Pension Funds and Sustainable Development Goals

Be smarter, speak louder, push harder!

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present both opportunities and responsibilities for the public and private sector in the years running up to 2030. With their launch by the UN in 2015, these 17 goals set targets for a variety of global issues, ranging from improving water availability to combating climate change and reducing inequalities. Governments worldwide have agreed to these goals, but the enormous amount of capital investment cannot be met by public funds alone. The UN estimate there is a yearly shortfall of between 4 and 6 trillion US dollars, which needs to be filled by the private sector if the SDGs are to be achieved. This provides an immense opportunity for the financial sector to combat massive economic, environmental and social challenges.

Not achieving the SDGs could have dire consequences for pension funds. For example according to the recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)1, “not tackling climate change will result in significant impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being”.

The success of the SDGs relies upon action and collaboration by the main actors: businesses, investors, governments and civil society. The SDGs provide them with a common language to work together on achieving the clear targets. Responsible investment and corporate sustainability are naturally aligned with the SDGs. Pension funds typically have a long term orientation in providing for the future needs of their beneficiaries. Although responsible investment is becoming increasingly mainstream, the ultimate question is whether current activities are enough to achieve the 17 Goals in the remaining 12 years.

We hope this research contributes to funds gaining insight on what is happening in this exciting field. VBDO would like to thank all pension funds and our sponsor Robeco who made this study possible.

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