Sustainability is a global imperative. It is my top priority as Secretary-General and the United Nations believes investors are essential partners in achieving it.
Until recently, the implications of sustainability issues for investors and financial markets were poorly understood and largely overlooked. The Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative (PRI) has helped correct this oversight by illuminating the financial relevance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and providing a framework for the global investment community to contribute to the development of a more stable and sustainable global financial system.
Launched in 2006, the Principles are a set of global best practices for responsible investment. Rising numbers of institutional investors – from all regions of the world – are embracing them. Signatories to the Principles are incorporating ESG factors into their investment decision-making and ownership practices in order to enhance financial returns, reduce risk and meet the expectations of their beneficiaries and clients. At the same time, they are directly influencing companies, policymakers and other market participants to improve their performance in these areas. This is delivering tangible benefits to the environment and society as a whole.
The Principles complement the UN Global Compact, which asks companies to embed in their strategies and operations a set of universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption. They are also a natural extension of the work of the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative, which has helped sensitise capital markets to the importance of environmental and social issues. Together these initiatives are helping us achieve the future we want.
I applaud the leadership of the institutions that have committed themselves to becoming signatories of the PRI. Now they must implement them. It is their responsibility – and it is their opportunity.
I urge other investors around the world to join these crucial efforts.