By Elsa Savourey, Senior Lead, Sustainability Outcomes, PRI
Investors have the power to shape outcomes for people and the planet and they have a variety of levers to do so.
That was the key message from the PRI Digital Forum: Sustainability Outcomes held online in June that brought together over 1,000 participants. Throughout the month, we were joined by expert speakers from around the world for a series of webinars on sustainability outcomes, a theme of growing interest amongst investors.
What are sustainability outcomes?
Sustainability outcomes can be identified and assessed in terms of sustainability performance at the global level and the level of a particular asset, economic activity, company, sector, country, or region.
They include outcomes that must be addressed for economies to operate within planetary boundaries, such as climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. They also comprise outcomes that must be in place to drive inclusive societies, such as the respect of human rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Finally, they cover outcomes that are needed in corporate culture for sustainability performance, such as tax fairness, responsible political engagement, and anti-corruption measures.
Investors can shape sustainability outcomes through individual as well as collective actions, including investment decisions, stewardship, and policy engagement. They can then assess progress against recognised global sustainability performance thresholds and timeframes – including the SDG targets and indicators.
Key levers of investor action
During the Digital Forum, we explored specific approaches that investors can take to shape sustainability outcomes in line with PRI’s framework on investing with SDG outcomes published in 2020, and in the context of PRI’s new three-year strategy, which focuses on building a bridge between financial risk, opportunities, and sustainability outcomes.
We investigated how to identify sustainability outcomes and set related targets. We explored how to connect existing targets and commitments, such as those on net zero, to global goals, including by looking at the work of the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance. We also discussed investing in line with the SDGs, including in emerging markets. Investors based in multiple countries joined us to highlight the different regional and national contexts in which they operate.
We explored further what levers investors have to shape sustainability outcomes. We heard leading investors providing case studies on shareholder resolutions and we explored the potential role of the beneficiaries’ voice.
In addition, we turned to some of the key policy developments related to investing with sustainability outcomes. In particular, we looked at the opportunities and challenges for investors at EU policy level, with a specific focus on mandatory human rights due diligence in the European Union.
We are grateful to the guest speakers and our audience for joining us and engaging with the different sessions and the lively Q&A segments. Following these sessions, we will continue working with our signatories to provide a better understanding and guidance around sustainability outcomes. Upcoming projects will involve exploring the legal framework that can support investors efforts to shape sustainability outcomes in various jurisdictions, developing case studies on how investors integrate human rights as well as the SDGs across asset classes and much more.
In the meantime, if you missed any of the sessions, they are now all available on demand. For further resources including case studies, you can have a look at our dedicated webpage. We look forward to welcoming you to the next PRI Digital Forum and to our future events on sustainability outcomes.
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 Definition extracted from PRI reporting framework glossary, entry “sustainability outcomes”, available at https://www.unpri.org/reporting-and-assessment/reporting-framework-glossary/6937.article