector engagement

In total, 42 countries carried out VNRs in 2021. Countries with informal, less regulated economies tended to find that they were facing challenges with tracking SDG progress, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Overall, 86% of the analyzed reports recognized the need for private sector investment, which is more than double the level reached in 2020, perhaps triggered by COVID-19, and 85% refer to the contributions of the private sector to the SDGs. Yet less encouragingly, the number of countries consulting the private sector as part of the VNR has fallen to the lowest level since 2016, at 76% (down from 87% in last year).

There are though positive signs of governments and the private sector collaborating more for the SDGs, with 83% referencing public-private partnerships (compared to 54% in 2020). This aligns well with the building back together notion, something GRI discussed at length during our HLPF event – The key role of innovative partnerships and transparency for the SDGs – which we co-hosted with Enel and UNDP Business Call to Action.

Improving alignment of SDG priorities

What our findings show is that there is a clear understanding of the important role the private sector plays in achieving the 2030 Agenda. However, it is not enough that only three-in-four countries engage the private sector in the VNR process. If we are to deliver on the SDGs, we need open collaboration that gets all parties on board – from analyzing the issues, to defining the solutions, to implementation and reporting on the progress.

Government and business interests are naturally not always fully aligned. The role of the private sector for SDG 4 – Quality Education, SDG 5 – Gender Equality and SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, was most often mentioned in VNRs. Yet, as revealed in the 2020 KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting, the most prioritized SDGs by the private sector are SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 13 – Climate Action and SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption & Production. What this indicates is that there can be a disconnect between SDGs priorities and ownership, illustrating how important it is for all stakeholders to engage and align, in order to achieve impact and progress.

Examples to learn from

We see a number of innovative digital initiatives in this space, as identified through the VNRs, that can serve as inspiration for others. For example, the success of the SDG Corporate Tracker in Colombia, a platform now used by 480 businesses in the country that is standardizing SDG-related data collection on the role of the private sector. The Initiative 2030 platform, meanwhile, which is aligned with the GRI Standards, makes it easier for companies to assess how they are contributing to the SDGs, driving SDGs participation within Cypriot society through the involvement of all stakeholders.

Simultaneously, the analysis found new or increased regulations for disclosure of non-financial information – as adopted in Indonesia and Sweden, as well as stock exchanges in Malaysia, Thailand, and Zimbabwe – which is driving an increase in private sector sustainability reporting.

Emerging significance of tax transparency

As a new element of the analysis, in 2021 we saw 29% of VNRs reference corporate taxation and tax reporting. Strong and effective tax systems are necessary to generate the resources needed to meet the SDGs and promote inclusive economic growth yet, as discussed in the opening episode of our new podcast series SDGs: The Rising Tide, it remains a significant challenge.

A fair taxation system is key to achieving the 2030 agenda, and we look forward to tracking the progress on how this will be reflected in VNRs in the coming years. GRI 207: Tax 2019 – the first and only global standard for comprehensive tax reporting at the country-by-country level – will play an important role in facilitating the regional and global conversations on fair tax policies. After all, ensuring finance for sustainable development is a cornerstone for fulfilling the SDGs.

Stepping up the momentum

Through the 2030 Agenda, world leaders have called on businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges. Yet we also need businesses to be transparent in how they maximize their positive impact on the SDGs. That is why governments must ensure they are bringing companies, and other stakeholders, into the operations room when it comes to developing and implementing their SDGs plans as well as reviewing progress.

Looking ahead, GRI will follow with keen interest the role played by the COVID-19 response in the next VNRs. Will recognition of sustainability challenges see the number of reports by countries – and engagement of the private sector – increase? And will we, years from now, be able to say that the pandemic instigated greater action and collaboration in support of the SDGs? On both these counts, there are opportunities within the adversity that can and must be seized.

When you view the SDGs as the roadmap to a better world – one without poverty or hunger, with gender equality achieved, fair economic growth and the environment protected – participation in their success should not be a hard sell for anyone, be it governments, business or citizens alike. Inclusion and partnerships, at all levels, will be the key to their successful fulfillment. Let’s stay positive that together we can reach that sustainable future.



