Transforming Finance: UNEP’s “Positive Impact Manifesto”

October 23, 2015
Editor @17Goals

PositiveImpactManifestoCoverFew would argue that money — who has it, where it goes, what it does — is not a critical factor in whether the world heads toward the vision of the 17 SDGs, or not. And many would say that much of the world’s financial capital is not being invested in things that actually make the world a better place.

That is why UNEP’s new Positive Impact Manifesto, which has been developed by ten major banks, out of the 200 financial institutions worldwide who participate in UNEP’s Financial Initiative, is so welcome.

In brief, the Manifesto commits those ten banks to filtering their major financial activity through a simple, but potentially revolutionary, criterion:  whether or not it “verifiably produces a positive impact on the economy, society or the environment once any potential negative impacts have been duly identified and mitigated.”

For those who are familiar with the Precautionary Principle, the Manifesto is taking one important step further. The Precautionary Principle is about not doing things that might cause harm. The Manifesto includes this idea (“once any potential negative impacts have been duly identified and mitigated”), but then flips things around to say:  “We should only do things that actually do good.”

How serious is the initiative? For the ten banks involved, it appears to be quite serious — and linked to the SDGs. Here is the deputy CEO of the French financial giant Société Générale, Severine Cabannes: “The Positive Impact Manifesto launched today [13 Oct 2015] is a real milestone which will help us make decisive progress towards Sustainable Development Goals and shows the willingness of the banks to engage in order to address the challenges of evolving towards a more inclusive and greener economy.”

The banks will also be creating a “Positive Impact Incubator” to test new business and financial models for their “bankability” (that is, making sure banks will actually invest in them). Read the whole story here.

The Positive Impact Manifesto will not revolutionize the financial industry overnight, but it is an excellent first step in the right direction: that is, toward transformation.

Goal 8/Goal 17/Publication
Tags: Goal17, Goal8,

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