UN, business leaders to step up action for sustainability

Business leaders joined the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, on Tuesday, to step up delivery of critical investment, for a “sustainable, net zero, resilient and equitable world,” according to a statement.

The Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance, which brings together 30 business giants worth an estimated $16 trillion, met Guterres in New York, and outlined concrete actions for the future. 

Since October 2019, when the Secretary-General convened the GISD Alliance, its CEOs and other top executives have been working with the UN and other partners to develop guidelines and products that align the existing finance and investment ecosystem, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Greater responsibility

Acknowledging the “great responsibility” facing private sector leaders, Guterres said the goals were clear: to “build a sustainable, net zero, resilient, and equitable world, to better align investment with sustainable development, and to act on their commitments, with credible timelines, targets and plans.”

Since its creation, the GISD Alliance has developed standards and tools aimed at moving trillions of dollars to bridge the gap in financing, to realize the UN’s 2030 Agenda. 

The group works through increasing the available supply of long-term investment for sustainable development, realizing SDG investment opportunities in developing countries, and enhancing the impact of private investment for sustainable development. 

Build a sustainable, net zero, resilient, and equitable world, to better align investment with sustainable development, and to act on their commitments, with credible timelines, targets and plans.

Net zero and sustainability 

“I count on the members of the GISD Alliance to catalyze greater investment for developing countries and make net zero and sustainability the core of everyone’s policies and business models,” Guterres continued. 

GISD also sprang into action to address crises, including in 2020, by developing a COVID Bond Call to Action. The call prompted companies and governments to use innovative social bonds to respond to the pandemic, contributing to a sustainable economic recovery. 

Measuring impact 

This year, GISD published its latest investment tool designed to align financing with the SDGs. Through a set of sector-specific metrics, it proposes to accurately measure the impact of companies on sustainable development targets, and provide investors with key insights.

The statement noted that this is an important step, since previous reporting frameworks would largely focus on measuring the impact of company operations on sustainability across whole industries. 

According to the GISD co-chair, and Group CEO, Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Leila Fourie, “industry-agnostic performance indicators, while useful, tend to fall short in capturing the full sector-specific impact of products and services that companies produce.”

Next steps 

In the coming months, GISD will launch a net-zero Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) and a blended finance fund, helping the “move toward creating real life opportunities to finance the SDGs,” said Oliver Bäte, GISD Co-chair and CEO of Allianz.

GISD is also working with the G20 Sustainable Finance Working Group, the COP26 climate conference bureau, and G7 leading economies, as well as engaging with the multilateral development banks, to develop actionable recommendations on ways to scale up private investment for sustainable development. 

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