The President of Malta

Diskors mill-E.T George Vella, President ta’ Malta, waqt il-Malta Sustainability Forum 2022, (Diskors bl-Ingliż)

Dear Speakers and Participants,

It gives me great satisfaction to once again be asked to address this year’s Malta Sustainability Forum whose overarching theme is Sustain Tomorrow Today.

I am pleased to note that over the years this Forum has gone from strength to strength.

Apart from raising awareness on the subject, it has served as a network, a platform, to support like-minded people who believe in a different interpretation of growth…growth that is sustainable not only in economic terms, but one which should also factor in social, environmental and other parameters of sustainability in our societies.

I find it very remarkable that the need for this three-dimensional sustainable growth model is being promoted by a financial institution, the APS bank, which organizes this event with much effort, energy and enthusiasm.

This Forum has become a much-awaited annual event that is even followed beyond our shores.

Social and environmental well-being have been two major themes which my Presidency has sought to strengthen, even in the context of strengthening national unity.

The origin of the focus on sustainability is often associated with the 1992 Conference on Sustainable Development, the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, which this year we commemorate its 30th anniversary.

Much earlier than this we had the Bruntland Commission reporting on ‘Our Common Future’, in which it was already stated clearly that there were environmental limits to economic growth, and that we had to find a balance between economy and ecology.

At that time, the need for humanity to change its ways to secure the survival of the planet was encapsulated in the buzz-word which we have all learned to use ‘sustainable development’.

In the late 17thcentury, John Locke, an English philosopher and physician, and one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightment, had already warned that we should take what we needed and what we required for our own use, provided there ‘was still enough and as good left’ for others to enjoy. He used different language.

So did our elders. They too, in their popular wisdom, had a notion of the need to respect sustainability. An old Maltese proverb says “Jekk tiehu minghajr ma trodd anki s-swar thott.” which liberally translated would mean : ‘Consuming without replacing would deplete anything’.

Human beings have long realized that the quest for sustainability was in fact an essential life skill for survival and for safeguarding the needs of future generations.

Recently we had economic models proposed to show graphically, statistically and in a measurable way, the planetary boundaries, and the impact of life’s essentials like housing, food, water, healthcare, education, social equity, etc..on the planet’s finite resources.

Such concerns also found their way in Pope Francis’s ‘Laudato Si’ where he reflects on the human roots of the ecological crisis, and how we need an integrated approach to combat poverty, restore dignity, and protect nature, guarding our planet against the insatiable profit motive.

The unanimous adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 by the member States of the United Nations further accentuated the holistic nature of sustainability as an indispensable roadmap for humanity to ensure peace justice and solidarity with present and future generations.

Yet despite widespread acknowledgment and appreciation, sustainability remains elusive.  It has in fact proved rather difficult to measure how and to what extent it can be ascertained.

This is because we are accustomed to balance the books and measure profit in purely economic terms.

Thankfully, there are emerging leading private operators that wish to support the implementation and attainment of the SDGs by governments, by offering a new economic model that guarantees not just a better standard of living but also social justice and environmental well-being. 

To ensure a level playing field, recently there is a lot of debate about an approach referred to as ESGs, namely environmental and social governance criteria, that properly applied could transform once and for all, sustainability from focusing solely upon economic growth. This new holistic approach could hopefully help us achieve more effective management of the impact of investment, business, and corporate operations.

These environmental and social governance criteria are intended to help screen investments, and to monitor and verify that their performance is in synch with the 17 SDGs.

Above all, it is the exchange of experiences, expertise and best practice such as those which this Forum will aim for, that will maintain the momentum for the necessary transition and spur those responsible to action.

Networking in this manner one can share this wealth of knowledge to ensure excellence not only in economic performance of one’s operations but also in ensuring social and environmental justice for all. 

I wish you every success in your deliberations.

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