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Asia Group Advisors (AGA) is a public affairs consultancy established in 2014 that serves clients across Southeast Asia, with environmental sustainability one of its core services. 

For example, between 2014 and 2016, AGA worked on a project with a Jakarta-based think tank, Transformasi, supported by multiple global philanthropies that wanted to escalate the impact of their existing fisheries initiatives at the local level in Indonesia into strong, sustainability policies at the national level.

AGA delivered on this objective, throwing light on a big gap in the existing regulatory framework for fisheries financing: there was no clear guidance for banks to enforce Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) compliance when lending to the fisheries sector. As a result, banks could unknowingly finance destructive practices or overfishing, big factors behind the deteriorating stock and ecosystem health in Indonesia’s fisheries.

AGA shared findings from its study with the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) and recommended policy changes in financing as a strategy to incentivise sustainable industry practices. With buy-in from senior MMAF officials, AGA then worked with Transformasi in the first half of 2015 to design a series of roundtables to highlight the importance of having sustainability criteria applied by banks on loans to fishing companies, as well as the need to develop new policies to support such practices.

Crucially, these revealed that banks did not have a working definition of “sustainable fisheries” and current government initiatives aimed at boosting financing in the fisheries sector did not take sustainability issues into consideration, in stark contrast to the policy frameworks for other key natural resources such as forestry, palm oil and energy.

Based on these findings, AGA, Transformasi and other stakeholders agreed on the need to bring fisheries into Indonesia’s broader discussion on sustainable financing. The timing was opportune as the Indonesia Financial Services Authority (OJK) was in the process of finalising plans for sustainable finance in Indonesia. For its part, the MMAF was keen to increase bank financing in the fisheries sector.

The roundtables successfully elevated fisheries issues within Jakarta’s policy deliberations on sustainable financing. Following the initial TRS roundtable, MMAF officials put sustainable fisheries financing on the agenda of a regional ocean summit held in Indonesia. OJK officials in both public and private forums began advocating the inclusion of new bank lending rules in the government’s broader efforts to reduce destructive fishing practices.

In February 2016, sustainable fisheries was finally included as an explicit target in OJK’s Master Plan for Indonesia’s Financial Services.

The award was accepted by Asia Group Advisors’ Adam Schwarz, pictured above, at the gala Gold Standard Awards reception in Hong Kong

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