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Sustainable Development Goals

“We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty; just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet”

- United Nations 2030 Agenda

What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

As part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs are an ambitious and transformative plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. These 17 goals and 169 associated targets were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 and aim to create a 15-year global blueprint for achieving sustainable development. Intended to build upon progress made from the Millenium Development Goals, the SDGs apply to all countries and place greater emphasis on addressing inequalities and leaving no one behind. An inclusive and comprehensive two-year public consultation program helped determine the SDGs and create a sense of common ownership amongst stakeholders across all sectors of society. The Goals seek to balance all three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

How is progress of the SDGs measured?

Each of the 17 Goals has its own set of target indicators deemed essential to achieving the overarching goal. Therefore, the targets may serve as a way of measuring progress towards each goal. At the global level, follow-up and review of the SDGs and 2030 Agenda is reported on at the annual UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF). Each year, the HLPF identifies a thematic review and in-depth reviews of specific SDGs. For example, the 2022 forum will explore the theme of “Building back better from the coronavirus disease” while diving deep into Goals 4, 5, 14, 15 and 17. A key feature of the HLPFs are voluntary national reviews which act as a platform for countries to share successes and challenges with implementation of the SDGs. The Secretary-General of the United Nations also prepares an annual progress report on the SDGs. Nations are empowered to conduct more regular reviews and collaborate on a regional level.

So, where are we at?

We are quickly approaching the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda. Full disclosure: we are notably off-track. Though significant progress has been made in certain areas, the global pandemic has exacerbated issues such as inequality and hunger. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021 states the global extreme poverty rate rose for the first time in over 20 years. Within education, an additional 100 million children have fallen below the minimum reading proficiency level. Catastrophes derived from climate change are apparent now more than ever.  Though it seems like we are running out of reasons for optimism, there are still glimmers of hope. The scientific community was able to produce life-saving vaccines and treatments in record time. Technology continues to pave the way for innovative solutions to persistent problems. For example, carbon removal technologies are being developed as a means to combat increasing greenhouse gas emissions. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for in 2019, a ‘Decade of Action’ is needed to mobilize everyone, everywhere.

According to the UN, achieving the SDGs would require an annual investment spend across all sectors of an estimated $5-7 trillion. The private sector has a crucial role to play in bridging the gap from governmental spending. Current investment levels are far below the estimated cost. However, more companies are aligning strategies and deploying capital towards the SDGs. A survey of 250 global companies conducted by World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and DNV GL found that 82% of those companies reported on the SDGs. As of the first half of 2021, social and sustainability bond issuance was up 18% from the prior year. In 2021, the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance launched a tool to help facilitate capital allocation to the SDGs. Momentum is certainly building.

How does Focus Impact map to the SDGs?

Focus Impact coined the “Social Forward” concept as a response to stakeholders’ demands for companies to deliver double-bottom line results: financial and societal value creation. Our target investment sectors have been thoughtfully selected to direct investments towards companies that are aligned with one or more of four SDGs which impact people outcomes:

Social Forward companies seek meaningful, measurable outcomes mapped to these SDGs. There is growing evidence that companies focused on the “S” have more engaged employees, satisfied and loyal customers, a growing and dedicated investor base, and superior risk-adjusted returns. Focus Impact will help position companies to take advantage of this opportunity. Our diverse and highly qualified team has over 100 years of collective investing and ESG leadership experience.

The Focus Impact mission is to amplify social impact and grow great businesses by bringing capital and expertise to Social Forward companies.

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