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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are an assessment of the world’s most urgent needs as proclaimed by the United Nations member states. The goals highlight issues that require our attention by 2030. Currently, there is a funding gap of $2.5 trillion which will make it difficult to meet these goals by 2030.
Investing sustainably can improve the likelihood of reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals
First, what are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?
In 2015, every UN Member State adopted the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” as a blueprint for expanding peace and prosperity for people and the planet. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 targets to hit by 2030 are the core of the Agenda. These priorities balance the economic, social, and ecological dimensions of sustainable development.
For the first time ever, these goals are putting the fight against global poverty and the need for sustainable development on the same agenda.
The 17 SDGs in the 2030 plan cover the world’s most pressing issues including improving access to quality education, promoting gender equality, preserving oceans and forests and providing renewable energy solutions.
The UN Member States can do a lot, but the rest of us can help accelerate the pace of these improvements.
Where did the SDGs come from?
The SDGs were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012. The objective of the conference was to produce a set of universal goals to directly address urgent environmental, political, and economic challenges.
The SDGs came out of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which started a “global effort in 2000 to tackle the indignity of poverty.”
According to the UN for 15 years, the MDGs drove progress in numerous issues “reducing income poverty, providing much-needed access to clean water and sanitation, driving down child mortality, and drastically improving global maternal health.”
So what can the SDGs do now?
Since 2012, the SDGs have been gaining traction around the world. Companies (both large and small) are actively aligning their public policies, business models, and supply chains behind the 2030 Agenda.
The UN SDGs have made global priorities clear and helped people work toward these common goals. By clearly stating the goals, it’s given the international community a common language to speak about these issues and a framework to structure their respective sustainability goals.
The goals have also fostered creativity in the business world. Innovative companies are developing new financial instruments, such as the first SDG-linked bond by Italian Gas and Electric giant Enel to start working toward SDGs 7 and 13.
Right now, there’s a major funding gap. The harsh reality is that we are still falling short for the money needed to reach the ESGs by the target date in 2030. To reach the 17 UN SDGs in time the global economy needs to reallocate $2.5 trillion towards achieving these 17 goals.
Additionally, there is some confusion around the best ways to apply them. The UN SDGs are often cited as a great framework but too detailed and cumbersome to implement (let alone understand). There is urgency in achieving the Goals by the UN deadline of 2030 -with good reason: the latest IPCC report on climate change requires climate action by 2030 before global warming is irreversible. Ambitious climate action is needed, and demands we stop waffling over challenges and pick up the pace of change.
In 2019 (4 years after the inception of the SDGs) only 48% of CEOs are implementing sustainability into their operations.
Further, poverty is not being reduced fast enough, global hunger has risen for the 3rd year in a row, and no country is on track to achieve the gender equality goal.
The Silver Lining
There is still a path to achieving the SDGs. Currently, 71% of CEOs believe that—with increased commitment and action—business can play a critical role in contributing to the SDGs.
There is still time to get on track. As investors, we can use our dollars to spur CEOs (and other leaders) into action.
Investing wisely and sustainably can help change the mindsets and behaviors of business leaders and governments.
By showing them how serious we are about changing our patterns of consumption and production (right down to our investment choices) we can start paving the way for more change.
And, most importantly, by investing sustainably, we are starting to direct more capital to companies that are furthering the SDG goals.