Tina Nybo Jensen is International Policy Manager at GRI. She leads on the development, management and implementation of GRI’s Sustainable Development Program, with a special focus on the SDGs and engagement with multilateral organizations. She joined GRI in 2014 and has previously worked with the GRI Community, report services and governance relations.

Prior to GRI, Tina worked for the Danish Red Cross Youth in Jordan and the Westbank, and at the Danish Embassy in Thailand. She holds Master’s Degrees in Development & International Relations (Aalborg University, Denmark), and Political Science with Specialisation in Environmental Governance & International Relations (Vrije University Amsterdam, the Netherlands).


Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing the global common language to report those impacts. The GRI Standards are developed through a multi-stakeholder process and provided as a free public good.


Smart Cities of the Future Rely on Innovation, Critical Discussions

In the Chinese city of Hangzhou, an AI-based smart technology called “City Brain” has helped reduce traffic jams by 15%. During the pandemic, New York City analyzed data related to spending pattern changes in specific neighborhoods to better allocate aid disbursement and investment priorities. And San Diego was lauded for approaching city-building with a “citizen-centric focus”, thanks in part to its use of mobile apps, and expansion of open data, along with its Get It Done citizen reporting tool.


Smart cities are sprouting up around the globe at an increasing rate, and they are quickly becoming model frameworks for future-ready urban centers seeking to level up how they collect and parse citizen data. What they all have in common is how they invest resources and time into developing city-centric solutions to address the wide swath of city challenges: waste and water management, public safety, transportation, air quality monitoring, traffic and parking, public works, municipal Wi-Fi, and more.

What the future of cities relies on, especially as they all recover from a devastating pandemic, is the innovation brimming across hundreds of projects built to answer a critical question: how can we leverage the data from smart city technologies to digitally empower cities to adapt and thrive?

When cities smarten up, everyone wins

For cities considering the pros and cons of adopting new technologies, it’s hard to argue with the data: By 2025, cities that deploy smart-mobility applications have the potential to cut commuting times by 20% on average, with some people enjoying even larger reductions, a McKinsey report found.

Take the sprinkler your neighbors automatically ran this weekend after it rained. If cities deployed sensors and analytics to water consumption patterns, which pairs advanced metering with digital feedback messages, it can urge people toward conservation and reduce consumption by 25% in cities where residential water usage is high. While currently, much of this IoT technology and data is owned by the private sector, it’s critical to bridge this gap in order to help the public better understand their behaviors and impact through data. Additionally, access to this data will enable cities to make better decisions about public resources and amenities.

The more data a city can collect about its citizens’ habits, the more sense they can make of which resources can be allocated where. And it can save lives, too. In Nevada cities, Waycare’s predictive AI delivers an 18% reduction in primary crashes and a 43% reduction in the percentage of speeding drivers along key corridors.

Some cities haven’t caught up to the shining examples of layering data collection and real-time analysis in urban centers. More often than not, they are encumbered by bureaucratic and outdated approaches to data collection.

There’s a disconnect between the municipalities and corporations that may have IoT data and the stakeholders, including those same cities and private developers who could benefit from it, too. Same-old strategies on data gathering, such as physical surveys and endless meetings to pick at each process, should be phased out, and allow for an intermediary to help finesse the conversation between those three pillars of city development.

Also, cities have to address the unease some people may feel about surveillance technology, for example. In China, where that tech has long been the norm, they’re even anxious about how their data will be used by their government: According to a recent survey by tech firm Tencent and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, nearly 80% of respondents said they worried about the impact of artificial intelligence on their privacy.

Pandemic’s curveball could end up being a home run

If there’s any hand wringing over the state of cities due to the havoc wrought by the pandemic, urban theorist Richard Florida offers some comforting words: “Cities have been the epicenters of infectious disease since the time of Gilgamesh, and they have always bounced back—often stronger than before.”

