25 September 2018: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) presented the SDG Impact initiative on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA). SDG Impact aims to empower investors and businesses to contribute to the SDGs, including by providing country-level data and SDG investment roadmaps.

The initiative invites investors and companies of all sizes to: 1) adapt and transform their core business strategies to deliver financial, social and environmental performance, and 2) to use the SDGs as the basis for engaging in untapped markets.

The event titled, ‘How the Private Sector Can Align to the SDGs,’ took place on 25 September 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, served as the “soft launch” of SDG Impact, and was organized by UNDP and the governments of Turkey and Norway. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, said SDG Impact aims to empower investors and businesses with the clarity, insights, and tools required to support and authenticate their contributions to achieving the SDGs. It will have three offerings, beginning with “impact management,” which encompasses the principles, frameworks, and standards to help investors channel capital toward SDG achievement. UNDP has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Impact Management Project (IMP), which is a collaborative effort of over 1000 organizations, housed by Bridges Fund Management, that works with investors on delivering impact through financial investment.

Steiner said UNDP expects to establish SDG impact management standards, working in partnership with IMP and a network including the International Finance Corporation, the Principles for Responsible Investment, the Global Reporting Initiative, the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative, and the UN Global Compact. The newly developed standards will be the basis for an SDG Impact Seal and Certification programme, he noted.

The second offering of SDG Impact, Steiner said, is “impact intelligence,” to provide investors with insight into local industries, entrepreneurs and projects that advance the SDGs. Finally, “impact facilitation” involves leveraging UNDP’s in-country presence for network development, and matchmaking between investors and enterprises working to achieve the SDGs. This component entails a forum called ‘SDG Impact Investor Convenings’ to build cross-sector connections and identify investment opportunities. An SDG Accelerator initiative of UNDP, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Republic of Turkey is currently in a testing phase, and will launch in Turkey to help enterprises and start-ups align their businesses with the SDGs.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, explained that by utilizing the convening power of UNDP, the Accelerator Program aims to catalyze market-based solutions for challenges of displaced people and residents of the least developed countries (LDCs). Upon the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, UNDP is running a feasibility study for the SDG Impact Accelerator. The initial project partners estimate that the design of the Accelerator and its feasibility plan will be completed by the beginning of 2019.

Jens Frølich Holte, State Secretary, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that “it is a big problem if we educate our youth into unemployment,” thus vocational education is needed to respond to the demands of the labor market. He said Norway has launched a knowledge bank that serves as one-stop shop for expertise, ranging from fisheries and renewable energy to petroleum and taxation, and Norway will focus on investments in vocational training. He added that the lack of relevant skills also presents a major problem for the private sector.

Tilak Marapana, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said his government has started several social impact funds, from private equity to debt, including a US$5 million fund to provide support for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). He mentioned that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sri Lanka is vibrant with many ideas, but needs access to financing and private sector support. To that end, the government has supported the creation of a binary impact investment network.

Stefano Manservisi, Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), said the Commission currently focuses on EU countries’ meeting their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, as “we need to move from billions to trillions, but we need first the billions.” Two other EC priorities that he identified included fostering investing and working with countries to leverage domestic resource mobilization (DRM), especially through taxation. As sectors of particular importance for the Commission, he mentioned agribusiness, energy, creation of MSMEs, cities and digitalization. He called for a mix of ODA, public policies and private investment, he announced that the EC will invest €24 million over the next four years in the Horn of Africa. [UNDP Administrator remarks for delivery] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [UNDP press release] [SDG Impact website]