Stewardship and ESG Engagement: Paving the Way to Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

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by Jodie Sims, Content Lead at SI Engage
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As the world grapples with unprecedented challenges, corporate involvement has never been more crucial. A report from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) this summer revealed a disconcerting truth: not a single Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) was on track to be achieved by 2030, with progress labelled "static".

The 17 SDGs, including 169 specific targets, were first adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015. With these new, universally applicable targets, nations pledged to mobilise efforts to combat climate change, end all forms of poverty, and ensure that no one is left behind. 

Fast-forward to 2023 and most assessments say that at the current halfway milestone, only 15% of the targets are on track. This week UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the New York summit “Instead of leaving no one behind, we risk leaving the SDGs behind … the SDGs need a global rescue plan”.

The repercussions of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn and the climate crisis have derailed many of the projected SDG performances based on pre-pandemic trends. Tragically, it's the poor and highly vulnerable countries that bear the brunt of these setbacks.

This alarming revelation underscores the importance of integrating stewardship and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies for corporations. For stewardship service providers and asset managers, the imperative is clear – ESG engagement can be the catalyst for reinvigorating progress toward these critical global targets.

Related: SDGs for SMEs - The Importance of UN Goals for your Business

Stewardship: More Than Just Financial Oversight

Stewardship, traditionally associated with financial oversight and due diligence, has evolved. Today, it encapsulates the broader responsibility corporations and asset managers have to society and the environment. This evolution means playing an active role in shaping a future that is both sustainable and inclusive. 

The focus is on change that is positive for the planet rather than ticking a legislative box. This is especially relevant for now, while implementation of the (improving) legislations is not yet adequate for triggering the rate of change required to hit sustainability goals. 

Read: Companies Must Make ESG Reporting a Valuable Tool for Organisational Change 

Aligning Business with Global Sustainability

The trifecta of environmental, social, and governance factors offers a framework that, when integrated into business models, can yield both financial and societal returns.

1. Environmental: By prioritising climate action, sustainable resource use, and pollution reduction, companies can not only mitigate environmental risks but also unlock new opportunities in green technologies, sustainable supply chains, and circular economy practices.

2. Social: Inclusivity, diversity, employee welfare, and community engagement are not just 'nice-to-have' aspects of a business. They are foundational to building resilient, innovative, and adaptive organisations that can thrive in an interconnected world.

3. Governance: Strong governance structures ensure that companies are transparent, accountable, and aligned with both stakeholder interests and global sustainability goals.

Featured: 5 Ways To Implement SDGs Into SMEs

Directing Capital Toward Positive Impact

Asset managers hold a unique position in the financial ecosystem. By directing investments towards companies that demonstrate robust ESG practices, they not only generate long-term value but also catalyse positive societal and environmental impacts. It's this dual role that makes them instrumental in pushing for a more sustainable future.

The setbacks in achieving the SDGs underscore a collective need to ramp up efforts. For corporations, stewardship service providers, and asset managers, the path forward lies in embracing ESG as a fundamental aspect of doing business. By synergising financial performance with global sustainability goals, we not only safeguard our planet's future but also ensure that businesses remain resilient and prosperous in a rapidly changing world. 

Related: ESG Voices: Integrating Sustainability Into Business

Engage Change With Tools

The UN Global Compact asks companies to first do business responsibly and then pursue opportunities to solve societal challenges through business innovation and collaboration. It’s here that companies need to use the available tools to increase their chances of successful and relevant adoption. 

Tools such as SI Engage help in closing communication gaps across teams and wider organisations, streamlining processes for greater continuity and oversight, enabling real-time data access and ensuring no ESG initiative or action point falls through the cracks. By leveraging such technologies, corporations, stewardship service providers, and asset managers can seamlessly synchronise their strategies and amplify their impact on global sustainability objectives. 

To learn more about how this could positively impact your business, request your free demo here.

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