Some insiders believe that as much as the pandemic crippled supply chains and shut down business sectors across communities, it brought a few silver linings. Data collection strategies accelerated immensely, whether from health care departments or government agencies. The continuing trend of leveraging Internet of Things devices, which connect to each other quickly and remotely, also gave rise to intriguing pairings.

At the state and infrastructure levels, AI and machine learning will likely be matched with IoT for even closer social monitoring as pandemic warning and control systems are established, notes a report from research firm MSCI.

As broadband use skyrocketed during a year of work-from-home policies, rollouts of 5G networks continued at a brisk space, and even picked up in areas that needed high-quality connectivity as soon as possible. Building that underlying network is fundamental to enable seamless adoption of technologies at the heart of smart cities of the future.

Going forward, city planners and developers will work with datasets from businesses who layer various granular data on heat maps via an analytics platform. Understanding the correlation between income levels and access to certain retail, like grocery stores, or access to transit and parks where a neighborhood’s density is rapidly increasing, may be opportunities for cities to identify community needs and work with developers on new projects.

“Six key groups of people should be at the table to discuss where smart cities go from here,” says Chelsea Collier, founder of Digi.City, a consultant specializing in smart city technology.

Those groups should be:

-Government bodies, from local to federal

-Educational institutions, from kindergarten to post-secondary

-Startup entrepreneurs to bring subject matter expertise to the discussion

-Artists and creative who can fuel projects with outside-the-box solutions

-Social sectors such as nonprofits and advocacy groups

-and communities and their citizens

“When everyone listens to each other’s perspective, it’s more useful than just working towards someone’s agenda,” adds Collier.

The smarter the city, the more it’s open to how various sectors, private and public, can drive innovation and growth forward. The future of cities will be written by those players who look beyond their own personal missions and instead cast a wide net to strengthen neighborhoods adapting to a strange post-pandemic era fraught with challenges.


Sara Maffey is the head of industry relations at Local Logic, a location intelligence platform that digitizes the build world for consumers, investors, developers and governments. Local Logic delivers an unrivaled clarity and actionable insights capable of creating more sustainable and equitable cities.


Crucial Things You Need to Know About ICO in Crypto

ICO is an acronym that needs to be known by anyone who wants to venture into the crypto world. This stands for Initial Coin Offering, and it is the most common way in which cryptocurrencies are created. Most of the cryptocurrencies that are making rounds and being traded today started as ICOs. The inception of an ICO for any cryptocurrency begins with just an idea by an individual or group of people who intend to build a token or coin. A token or coin could represent a lot of things. This could range from an asset, unit of value, or even utility that goes onto a blockchain. The brains behind this token or coin can then proceed to create an ICO. It is important that every ICO owner properly outlines the coin’s purpose and offers precise information to convince their target market that it will succeed and has prospects of being very useful.


In a situation where this goes as planned and works out as it should, that is the point where the general public can decide if they think the project has potential and is worth investing in. In this case, anyone may purchase the project’s first utility token. By purchasing these tokens, they participate in the project at hand and acquire a piece of ownership. An ICO must have a fundraising target to begin the project, and once that target has been reached, the project may begin. People who purchase these tokens have hopes that the coin will experience growth and eventually be worth more in the future when the project actually begins.

What Do I Need To Know About ICOs?

Considering what is stated above, you can understand the meaning of ICOs and their vital role in cryptocurrencies. The information helps answer the very common question, what is an ICO in crypto? We could say beyond reasonable doubt that creating ICOs seems like a great system to raise capital for certain upcoming projects. However, many ICOs have grown to have a bad reputation due to previous scams and technical issues. Furthermore, it is undeniable that some ICOs have been enormously successful, but it is also important to recognize the signs of a risky project. A couple of things that should be considered and properly looked into include:

White Paper

This is the first step that anyone researching an ICO is to carry out. A vague or poorly written and improperly planned white paper may be the clearest sign that the project is not fully looked into, lacks proper planning, and has the potentials of crashing. Therefore, it is extremely important to investigate the team and any business partnerships.

