Business leaders join UN to rev up sustainable development investments

UN News/Conor Lennon Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) banners outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 20 September 2019.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


In a bid to scale up investment efforts to reach sustainable development targets, the Secretary-General on Wednesday convened the first meeting of a new UN-backed corporate alliance to discuss plans for spending on sustainability, likely to be in the trillions of dollars.

The Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance (GISD), a UN-supported coalition of 30 business leaders, works to provide decisive leadership in mobilizing resources for sustainable development, with the core objective being to identify incentives for long-term sustainable investments.

“We face widening inequality, increased devastation from conflicts and disasters and a rapidly warming Earth. These leaders have seized our sense of urgency, recognizing that our pace must be at a run, not a crawl”, António Guterres told business leaders. “They are committing to cooperate across borders, across financial sectors and even with their competitors, because it is both ethical and good business sense to invest in sustainable development for all people on a healthy planet.”

The Alliance will operate on a two-year timeline, from October 2019 through October 2021, focusing on solutions related to long-term SDG investment, identifying such investment opportunities for developing countries, and enhancing the impact of private funding in development efforts.

Development needs are estimated at trillions of dollars per year, and even if funding from all public sources is maximized, there will still be significant shortfalls. The mobilization of the private sector “will be critical to the implementation of the SDGs”, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has said.

Formation of the alliance comes amidst growing recognition in the corporate community that the success of companies is “inextricably linked” to a sustainable future for the world.

“The Alliance has come together to help drive financing for the 2030 Agenda as we enter a crucial decade of action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said “and, in particular, to help forge concrete solutions for securing the long-term finance and investment necessary to achieve the SDGs.”

Spotlighting the range of “crucial agreements” to tackle issues of poverty, inequality, and the climate crisis, Ms. Mohammed credited the progress made through the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the UN’s 2030 Agenda, and the 2015 Paris Climate accord.

“This is a very important day. But it is only the beginning. Over the next two years the GISD will help drive the Decade of Action toward success and report back to the Secretary-General on a regular basis”, she added.

A few of the actionable solutions the alliance is expected to advance, include encouraging innovation in financial instruments, revisiting existing and new business models aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and addressing industry obstacles to long-term investment in sustainable development.

As for UN support, GISD members are backed by a number of actors within the organization’s system, and other partners who will assist the alliance in implementing the coalition’s plan of action.  View the full list of supporters here. 

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