Business giants worth $16 trillion commit to sustainable investment

Leaving for New York last month, Deanne Stewart, the CEO of one of Australia’s largest pension funds, told her daughter that she was going to join a new UN-led sustainable investors’ alliance, whose members manage around $16 trillion between them. Her daughter, who had recently led a successful campaign to ban single-use plastic from several local businesses, replied: “With 16 trillion dollars, mom, can you imagine what I could get done?”

The CEOs of 30 global business giants who make up the newly launched Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance decided to put that question to the test and find out just how much they could achieve if they joined forces to support sustainable investment in every sector and every region of the world.

Although they do manage a staggering amount of assets, the GISD Alliance is about much more than money. GISD members represent the complete investment chain—from financial institutions to business networks, to non‑financial corporations—from developed and developing countries alike.

More importantly, the Alliance, coordinated by UN DESA, represents a new, forward-looking trend in the private sector, which recognizes that long-term environmental sustainability and social responsibility are every bit as important as short-term profit.

In their first joint statement, GISD members openly recognized that their “business success is inseparable from sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic development” and committed to a “long-term approach to business and investment decisions.”

Breaking with stereotypes still held by many investors, the GISD CEOs acknowledged that sustainable development is not incompatible with good business practice. On the contrary, business success and a sustainable future are inextricably linked. Investment in societal development and reduction of inequality creates healthy, educated, and empowered workers and, ultimately, customers—who are vital to growth and prosperity in every business, sector, and industry.

“If we’re operating in an environment where people cannot access health care, where people cannot access quality education, then we cannot talk about the long-term sustainability of our businesses,” summed up Joseph Ogutu, Chief of Special Projects at Kenya’s telecommunications giant Safaricom.

Convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Alliance is a response to our interconnected and interdependent times. In the 21st century, the continued success of any business depends on lifting others from poverty and the world from the brink of climate disaster. The members of GISD will identify and advance solutions to scale up long-term finance and investment for sustainable development and ensure that funds are going where they will be most effective for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In their joint statement, GISD Alliance members committed to develop innovative financing facilities, establish partnerships and contribute to sustainable economic growth that benefits all stakeholders—not just the shareholders of companies.

The Alliance is expected to produce actionable recommendations and workable initiatives in two short years, between now and October 2021, because the world needs inspired action, and fast. “Our undertaking is ambitious, but so are the Sustainable Development Goals. Hence, we are determined to turn these ambitions into reality,” the CEOs wrote in the joint statement.

UN DESA coordinates UN system’s support for the Alliance, with additional substantive inputs from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI), UN Regional Economic Commissions, UN Global Compact, the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as well as the World Bank Group.

For more information:  Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance