Achieving the Global Goals will require harnessing the power of the private sector.
Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals—also known as the Global Goals—by the target year of 2030 will take much more than philanthropy or even government funding. It will require a systematic and creative approach that brings together the public and private sectors to consistently drive resources toward the goals.
The UN estimates that US$5 to US$7 trillion of incremental annual investment will be needed to finance the goals. It was with this need in mind that in October 2016 then UN Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon announced the launch of a platform to generate innovative approaches to support financing the goals.
White & Case became a signatory to the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative, in July 2016.
An emerging consensus suggests that large-scale public financing will be necessary but far from sufficient for achieving global sustainable development; private sector involvement will also be paramount. Using incentives to bring capital markets—with their US$300 trillion in annual capital flows—into alignment with the Global Goals would have a tremendous effect on economic growth and social development and could cover the projected US$5 to US$7 trillion needed in annual investment. The difficulty is finding and implementing the right incentives.
During UN General Assembly week of September 2016, White & Case hosted a workshop organized with the UN Foundation, Aviva, and the Business and Sustainable Development Commission on incentivizing the power of the private sector to drive sustainable development. David Nabarro, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, opened the session with remarks about the nature and scope of the challenge and the role of business. The session, which brought together key players in the private sector, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations, UN Missions and the UN System—including the UN Global Compact, among others—was designed to stimulate thinking about how to redirect the world's existing capital flows both toward projects that support the Global Goals and away from projects that inhibit their realization.
Voluntary frameworks, such as the Principles for Responsible Investment, provide guidance for companies wishing to act in concert with the goals. The Principles for Responsible Investment advance environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards for investment processes across 1,500 corporate signatories with more than US$60 trillion in assets under management. There is an array of concrete steps that those in the private sector can take to help drive capital toward the goals. Among these steps are changing corporate policies, proactively seeking investment opportunities and strategic partnerships that advance the Global Goals, tapping new markets and strategically taking the Global Goals into account during high-level decision-making.
Global markets can become the engine of achieving the Global Goals. Getting the incentives right will give the private sector the best opportunity to improve global sustainability without compromising their own bottom lines.