BLOG: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Part 1: Introduction

June 5, 2017 12:15 pm Published by
  • The UN created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to provide a framework to drive change
  • They are a set of global goals that governments around the world have adopted to address the principle social, economic and environmental issues of our time
  • Impact investors and fund managers are starting to use the SDG framework when it comes to impact measurement and reporting.

You may have already come across the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but if you haven’t now is the time to take note. They are more than simply the latest trend in ethical thinking. They are a well-researched, comprehensive and integrated framework that brings economic, social and environmental issues together. They have been created to provide a critical roadmap to actively deliver sustainable and prosperous solutions to global issues and your clients may already have heard of them.

So, what are the SDGs?

The SDGs comprise 17 core goals covering a wide range of objectives including ending all forms of poverty, fighting inequalities and ensuring widespread sustainability. They are the product of two years of multi-stakeholder negotiations, including the private and business sectors, and go so much further than simply ethical considerations.

Here is the full list of the 17 SDGs:

Where did they come from?

In September 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations, including the UK, unanimously committed to adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They officially came into force on 1 January 2016 and provide a central structure to a sustainable future and more prosperous world by 2030.

They supersede the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), bringing economic, social and environmental issues together in a more integrated way. It’s worth noting that the MDGs were aimed at developing nations, however, the SDGs are unique in that they don’t discriminate between mature and emerging economies; they are relevant for every poor, rich and middle-income country and governments are expected to take ownership and establish their own national agendas for the achievement of this worldwide initiative.

For more information regarding the UK’s agenda for delivering the Global Goals both at home and around the world click here.[1]

Given that impact investors have already demonstrated globally the potential for the private sector to drive progress in areas that clearly align with the SDGs, such as affordable housing, access to financial and health services and sustainable energy[2], it is unsurprising that the SDG language is one they are starting to speak. Indeed, as efforts are made to develop a common language around impact, the 2017 GIIN[3] Annual Impact Investor survey[4] notes that some investors are already using the SDG framework.

Roughly one year since their launch, just over a quarter of impact investors reported that they actively track the performance of some or all of their investments with respect to the SDGs. Another third of respondents plan to do so in the near future. It therefore seems prudent to ensure we are well versed in the language and structure of the SDGs as it’s highly likely that some clients will soon start asking about them in relation to their investments.


Don’t miss Part 2 of this SDG blog series coming soon where we discuss the practicalities and commercial opportunities for advisers when it comes to the SDGs.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/603500/Agenda-2030-Report4.pdf

[2] http://www.sustainablegoals.org.uk/generating-private-finance-social-impact/

[3] Global Impact Investor Network

[4] https://thegiin.org/assets/GIIN_AnnualImpactInvestorSurvey_2017_Web_Final.pdf

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