At a time of rising temperatures and shrinking forests, when more than 800 million people are undernourished and nearly a third of the global population lacks safe drinking waterfootnote1, the world’s environmental and social challenges can seem insurmountable. And yet, the desire of private investors to help find and create solutions keeps growing. According to a 2022 report, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimated the size of the global market for impact investing at roughly $1.16 trillion.footnote2
But what will it take to translate desire into tangible, lasting solutions for problems so large? The world has trillions of dollars to invest in infrastructure and environmental change. The question is, can it get organized? It’s a challenge the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to solve — and in doing so provide both individual and institutional investors the opportunity to put their money where it has the greatest impact. “Government or charitable giving alone do not have sufficient resources to meet the world’s sustainable development needs,” notes Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America. “Private sector leadership is needed to engage the capitalist system in order to mobilize investments on the scale necessary to meet global challenges.”
While you can’t invest directly in SDGs, the goals create a roadmap for putting the vast power of capitalism to work on 17 goals that range from ending world hunger to increasing access to clean and renewable energy. That means funding industries that are working to develop products and solutions to meet the goals outlined by the SDGs. And it means financial firms developing innovative investment opportunities large enough to address global needs, yet flexible enough to attract institutional or individual investors at whatever level of risk and reward is most comfortable for them.
Solutions as large as the challenges
“The SDGs are a game changer because they have been designed with private investors in mind,” says Anna Snider, head of CIO Due Diligence in the Chief Investment Office for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank. “Now, individuals can direct their investment dollars to join the movement to harness trillions of dollars in capital toward creating a more sustainable future for us all.”
These 17 broad, interrelated sustainability goals are supported by clearly defined measurement requirements and success metrics.