“Over the next 15 years, the goals set in the UN 2030 Agenda will guide us in preparing for a future that ensures stability, a healthy planet, fair, inclusive and resilient societies and prosperous economies,” the signatories announced.
A little more than four years on, awareness is dawning within society that more needs to be done. Extreme weather events signal that continuing profligacy with the world’s resources carries huge environmental costs.
Pressure on companies to improve the sustainability of their business is growing. Combined with individual and collective activism, this reflects the impact of a number of industry- and regulatory-driven initiatives that have emerged over the past decade.
More and more businesses are facing demands from their investors to be more proactive in adopting environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, a major sovereign wealth fund, was an early adopter of an ethical policy that bans investment in businesses that produce nuclear weapons or tobacco, or cause environmental damage.3 Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, has headed in the same direction. In November 2019, it announced the sale of its securities in Australian and Canadian states whose greenhouse gas emissions it deemed to be unacceptably high.4
But it is not only government-related investors that have such concerns. The private sector also has this topic on its radar. Climate Action 100+ is an investor initiative, launched in late 2017, that lobbies the world’s major corporate greenhouse gas emitters to accelerate their efforts to combat climate change. One of its members is BlackRock, whose CEO, Larry Fink, warned in his annual letter to chief executives in January this year that the firm was withdrawing investment in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk”.