The private sector is mobilizing to achieve the SDGs to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. In constant pursuit of returning shareholder value, corporations are looking for ways that SDG-aligned strategies can give a true measure of shareholder value. Financial institutions are voicing their support and creating investment opportunities, companies are identifying business value and reporting their contributions, and a multitude of frameworks are emerging to fill the gap between ambition and attainment. The appeal of the 17 global SDGs lies in their harmonization of the three dimensions of sustainable development—social inclusion, environmental protection, and economic growth. The U.N. is clear that addressing critical social and environmental challenges must "go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth." The U.N. further acknowledges that while its agenda will require the mobilization of trillions of dollars in resources, there are more than enough savings in the world to finance the new agenda.
As of August 2017, Trucost had identified market participants with USD 4 trillion in assets making SDG commitments, from Dutch leaders APG and PGGM, to U.S. heavyweights CalPERS and State Street. Trucost found commitments often aligned with firms’ corporate responsibility priorities. In a 2016 survey of institutional investors representing USD 5.9 trillion by the Principles of Responsible Investment, 62% of respondents believed that acting on the SDGs could create opportunities for increased financial returns, indicating growing interest in SDG-aligned strategies. As a result, SDG investment products are being developed, such as the partnership of BNP Paribas and the World Bank, resulting in EUR 163 million in bonds financing projects that advance SDG priorities.
Corporate sustainability leaders are also identifying business value from SDG-aligned strategies. Unilever's Paul Polman said, "SDGs present a clear moral case for change, but companies must recognize that they represent the business opportunity of a lifetime too and must adapt to take advantage of it." For some, it's also about business continuity. Kim Marotta, MillerCoors' sustainability director, said, "This [SDG] framework can open up opportunities for us to address our material issues in an integrated manner and develop transformative solutions that not only future-proofs our operations, but can also help our business remain commercially sustainable." The World Business Council for Sustainable Business Development reported that 50 of its 163 member companies surveyed for 2016 communicated SDG progress in their non-financing reports, with this figure likely to increase year-over-year.