Officially known as 'Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development', the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established in September 2015 to define worldwide sustainable development priorities. Set to be achieved by 2030, they guide governments, businesses and society prioritise and mobilise their efforts around a common set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. All of the 17 aspirational goals and the 169 targets that fall beneath them are interlinked and equally important. They are universally applicable in developing and developed countries alike. Governments are expected to develop national action plans, policies and initiatives, and companies are called on to advance sustainable development through their products, business practices and investments.

Triodos supports the SDGs and fully subscribes to them, be it that with regard to SDG 8, we focus on economic development rather than economic growth. As part of our contribution to addressing the challenges, we have already begun mapping our own impact metrics against the SDGs.

A framework for positive impact

The SDGs present a framework for businesses to develop and implement solutions that address the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. They allow leading companies to demonstrate how their business helps advance sustainable development both by minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive impacts on the planet and society. This framework is helpful to Triodos Research because it allows us to more easily analyse the policy, practice and performance of the companies we invest in. Our investee companies are required to generate a positive impact and we focus our attention on those that clearly outperform their sector. The framework also helps us categorize companies, and the products and services they offer according to a universally accepted standard for contribution to sustainable development.

Taking a different perspective, the SDGs are also helping us to refine the themes and topics we assess when screening companies for potential investment. Whilst our methodology has always correlated to the topics addressed by the SDGs, the targets underlying each goal can help us to further prioritise our criteria and enable us to realise a maximum contribution to their achievement. They also provide an important structure for our own impact reporting, and help us better communicate the expectations we have of the companies we invest in.

Private sector initiatives

It’s clear that the private sector is needed for the realization of the SDGs, and it is encouraging to see that many organisations are already inspired and have boosted their efforts. The SDGs seek to stimulate companies to collaborate for positive impact. One good example of such collaboration for achievement is the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition in the Netherlands. This initiative involves large Dutch multinational companies that are working together to increase economic sustainability and to stimulate the government to take necessary measures.

Given that institutional and private investment capital is critically needed to help finance the USD 5-7 trillion that is needed each year to finance the 2030 Agenda, another SDG-related initiative catches the eye. Eighteen Dutch financial institutions, including Triodos Bank, which collectively manage over EUR 2.8 trillion in assets, have invited the Dutch government and Central Bank to continue making a concerted effort with them in support of the SDGs. This initiative is the first in the world to bring together national pension funds, insurance firms, and banks around a shared SDG investment agenda. In their report ‘Building Highways to SDG Investing’ , its signatories recommend priorities for maximizing ‘SDG investing’ (SDGI) – at home as well as abroad.

Looking at our sustainable investment universe, several companies are already making great inroads into their contributions. One such company is Dutch technology and healthcare giant Philips. As a partner of the Natural Capital Protocol, it has worked on identifying the hot spots in its supply chain to determine where the biggest impact on natural capital lies. This links to the targets of SDG14 life below water and SDG15 life on land, and its products link with SDG3 Good Health and Well-Being.

Note: The issues explored in this article are relevant for sustainable investments on the stock market. Triodos Bank believes that our socially responsible investments are a powerful means of promoting our values and working for greater sustainability, while enabling us to offer a complete range of attractive investment options to customers who choose to invest on the stock market.