October 01, 2015

What’s next for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

John Buckley

John Buckley, BNY Mellon’s global head of CSR, reflects on the adoption of the UN’s sustainable development goals and discusses why rule of law and social finance are critical to their success.


This past weekend marked an important milestone in tackling the world’s development challenges: the United Nations (UN) General Assembly approved the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals. These 17 goals are the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and aim to tackle poverty, inequality, climate change and other critical challenges around the globe over the next 15 years.

For many, it was a time to celebrate, though UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presciently noted that the true test of this commitment will come in its implementation. As noted in our report, Social Finance at Scale: Creating Value for Investors, finding monies to support these goals remains the most significant challenge to success. Calculations from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s 2014 World Investment Report put the investment gap at between US$1.9 and US$3.1 trillion per year. That is a challenge countries cannot take on alone.

Recognizing the need for business and mainstream investor support, we at BNY Mellon entered into a partnership with the UN Foundation to support the inclusion of rule of law—the legal principle that law should govern a nation—in the SDGs in goal #16. Along with protecting human rights, facilitating equality and providing safety for individuals, rule of law will allow for increased capital flow to developing and emerging markets. This capital can have a transformative effect, helping the developing world grow its economies and provide jobs, while creating attractive new investment opportunities for investors. We consider this intersection between positive social or environmental impact and financial returns to be at the heart of all social finance investments.

The commitment to bringing the SDGs to fruition is palpable—and I’m pleased that rule of law has continued to gain prominence as a solution to the world’s problems. Having attended various events this past weekend ranging from a forum on businesses’ call to action to the White House’s Solutions Summit, a common thread has been the importance of rule of law as a precursor to addressing both human rights and development issues.

Since the MDGs were agreed to in 2001, we have witnessed incredible progress, but we are “only half way,” as this video from The Global Goals underscores. As we move forward, we continue to collaborate with others to advocate and build support for creating conditions to bring social finance investments to scale to solve the world’s most pressing problems and open up new business opportunities for our clients and firm.

To learn more about BNY Mellon’s commitment to enabling positive social and environmental impacts through investments, I encourage you to visit our social finance website: www.bnymellon.com/socialfinance.

 

Photo: Material courtesy of the United Nations Foundation
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