Magazine article

Over the next decade, there are some huge challenges facing humanity. These range from societal issues, such as embedded poverty and inequality, to the looming climate crisis. To tackle these myriad important causes will take considerable mobilisation and coordination of resources. We will need to find new partnerships and huge pools of capital. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the best set of tools for making this happen. The 17 SDGs are, by their nature, global: they were adopted in 2015 by all UN member states. This grouping of just under 200 countries gives the SDGs the chance to break out of parochial silos, while the internationally recognised set of priorities provides a backdrop for much more consistent global coordination. The SDGs also present an opportunity to tie together disparate actors. In the UK, the public sector, the private
sector and the charity sector can use the SDGs to show when they are all operating in a similar space. This means the innovative insights of the charity sector stand a far better chance of being linked with insights from other actors with similar objectives. Inside our own charitable trust, the Golden Bottle Trust, considering the SDGs as part of our grant-making process has allowed us to move away from simply allocating finance to charitable causes and bring into play the full resources our business has to offer. For example, SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) is an objective of both the bank and our charitable trust (we are particularly focused on improving access to the financial services industry). Using that shared framework has generated powerful opportunities for collaboration. Internships, for example, have proven an effective ‘bridge’ between initiatives such as interest-free loans to refugees and the bank’s commitment to increasing diversity of thought. The same symbiotic benefit is apparent with SDG 13 (climate action): as the bank moves towards becoming net carbon neutral, the Golden Bottle Trust’s growing expertise in seagrass and peatland should be increasingly helpful. Increasingly, we are also seeing the power of the SDGs in directing resources for investment. To address the 17 critical issues for the planet identified by the UN, we will need the SDGs to take root in standard investment practice (this is vital if we are to exploit the potential of
a global framework to its fullest extent). We are now getting to a point where we can assess whether an investment makes a meaningful contribution to, or blocks the achievement of, one of the goals. Viewing each investment decision through this lens will allow more funds to flow towards projects, companies and initiatives who are working to solve the world’s problems. The implications for philanthropists and charitable trusts are profound. We
should all be using the SDGs across both grants and investments. This will allow us to find new partnerships, ensure that all of our resources are aligned to achieving positive change, and give us a fighting chance of turning this decade of challenge into a decade of success.

This article is tagged under:

  • Philanthropy stats & trends
  • Social investment
  • Strategy advice
  • Understanding philanthropy