An experienced team will have a stronger chance of navigating the challenges of a competitive business environment. It is essential to thoroughly read and analyze and assimilate the white paper of a prospective investment because this document outlines the aims and strategies of that project and all it entails in detail. Some projects might have stratospheric ideas but are void of a practical approach for achieving those goals. Others may lack crucial details that leave you wondering whether the project is truly feasible or it is the sham that it looks like.

Although a good white paper is not a guarantee that the ICO will be a success, an incomplete, hastily written, problematic, and improperly planned one can be a sign of trouble to come. Glaring issues with spelling, formatting, or grammar can also be considered red flags. Conversely, if you’re preparing a white paper for your own ICO, it is important to expect investors to pore over every detail.

Evaluate The Quality Of The Code

It is a major red flag if a project has no working code before an ICO, or even if they do, it isn’t open source. If you are privileged to have even a little bit of programming experience and have the ability to read a code, you should do so when evaluating an ICO. You can understand a lot about a project and its developers by properly studying and analyzing their code.

Learn From VC-investors

Many venture capital investors make their living on investments, which gives them the right to be the pickiest contributors. They are very careful about examining everything about the project with just one very particular thing in mind: how much profit will this investment result in? Aside from everything involved, there is behavioral science involved here: a consensus in the VC world is that it’s never good for a startup to receive too much money very quickly, as they will be compelled to spend the funds just because they’re available.

Everyone has the right to launch an ICO due to its ease and lack of regulation in most countries. This means that as long as you can get the tech set up, you are totally free to try and get your currency funded by people who are interested in your plan because they dim it feasible. Since there is no proper regulation, it simply means there is nothing stopping anyone from doing all the work to make you believe they have a great idea and then end up absconding with the money without actually implementing the plan.

Before investing your money, you should ensure that you do proper research and take your homework seriously because ICOs are barely regulated. Therefore, you need to be way more careful than you would be when investing in an IPO. Read the white paper properly,  research the team members, and make sure they have a history in cryptocurrency.


Meet the New SPAC Circus Ringleader: The PIPE Investor

Since late 2019, when the special purpose acquisition corporation, or SPAC, returned to the public markets with a new twist, a circus of activity has breathed new life into the markets for privately-held emerging growth companies, forcing open a large window for public exits not seen in decades. In this “SPAC 2.0 boom,” sponsors of SPAC vehicles first raised large pools of blind capital in the public markets and then struck deals to buy emerging growth companies for ~10x the cash raised plus rollover equity and a second pile of cash in the form of a PIPE.

What is a PIPE, and why is it used for a de-SPAC merger?

“PIPE” stands for “private investment in a public entity,” often priced at a discount or containing a “sweetener” for the PIPE investor to make a more significant commitment than it would otherwise in the public market. The PIPE fundraising process happens after an LOI for a de-SPAC is signed, but before a definitive merger agreement, and is signed and announced concurrently with the latter. Then the SPAC and the target work together to prepare a joint registration statement and proxy filing on Form S-4 and seek SPAC stockholder approval, which requires the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to review and clear the de-SPAC transaction. Once the de-SPAC merger closes, the company files a resale registration statement to register the shares of common stock and warrants underlying the PIPE.

PIPE investors include investment funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, private equity funds, growth equity funds, and other accredited large institutional and qualified institutional buyers of publicly traded stock. The PIPE is well suited to complement the SPAC in a de-SPAC merger because of the speed of execution and because it does not require advance SEC review and approval.

SPACs have tapped PIPEs to bring in additional capital in a shorter amount of time to close de-SPAC mergers. Because of the nature of the SPAC process, there is often uncertainty surrounding the amount of cash that will be on hand following the merger. When combined with the SPAC proceeds in trust, the funds from the PIPE work together to provide liquidity for sellers and post-closing capital for the business to grow.

To be clear, in SPAC 2.0, the enterprise value of the target is so many multiples of the SPAC proceeds in trust that a PIPE has become ubiquitous to bridge the value gap. The Morgan Stanley data showed that on average, PIPE capital almost tripled the purchasing power of the SPAC, and for every $100 million raised through a SPAC, adding a PIPE added another $167 million.

