The United Nations Wants Big Business to Get More Sustainable

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In a statement, Jessica Fries, executive chair of Accounting for Sustainability, said the SDGs “will open up $12 trillion of market opportunities by 2030.”

Those who sat at the group’s summit over the summer, which helped produce the recommendations, included Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Antonio Horta Osorio, CEO of Lloyds Banking; Brian Lawson, CFO of Brookfield Asset Management; the CEOs of Fitch Ratings and S&P Global; Joaquim Levy, CFO of the World Bank, and Mark Wilson, CEO of Aviva, the big U.K. insurer that has been at the forefront of many sustainable finance initiatives.

One recommendation was to convince people like individual savers and pension fund beneficiaries that sustainability matters by providing compelling evidence of the importance of integrating so-called ESG into investment decisions. (ESG investing incorporates environmental, social and corporate governance factors into investment decisions). Another was to develop consistent terminology, definitions and clear product labeling around sustainability, and to agree upon and adopt common reporting standards on such issues as climate-related financial disclosures.

Separately, the United Nations Foundation, Aviva, and Index Initiative — a Dutch nonprofit that promotes the Sustainable Development Goals — on Monday introduced the World Benchmarking Alliance, to increase transparency and accountability by developing a range of corporate benchmarks to assess the progress of 2,000 companies in contributing to the SDGs. The first set of benchmarks will be published in 2020 and will address food and agriculture, climate and energy, digital inclusion, and gender equality and empowerment. In a statement, the group said it “believes this initiative will help to promote competition among businesses in their race to deliver against the SDGs.”

Aviva’s sustainability efforts are being overseen by Steve Waygood, a long time advocate of good governance and currently the chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors, the firm’s asset management arm, which oversees $500 million. Waygood said the alliance is funded by Aviva and the governments of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Denmark.

“This is a collaborative alliance bring together the best brains to look at sustainability issues which will be building those league tables,” Waygood said.

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