Volume 04 | January 2021
Director's Note
Greetings and welcome to a new year of SDG Impact updates!

I am hopeful for the year ahead. While 2020 may have been among the most challenging of our lives - upending all sectors from health to mobility, from labour to capital markets – the new decade also demonstrated how adaptable and resilient we can be when we act together for a common goal.

The pandemic has given rise to a global rethinking of how we run our economies, societies and communities. Our previous modes of living and working have been put to the test. Sustainability has taken on new momentum. Political tides are shifting towards sustainability and multilateralism.

We are at the edge of a new transformation: we are seeing significant changes in investors' behaviors. There is now a critical mass of investors who thoughtfully and intentionally look for sustainability-focused investment opportunities. These shifts, combined with the focus of policy responses on sustainability and impact at the global scale, bring hope for achieving the SDGs by 2030, despite setbacks of the past year.

Recapping the year 2020, the SDG Impact has made inroads in helping investors, bond issuers, and enterprises make significant and measurable contributions toward the SDGs through:

  • The SDG Impact Standards: Our team continued developing Standards to codify and confirm the best practices of private equity funds, bond issuers, and enterprises for achieving impact to measurably and authentically contribute to the achievements of the SDGs. The SDG Impact Standards for Private Equity Funds launched in October and are freely available as a best practice guide ready for use.

  • IMM Trainings and Assurance: SDG Impact teamed up with Duke University and Social Value International to design a suite of impact measurement and management trainings for UNDP country offices, investors, funds, financial institutions, and impact-management consultants. These will come to market in mid-2021.

  • SDG Investor Maps and Facilitation Events: SDG Impact team produced data and insights needed for increasing financial flows to the SDGs through our SDG Investor Maps in 15 countries. These maps are a powerful tool that identify concrete, investable solutions to increasingly pressing needs at the country level. Investors were able to engage with each other and learn about investment opportunities through facilitation events in South Africa, Nigeria, India, and Ghana.

Looking towards 2021, we feel optimistic because of our:

  • SDG Investment Interactive Platform: in early 2021, we will launch our new, interactive platform that investors, companies, and impact-driven organizations will be able to use to learn about Investment Opportunity Areas (IOAs) and business models that respond directly to SDG-related needs at the country level, and to access a range of resources to help them direct capital to where it is most needed.

  • New strategic partnership with IMP+ACT Alliance’s Impact Classification System (ICS). This technology collaboration between SDG Impact and ICS will provide investment practitioners with easy digital access and guidance on how to engage with the newly released SDG Impact Standards for Private Equity Funds.

  • New team members: we would like to welcome new talent to the SDG Impact team: Belissa Rojas, IMM Coordinator; David Sanchez, SDG Investor Map Specialist for Latin America; David Mueller, SDG Investor Map Specialist for Africa; as well as Andrea Zdanaviciute and Hasmik Sahakyan, who are joining us as interns. We are confident that we will accelerate the development of SDG Impact products and services through our team members' valuable expertise and skills.
Read more about these recent developments in the newsletter below. Please forward the newsletter to people interested in our work. We look forward to continuing our engagement with you in the year 2021!
Warm regards,

Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen
SDG Impact in the Field
The SDG Impact team has started the New Year with its usual enthusiasm, energy and a full schedule! We are very grateful to all who helped us organise, and participated in, a number of events, consultations and engagements around the world.
In Africa, the SDG Impact team focused their efforts on engaging with stakeholders to drive awareness of, and solicit feedback on, the SDG Impact Standards for Enterprises and Standards for Bonds. The team has:

  • Solicited feedback from stakeholders in 17 African countries on the SDG Impact Enterprises standards.
  • Undertaken 22 individual consultations with business associations, UNDP country offices, sustainability consultancies and SMEs across the region to solicit in depth feedback on the Enterprise Standards.
  • Engaged Kenyan Private Sector Alliance leadership and members to understand the adoption potential of the Enterprise Standards in East African SMEs.
  • Susan de Witt presented on the SDG Impact Bond Standards at the ESG Africa Conference to pan-African audience.
In Latin America, the team engaged with a number of stakeholders in the final round of public consultation of the SDG Impact Standards for Bonds. Specifically:

  • The market stakeholders, including BICE Argentina, Banco Nación Argentina, BDP Bolivia, Vinte Mexico, and Bancolombia, have participated in the final public consultation process for the SDG Impact Standards for Bonds, providing valuable feedback from the emerging markets perspective, which will be incorporated moving forward.
  • Inmobiliaria Vinte in Mexico used the SDG Impact Standards for Bonds as a framework to issue their 4th Sustainable Bond in December 2020, contributing to the increasing investor interest and uptake. 
  • Maria Laura Tinelli was a speaker at a webinar on the 26th of January hosted by Pacific Corporate Sustainability Latam (advisors on the use of SDG Bond Standards to Vinte), together with the Mexican Stock Exchange, to discuss the importance and use of the SDG Standards for Bonds.
Our team members were also delighted to take part in other speaking engagements and knowledge exchange opportunities:

Events coming up – please join us!

  • 3 February 2021 (1.20-2.20pm CET): Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen, Director of SDG Impact, will be a panellist in a session: ‘Responding to the impact challenge: How harmonisation is driving better impact measurement and management’. The session is part of the OECD’s event ‘First Anniversary of the Community of Practice on Private Finance for Sustainable Development, Blended Finance and Impact: Delivering the 2030 Agenda in the COVID-19 era and beyond’. Register here.

