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Profit, Planet, People

December 2020

In December 2020, the Silk Road Society published its first report "Profit, Planet, People" on promoting environmental and social sustainability along the Belt and Road Initiative. 

This report focuses on the too-often overlooked human and environmental dimensions of the BRI, examining how stakeholders can deliver on these ambitious commitments across three areas: Environmental Sustainability, Social Equity and Sustainable Trade.

The full report is available below, with a foreword from our Senior Member, Peter Frankopan. 

'Profit, Planet, People': Project themes

Environmental Sustainability

Following China’s recent pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, it is more important than ever to ensure that projects outside China’s borders are being held to the same environmental standards. Our four case studies explore the successes and limitations of environmental sustainability in BRI projects to date:

Hydropower: Ensuring a ‘clean conscience’ in Indonesia’s energy projects.  

Environmental Governance: How behavioural insights can transform environmental compliance.

Preventing pollution havens: The role of Environmental Assessment Systems in Montenegro. 

Solar renewable energy: the bright future of photovoltaic cells

Social Equity

Xi Jinping has made clear commitments to transparency, clean governance and mutual benefit in BRI projects - but does reality on the ground reflect this? Our Social Equity team have been exploring how cultural sensitivity and grassroots engagement are key to genuine social progress:

Sino-Mongolian relations: How China and the West are getting Mongolia wrong. 

Islam: Bargaining chip or breaking point in “The Belt and Road Initiative”?

The digital BRI: How should Iran rebalance its investment priorities?

Image by Kyle  Ryan

Sustainable Trade

“Win-win” rhetoric is at the heart of China’s BRI diplomacy, but our analysts have shown that this requires more than just profit for recipient governments. Truly sustainable trade is not just financial - protecting the environment and strengthening social capital are needed to make BRI projects a true ‘win’ for local communities. 

Angola’s ‘Petroleum Trap’: Can Angola’s reformist president reshape Chinese investment? 

Chile’s Salmon Industry: The case for bilateral environmental regulation 

Kenya’s railways: Is the BRI changing Kenya for the better?