How Impact Investing Can Help Achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals


December 06, 2019

By Jen Field, Social Impact Director at GLG

Photo: (L-R) FT’s Sarah Murray, ZAIS Group’s Desiree Fixler, Endeavor’s Linda Rottenberg, me, and Toniic’s Adam Bendell

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly launched its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 goals developed to serve as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The ambitious goals cover a range of issue areas, from poverty to gender equality to climate action – and the UN set out a timeline to accomplish them all within 15 years.

According to estimates, there’s a $2.5 trillion annual funding gap keeping us from achieving the SDGs by 2030. Over the next decade, it will be imperative to mobilize capital toward overcoming that gap and advancing the SDGs.

But how can investors funnel capital to the issues and places where it’s most urgently needed? The answer is impact investing: the practice of investing to generate not only financial return, but also positive, measurable social and environmental impact.

On December 5, I participated as a panelist at the Financial Times’ Investing for Good USA conference, where speakers discussed how innovative financial strategies, like impact investing, can advance the SDGs. I was joined on a panel about increasing private equity impact deal flow by Desiree Fixler (Managing Director and Head of Impact Investing at ZAIS Group), Adam Bendell (CEO of Toniic), Linda Rottenberg (CEO and Co-Founder of Endeavor), and moderator Sarah Murray (a writer on sustainable development for the Financial Times).

The conference was a great opportunity to learn and share the latest developments in impact investing, a still relatively new field that’s gaining traction – particularly in EMEA and the U.S. The field continues to grow as data shows that impact investing provides at or above market-rate returns – and as institutional investors increasingly support Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives. A 2018 report by FTSE Russell found that more than half of global asset owners are “implementing or evaluating ESG consideration in their investment strategy.”

Seven years ago, GLG made a formal investment in Social Impact. In the years since, we’ve worked with innovative social sector organizations and built a deep, relevant expert base tailored to their particular needs. As we see more and more of our financial services and professional services clients inquire about topics related to impact investing and investing with an ESG lens, we support them throughout the deal and integration processes to generate both strong financial returns and positive social impact. And, crucially, we approach these projects in the same way that we approach our traditional client work – with comprehensive service, thought partnership, and a focus on client outcomes.

Impact investing allows fund managers, foundations, family offices, and other investors to make a real difference in the world. Their investments are crucial resources on the path to achieve the UN SDGs – to eradicate hunger, ensure access to clean water, proliferate affordable and clean energy, and more. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues at GLG, and with our experts, in support of our clients’ changemaking work.