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UN Sustainable Development Goals

Pathways to Success – A Systematic Framework for Aligning Investments


Although there is much in the world to be proud of, we still face enormous societal, environmental, and economic challenges. Even in this day and age, more than 2 billion people — a quarter of all humankind — lack access to even the most basic elements of life that most of us take for granted, such as clean water, sanitation, and energy, while 800 million people — more than one in ten of us — remain undernourished. At its most extreme, the picture is infinitely worse; 700 million people, again, almost one in ten of us, still live below the poverty line on less than $1.90 per day, a sum that many of us spend on a coffee without a second thought. More than 40% of children younger than age 14 (800 million) still lack access to a 'complete' education, and are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential. Beyond the obvious impact on their own lives, what benefits might almost a billion extra well-educated people bring to the world?

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to tackle the challenges, issues, and injustices facing the world by 2030, but the goals themselves are complex. They are arguably all inextricably linked, with numerous feedback loops, not all of them positive. Trillions of dollars of capital wants to invest sustainably but struggles to translate an investment philosophy, which desires alignment with the SDGs, into a practical investment strategy given that complexity.

This GPS report tries, as far as possible, to simplify the SDGs — to examine those interlinkages, to determine the driving forces and resulting benefits, and thereby determine a set of critical paths — our so-called 'pathways to success' — which can lead quickly and most effectively to the achievement of the goals. It allows us to identify who is best placed to do what, from the public sector to the private sector to the investment community, and what their route in might be. We examine the goals individually, attempting to lay out both the incremental financial cost/opportunity of achieving the goal, and the human benefit that might be gained by solving it. In a world of scarce resources, it also provides an indication of which paths might achieve the broadest human benefit for the least financial cost though this does not mean these are the most important — it is not by accident that all roads on our 'pathways to success' lead to the eradication of poverty.

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