The University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) Graduate School of Business (GSB) has been named as one of nine leading universities to be part of a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a research agenda that will better leverage private investment to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The announcement of the launch of the research council and the partnership was made on the sidelines of the seventy-second UN general assembly, held last month, at an event titled UVT Big Data, Impact Management & the SDGs. The event was cohosted by the UNDP and the UN Global Pulse.
The partnership is led by UNDP SDG Impact Finance (UNSIF), an initiative that aims to unite the private and public sectors through impact investment that yields competitive financial, social and environmental returns.
The Research Council of the UNSIF is tasked with developing the methodology and formulating standards to measure the development impact.
While the council includes prominent universities in the US, Europe and Asia, only UCT, through its Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship, a specialised centre at the university’s GSB, will represent the African continent.
The business schools and academic institutions that have committed to this initiative include Carleton University, the China Europe International Business School, Maastricht University, the National University of Singapore Business School, Oxford University Saïd Business School, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Tsinghua University and the Centre of Sustainable Finance and Private Wealth at the University of Zurich.
The council will undertake research to improve the analytical frameworks, evidence, and policy environment that encourage and guide commercial capital flows in support of the UN’s SDGs.
The impact investment sector has been growing rapidly, with the Global Impact Investing Network estimating that there is at least $114-billion worth of impact investing assets under management.
UN assistant secretary-general, UNDP assistant administrator and director at the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Magdy Martinez-Soliman noted in a press statement last month that the growing and promising niche of impact investing is a vanguard for how the private sector can intentionally create positive impacts.
“The term ‘impact’ can be seen as a convenient shorthand for the 17 SDGs – and impact investors, by their own definition, embody an ethos for intentionally creating outcomes that are positive for society and the environment. “The returns they target are much more than just financial. “These experiences can guide us as we reimagine development finance for the SDGs,” she explained in the statement.
In conjunction with the launch of the UNSIF Research Council, a discussion paper was published to propose a high-level research agenda and inform the discussion at the inaugural meeting of the council.
Bertha Centre innovative finance lead and impact investing in Africa course convenor Aunnie Patton Power noted in the same statement that “impact investing holds significant promise for Africa for . . . local investments and investors”.
She stated that the centre had been working with leading local and global practitioners and governments to help catalyse this market on the continent.
“We look forward to participating in this research network to continue to expand the scope and impact of the field,” Patton Power stated.
Through complementary cycles of research, testing, certification and policy cycles, the ultimate goal of the research council is to produce a standardised impact-measuring framework that governments can use to make informed public investment decisions, define new policy options for impact investing and incentivise capital markets to prioritise SDG-aligned investment practices.