SDG Impact Intelligence
The SDG Impact team closed out a productive 2020 and supported 15 country offices to complete their SDG Investor Maps. January presented the opportunity to take a step back and consider what we have learnt from applying the SDG Investor Map methodology to these highly diverse country contexts spanning five continents. As a result:

  • SDG Impact is currently developing the SDG Investor Maps 2.0 - an upgrade and update of its methodology - to take advantage of the lessons learned from the completion of 15 Maps and strengthen its linkages to the Standards. The updated methodology will become available to UNDP country teams in February 2021.

  • The Team has brought on new capacity to support the roll-out of new maps across the Arab States, Asia Pacific, Europe and the CIS, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. These maps will make it possible for investors to identify concrete and profitable opportunities where their capital could make a difference in achieving the SDGs.

  • The SDG Impact team is exploring various partnership opportunities to offer the market intelligence data collected through the Maps to investors and to connect them to private and public potential partners. These investor convenings and policy investor roundtables are complementary to the online SDG Investor Platform and are planned to take place both on a region and country level. Information on specific collaborations and events will be announced on our website and in the next newsletters. 
SDG Impact Facilitation
The team is working on an updated impact facilitation strategy and is engaging with a range of family offices, investment intermediaries, investors’ platforms and other networks to devise an innovative approach to investor convenings in this new digital age. Please get in touch with us if you have ideas to share!

Update on the SDG Investment Platform:

We continue making rapid progress with the development of our Investment Platform, which will enable streamlined access to the Investment Opportunity Areas (IOAs) that emerge from our market intelligence and access to our suite of SDG Impact services spanning impact management, intelligence, and facilitation. The platform is benefiting from our collaboration with the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance (GISD) Strategy Group Team 1, the aim of which is to ‘Develop investment platforms and vehicles to catalyse finance and investment flows to developing countries in support of the SDGs’.

New strategic partnership with IMP-ACT’s ICS:

With businesses and investors increasingly seeking opportunities to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the SDG Impact Standards were designed to provide guidance on how to translate that intent into action. UNDP has now partnered with the IMP+ACT Alliance project to integrate a first set of questions – aimed at tracking how practitioners start to align with the Standards – into the existing ICS platform.

Launched in June 2020, the ICS already supports over 100 investment practitioners, who use the free digital tool to enhance and supplement their existing impact measurement and management activities. The platform allows investors to classify the social and environmental impacts of funds and aims to create a first level of transparency on how multi-asset investment portfolios meet impact intentions and advance sustainable development.

”The ICS process already collects information on how practitioners engage with existing standards and best practices. Integrating the SDG Impact Standards and allowing practitioners to start engaging with them is a natural extension of our joint efforts to drive consistent impact measurement and management.” says Claudia Coppenolle, CEO and Co-Founder of the IMP+ACT Alliance’s Impact Classification System.

Both the SDG Impact Standards as well as the Impact Classification System are freely available and voluntary for investment practitioners to use. For a free ICS account, register here.
SDG Impact Management
We are processing the detailed, valuable feedback from the first public consultation draft of the SDG Impact Standards for Enterprises and the second version of the Standards for Bonds, which both closed for public comment on December 15, 2020. 

Important dates coming up:
  • The final version (1.0) of the Standards for Bonds will become available in Q1 2021.
  • The second draft of Standards for Enterprises will become available for public consultation in Q2 2021.
Key takeaways from the feedback on the Standards for Enterprises:
  • Many respondents considered all the indicators important. The indicator set has created a healthy tension between those wanting more depth and range with others wanting less. There was a sense that some indicators had more relevance for small as opposed to large organisations, and vice versa.
  • Helpful suggestions were made to streamline the indicators and simplify the language, as well as the clarity of the guidance.
  • The dominant factor likely to drive adoption outside of regulation is the size and sophistication of the enterprise - respondents expressed some concern regarding the ability of the SMEs to meet the requirements, also citing cost concerns regarding the verification.

We will present the key takeaways from the feedback on Standards for Bonds in our next newsletter.

See our website to learn how we conducted the public consultation process for Enterprises and BondsYour valuable feedback not only informs the Standards themselves, but also accompanying guidance and resources that are under development.

Assurance and SDG Impact Seal

The next six months will see our assurance framework take on clearer shape as we move towards making a SDG Impact Seal available to those investors and enterprises who successfully adopt the Standards. We are gathering invaluable feedback and insights into how to devise an effective and tailored assurance system through our consultations and implementation groups on the three sets of SDG Impact Standards. An expert reference group on Assurance is being convened, led by Carol Adams.

An update on Impact Management Education

A modular online training course on Impact Measurement and Management, developed in partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University, is nearing completion and is expected to launch in the second half of 2021.

Get involved / Work with us

Are you interested in being a part of an Implementation Working Group for the second consultation of the Enterprise Standards in February / March 2021?

Do you want to co-host a webinar on the Standards for your organisation or network? Get in touch via email.
In the News
SDG Impact and other public and private sector initiatives to spur investment in SDG achievement continue to generate attention in the worldwide news media. Some of the latest headlines include the following:

We are very pleased to share that an interview with our Steering Group member Ken Shibusawa, on SDG Impact was published on the sustainable business magazine Alterna:

Africanews, January 08, 2021

We Need to Talk: Why It’s Time for Institutional Investors to Embrace SDG-Aligned Investing
Beyond Alpha, January, 2021

Money Marketing, January 13, 2021

Forbes, January 15, 2021

City A.M., January 24, 2021
City A.M., January 2, 2021

The Economist Intelligence Unit, January 20, 2021

Zawya by Refinitiv, January 25, 2021

GreenBiz, January 25, 2021

ESG Clarity, January 14, 2021
GIIN, January 14, 2021

Investment Week, January 21, 2021

Financial Times, January 17, 2021
International Investment, January 26, 2021
Bloomberg Green, January 8, 2021
MSCI, January 19, 2021
The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2021
The Asset ESG, January 11, 2021
Nasdaq, January 21, 2021