The views expressed are as at the date of publication and may no longer be current.
In January 2016 our CEO, Hendrik du Toit, joined a select group of international business, labour and civil society leaders as a member of a new global commission created to highlight the extensive rewards to businesses which take a fundamental role in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Business Commission was established by Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, and former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Mark Malloch-Brown. During 2016, the Business Commission will work on articulating and quantifying the compelling economic case for businesses to engage in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recently agreed by the 193 member states of the UN.
We believe the benefits to business include:
- Reaping massive economic rewards – through new markets, investment opportunities and innovations – if the world tackles challenges such as poverty, inequality and environmental stress.
- Mitigating the risks to business performance and stability, as well as the increased fragmentation, resource competition and fragility, that is likely to result if the world fails to address these risks.
- Achieving inclusive, sustainable growth and widespread job creation by working with governments, international organisations and civil society to build a future where businesses can perform in the long run.
“The greatest single challenge for humanity”
Hendrik believes that sustainable development is the major challenge for the world today. “In a world that will have 10 billion people by the middle of this century, there’s a significant amount of development to be financed. But,” he adds “if that’s not done in a sustainable way, we will be unable to live the kind of life we all would like to pursue on earth.”
We believe that there will be significant commercial opportunities in financing the transition to a new, inclusive low-carbon global economy. Throughout history, capital markets have financed and bridged major shifts in the global economy. In the twenty-first century, with government balance sheets no longer able to shoulder the financial responsibility alone, private investors will play a vital role financing the creation of a new global economic paradigm, and investment portfolios will adapt to the new opportunities produced by fundamental changes to energy generation, infrastructure and technology.
Sustainable development, however, is not only about taking advantage of the financial opportunities. As a firm, Investec Asset Management has always believed in ‘doing the right thing’ and we think that the pursuit of sustainable development is the right thing – right now. “As stewards of long-term capital on behalf of this generation, we cannot ignore the welfare of future generations,” Hendrik says. “In looking to a better tomorrow, how we mobilise the power of institutional capital and its considerable capacity to evaluate investment opportunities to secure a sustainable future for humanity is a question for our industry to address as a whole.”
Partnering for the future
The Investment Institute plays an important role in supporting Hendrik in proactively shaping the global debate on sustainable development. In addition to his role on the Business Commission, he is on the board of the SDG Center for Africa, part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN). He is also a member of the working group of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism.
We have worked closely with UNSDSN in recent years. In February 2015, the Institute co-hosted the London Financing for Sustainable Development forum with UNSDSN, and have worked together to develop new intellectual property around financing sustainable development. In 2014, Aniket Shah, an investment strategist at Investec Asset Management, was seconded to the UNSDSN to be the program leader of the Financing for Sustainable Development Initiative.
Hendrik will be lending the firm’s expertise to the Business Commission’s work on mapping out new financing mechanisms the world will need in order to reach the 17 SDGs, and surveying investors to understand their perspectives on the challenge the Business Commission has set out to address. This will help to find practical ways to finance and encourage the required shift to creating a sustainable future.
Hendrik believes that this is a vital part of the work of the Business Commission as, “today’s investors, and the financial industry as a whole, need to look ahead, even beyond today’s market prices and policies to the market prices and policies of the future.”Return to Investment Institute