By Ahsan Ahsan
In a meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on the 10th of June 2020, leaders of prominent financial institutions and businesses pledged to scale-up sustainable investments globally, especially in countries most in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is according to the press statement issued by the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance vowing greater action to confront the global economic crisis driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the Sustainable Development Goals on track.
“We, the Members of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance, met in these extraordinary circumstances to send a strong message of unity and commitment. We reinforce the UN Secretary-General’s calls for wide ranging actions that match the scale of the crisis,” the statement said.
The Secretary-General told the Alliance that the pandemic’s toll of skyrocketing unemployment, and the shuttering of businesses would hurt the poorest and most vulnerable and that rebuilding to pre-crisis levels of employment and output may take years.
“COVID-19 is having dramatic impacts on the way the world works – for example, by reducing energy usage and prompting the adoption of technologies that can decouple the economy from its reliance on fossil fuels,” Guterres said. “These changes can be the beginning of the process of shaping our world for the better. But the global community must go further, taking active steps to align recovery with sustainable development.”
The Alliance members agreed to accelerate efforts to align investment with sustainable development objectives and integrate the SDGs into their core business models. They also pledged to establish scalable innovative financing and investment vehicles to advance the SDGs, including through COVID-19 bonds, risk-sharing tools, joint investment and business matchmaking platforms.
In addition, the group promised to promote regulations that facilitate investment in sustainable development and create more resilient economies. They also pledged to accelerate private and public sector collaboration to develop models that price-in carbon emissions and other ways to incentivize sustainable business practices.
The virtual meeting, aimed at leading an urgent and coordinated response from the private sector, was chaired by UN Special Envoy for Climate Change and Finance, former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. High profile attendees included GISD co-chairs Oliver Bäte, CEO of Allianz SE and Leila Fourie CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE); as well as Brian Moynihan, Chairman & CEO of Bank of America; Marcie Frost, CEO of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS); Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup; and Anna Botín, Group Executive Chairman of Banco Santander.
“No country has been spared from the economic ravages of COVID-19, with an unprecedented increase in unemployment and severe impacts falling on the poorest and most vulnerable,” Leila Fourie said today. “The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities which the SDGs are meant to address, and threatens to set back decades of progress.”
Fourie added, “We can still achieve the Goals, but it will take the mobilization of resources from both public and private sources, on a scale greater than previously foreseen.”
According to the Secretary-General, COVID-19 should be a wake-up call for the world. He has urged a green recovery from the pandemic, focused on delivering new jobs and businesses through a “clean, green transition”, tied to sustainable growth and resiliency. He has specifically called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and said climate risks should be incorporated into financial systems. Guterres said that crises in general are set to become even more multi-layered and complex, stretching already limited resources and causing more widespread human suffering. He called on the GISD members to seize the moment of the COVID-19 crisis to shape the future for the better.
“COVID-19 has derailed many plans; it has shifted the focus away from long-term planning to immediate needs. But this crisis underscores the need to think long term, build resilience and limit the impact of future crises,” the Secretary-General said.
In October 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General established the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance as part of the implementation of his Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.