As an introduction, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are a set of 17 consolidated targets that form a comprehensive framework for holistic global development. It brings together the five pillars: people (Goals 1-6), planet (Goals 12, 13, 14, 15), prosperity (Goals 7-11), peace (Goal 16) and partnerships (Goal 17).
Before the global lockdown, fifty-one countries were supposed to conduct and submit their voluntary national reviews (VNR) by May 2020, assessing and presenting any progress made in achieving the 17 goals. The current pandemic crisis stopped this process.
Although these goals initially had a deadline of 2030, and all involved parties could think there is still time, there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic will upend not only that timeline but also the processes involved in reaching these targets. In particular for a large number of these targets that had a deadline of 2020 instead of 2030.
The direct impacts of the pandemic are obvious with the deterioration of health conditions, the rise of the unemployment and the increased number of hungry people. And other collateral damages will emerge due to the interlinkages between the SDGs. Poverty (SDG1) will take a hit, as well as the quality of education (SDG4). Other goals as water and sanitation (SDG6), reduced inequalities (SDG10) and peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG16) will also be negatively affected. The post-pandemic review will obviously show that it has not only devastated the economy, but also wiped out many of the SDG gains.
During this forced “pandemic pause”, it was also the good time for all the stakeholders to undertake a thorough review of where we stand as well as what needs to change. A few SDG’ targets must now have a greater priority. The health aspect of SDGs is more important and should be the priority number one. Life during the lockdown suggest that the food supply chain should be reorganized. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for engagement with the private sector and civil society to prevent any other potential catastrophes.
Once the Covid-19 pandemic will be under control, and the world economy will be back on track, the status and fate of the 2030 Agenda needs to be reassessed. The year 2020 was supposed to kick-off the Decade of Action. With just 10 years to go, plans were made to undertake “ambitious global efforts” to deliver the 2030 promise—by mobilizing more governments, civil society, businesses, and calling on all people to make the Global Goals their own.
On a positive note, the specific attention to achieving SDGs and the political interest among governments at an international level remains robust. In these times the private sector’s and volunteer actions for the SDGs is even more relevant in terms of direct services such as mask and sanitizer provisions, aiding accountability and helping design stimulus packages, knowledge dissemination and also facilitating greater diversity.
As the whole world is preparing for a global economic crisis, reflecting on the SDGs becomes more important. This is mainly because the SDGs enshrine the main forms of capital for the long-term economic health of a country – human capital (poverty, hunger, health, education, water and sanitation); social capital (gender, equality, peace and justice, global partnerships); physical capital (economic growth, industry, sustainable cities) and natural capital (terrestrial biodiversity, oceans, climate, clean energy, responsible consumption and production).
These factors are imperative for operationalizing businesses, attracting foreign investments and, most important, increasing the efficiency of domestic economic processes.
While readjusting to the changing world orders after this pandemic, it has been of utmost importance for nations to strive toward the SDGs with a renewed vigor, capitalizing on the fact that this huge challenge in the present is an immense learning opportunity for the entire human race in the future.
And the Financial sector played already its supporting role as COVID-19 brought during this period huge inflows in SDGs as Good Health and Well Being (N°3) with the pharmaceutical companies but also as Climate Change (N°13) with companies engaged in sustainable transition. And as the ESG investments performed better than the Non-ESG ones, it has been a double positive effect. Effect that should be maintained structurally. Even more that it is the right answer to growing concerns from investors.
As a conclusion, although the Covid-19 disaster will delay the timeline for the global goals, the SDGs will stand more than crucial and global partnerships is even more present than never in order to make Agenda 2030 successful. Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic confirmed the importance of Sustainable Finance for the future and our positioning as Investment Manager.
Head of Portfolio Management GreenEthica by FIA A.M.