Raising funds via a PIPE deal is comparable in some ways to an IPO roadshow in that there is a pitch to potential investors. However, PIPE deals are only open to accredited individual investors, and the share price is determined by reference to the de-SPAC merger valuation. When looking for PIPE investors in SPACs, targets look for high-profile names whose investment at a specified helps to validate the deal. This investment by well-respected investors can help to mitigate some of the risks that come with SPACs.

While PIPE deals are seen as an attractive option partly because they avoid many SEC regulations, all the attention SPACs have received, and their incredible spike in popularity has drawn the attention of regulators. This could mean additional regulations are on the horizon for both SPACs and PIPEs. But for now, these two continue to be an attractive combination for those looking to bypass the traditional IPO process.

What is SPAC 2.0 and why is the PIPE investor the ringleader?

SPAC 2.0 was essentially the cash in the SPAC vehicle combined with a new private fundraiser in the form of a PIPE merged into a privately-held emerging growth company. The resulting party for SPAC IPOs, de-SPAC transactions, and even traditional initial public offerings, or IPOs, continued through the end of the first quarter of 2021, with hardly even a little intermission for the first COVID lockdown. According to data compiled by Morgan Stanley, in 2020, PIPEs generated $12.4 billion in additional funding for 46 SPAC mergers.

The SPAC 2.0 structure had something for everyone:

-the emerging growth company got a public exit without having to go through a traditional IPO

-the emerging growth company stockholders got a snap spot-valuation based on three-year out financial projections not available in conventional IPOs

-the emerging growth company got a public acquisition currency in the form of listed stock, validation in the public markets via the stock exchange listing, and cash to the balance sheet to power growth

-stockholders in the emerging growth company could negotiate for some amount of immediate liquidity

-stockholders in the emerging growth company got long-term liquidity via the public trading market

-SPAC stockholders and PIPE investors got access to emerging growth companies that weren’t otherwise going public

-SPAC sponsors made their “carry” in the form of 20% of the equity in the SPAC (pre-dilution) plus warrants in some cases and a path to liquidity with a short lock-up period

-SPAC sponsors could rent out their names, network, and prestige and get a quick exit

While in SPAC 1.0, the SPAC sponsors would take over the target and operate it like a private equity buyout fund for long-term capital growth, in SPAC 2.0, the SPAC sponsors are like bankers, raising capital and then handing over the keys to management of the emerging growth company in exchange for a commission.

But the lights went out for the SPAC party in April 2021 when President Biden appointed a new chair to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. Upon taking office, new SEC Chair Gary Gensler effectively closed the market for SPACs by announcing a compliance review, putting long-standing SEC policy and rule interpretations in doubt. Transaction participants reported that SEC staffers reviewing their pending transactions started asking questions, requesting changes, and appeared in no hurry to clear pending “de-SPAC” deals.

The market for new issues froze up, and the demand for de-SPAC transactions ground to a halt. The trading index for recently “de-SPAC’ed” public companies dropped double-digit percentage points.  Investors started to lick their wounds.

When the SEC began clearing SPAC mergers again in early summer 2021, it was not as simple as just turning lights back on and taking its foot off the brakes. That is because PIPE investors, who provide fresh capital to the company that is merging with a public SPAC vehicle (commonly referred to as a “de-SPAC transaction”), have taken their place as the new ringleaders at the SPAC circus. The amount of capital PIPE investors are willing to put into a de-SPAC transaction at a given valuation and what sweeteners have become the deciding factor as to whether a de-SPAC transaction can get done.

PIPE investors no longer accept transaction terms as proposed and have started to make new commitments contingent on adjusted valuations, redemptions of SPAC sponsor promote securities, and better alignment to create better after-market trading conditions. Knowing what PIPE investors want and how much they will pay has become the new ticket to success in the SPAC market. This makes the PIPE investor the new ringleader in the SPAC 3.0 cycle.


Louis Lehot is an emerging growth company, venture capital, and M&A lawyer at Foley & Lardner in Silicon Valley. Louis spends his time providing entrepreneurs, innovative companies, and investors with practical and commercial legal strategies and solutions at all stages of growth, from the garage to global.