The 6th convening of the SDGs Leadership Cities Network was held in a hybrid format in Washington, D.C. on March 2022. The Network is hosted by the Brookings Institution, a US think tank. Since the third meeting held in 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SDGs Leadership Cities Network has been held online, marking this as the first return to face-to-face meeting in two years. Cities or representatives unable to attend this meeting in person were still able to join and participate through video conferencing. Toshikazu Yazawa, Director of the Yokohama Representative Office to the Americas participated on behalf of Yokohama City.
During the meeting, participating cities and experts shared and discussed topics including the following: finding new financing and public-private partnership options for SDG initiatives, raising awareness of the SDGs, maintaining continuity of the SDGs, Donut Economics and its relation to the SDGs, goals towards and beyond 2030, and what the next steps for the SDGs Leadership Cities Network will be. During the meeting the experiences and issues of the participating cities formed the basis of the discussion, and experts were invited to share their knowledge and findings as well.
At the meeting, Brookings Institution and other participating cities discussed efforts to promote the participation of SMEs in the SDGs. Yokohama City introduced the Yokohama City SDGs Certification System “Y-SDGs” in 2020 as an initiative for financing and public-private partnership, allowing SMEs focused on pursuing the SDGs and related improvements to acquire special certification. Focusing on the SDGs leads to quantifiable benefits for small businesses, including a shift to sustainable management and operation, expansion of new customers and business partners, and ESG for investors and financial institutions. Another goal of the system is to introduce and expand financial opportunities for SMEs that are certified through the Y-SDGs system, including in terms of loan procurement, and the inclusion of certification as important non-financial information.
As of December 2021, more than 300 companies have been certified through the Y-SDGs system. While interest in ESG investment is increasing, especially among large companies, more than 99% of businesses in Yokohama are small and medium-sized companies. There is a gap between large companies and SMEs in terms of awareness of SDGs and specific initiatives. The Y-SDGs system is aimed at increasing participation and awareness of the benefits of pursuing the SDGs and ESG investment in the city’s large population of SMEs.
The SDGs Leadership Cities Network seeks to share and discuss common city issues and unique solutions for the SDGs, including examples like the Y-SDGs, with the goal of brainstorming better and collaborative efforts. So far, Yokohama has benefited concretely through participation in the Network, where discussion of the concept of a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) of the SDGs directly led to the city publishing its first VLR in 2021.
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