Accelerating SDG Progress: The Path Ahead with UNGC India’s Forward Faster Initiative

The Forward Faster Initiative, launched by the UN Global Compact, calls on business leaders to take bold, measurable actions across nine targets within five thematic areas: Gender Equality, Climate Action, Living Wage, Water Resilience, and Finance & Investment. The Finance & Investment targets are crucial, supporting and enhancing efforts in the other areas. By aligning investment decisions with the SDGs, companies can prioritize strategies that are both financially sound and socially responsible, driving impactful changes across all SDG-related activities.

Publicly committing to the Forward Faster Initiative significantly enhances corporate reputation and builds stakeholder trust. Customers, investors, and partners increasingly seek businesses with a genuine commitment to sustainability, providing a competitive edge in the market. Collaborative efforts foster partnerships and innovative solutions, leading to shared resources, increased knowledge, and a greater impact on achieving sustainable development goals. By focusing on finance and investment, businesses create a robust framework that supports comprehensive and sustainable progress across all thematic areas.

Our global call to action on finance builds on the pioneering work of the CFO Coalition for the SDGs. The CFO Principles on Integrated SDG Investments and Finance complement the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles, guiding companies towards sustainable development through corporate finance and investments that support the SDGs. We commit to implementing these principles, setting ambitious targets, and sharing our learnings to accelerate our companies’ sustainable transition. Leading CFOs have pledged over US$500 billion in SDG investments from 2020 to 2025, linking debt financing to sustainability performance and planning to issue hundreds of billions in new sustainable finance instruments.

One Year On: Reflections and Progress

Sourcing institutional capital to finance sustainability efforts is essential. However, we need a scalable, measurable, and transparent model to invest in private sector solutions. This is a challenge for institutional investors, development finance institutions, and impact investors. When corporate investments align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it boosts the credibility of the private sector’s contributions and ensures accountability through high-quality reporting on targets and key performance indicators (KPIs). Innovations in corporate finance can further increase accountability for SDG goals by linking performance to the cost of capital.

As we near the first anniversary of the Forward Faster Initiative, we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of Indian companies joining. Yet, a crucial question lingers: Are these companies truly aligning their actions with the initiative’s ambitious targets? How deeply are they embedding these targets into their day-to-day operations, and what effect does this have on their journey toward sustainability? While 11 companies have committed to the targets under Finance and Investment (F&I), only a handful are actively pursuing meaningful action. Below, we share insights from experts on this matter:

For the envisioned Sustainable development, corporate and finance plays a very crucial role in paving the path for the same. Integrating both ensures the longevity of sustainable development initiatives. Incorporating impact and sustainable development as a foundation to guide the overall finances within the organization not only ensures progressive growth for the Nation but it also ensures long-term positive returns for the corporates as well – Mr. Rakesh Sharma, Managing Director, AG Horizon Pvt Ltd

TARGET I: Aligning Corporate Investment with SDG Policies and Strategies
  • Collective Commitment to SDGs: Companies participating in the Forward Faster Initiative are dedicated to achieving several SDGs by 2030, focusing on targets such as clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, and climate action. This commitment integrates SDGs into their long-term business plans.
  • Dedicated Sustainability Verticals: Some companies have established dedicated sustainability departments responsible for projects addressing climate change and driving sustainable transitions, ensuring systematic and impactful efforts.
  • Policy Advocacy and Capacity Building: Participating companies actively engage in policy advocacy and capacity building, promoting awareness and compliance with SDG policies, and fostering an environment where sustainable practices become the norm.
  • Continuous Policy Updates: Companies regularly update internal policies to reflect evolving ESG parameters, maintaining alignment with SDG strategies and ensuring relevant and effective operations. They track progress towards sustainability goals using key performance indicators such as carbon footprint reduction, energy efficiency improvements, and employee engagement in sustainability initiatives. Regular assessments and audits are conducted to ensure compliance with sustainability standards and to identify areas for improvement.

TARGET II: Establishing a Corporate Financing Strategy Linked to SDG Investments and Performance
  • Innovative Funding Models: Companies recognize the pressing need for creating innovative funding and revenue generation models to back sustainable development projects. By aligning corporate finance with SDG performance, they demonstrate a strategic approach to overcoming financial barriers to sustainability.
  • Setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Employing the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact as KPIs, companies meticulously monitor project impacts. This ensures accurate reporting of SDG investments and a steadfast commitment to measurable outcomes.
  • Reporting and Transparency: Companies are increasingly seeking assistance from the UN Global Compact for innovative funding opportunities and technical support. They prioritize transparent reporting and alignment with SDG investments. However, sustainability targets encounter challenges such as resistance to change, resource limitations, and the need for specialized expertise in certain domains. Engaging suppliers and stakeholders in sustainability endeavours also remains a significant hurdle.

Norex has been a proud member of the UN Global Compact Network India (UNGCNI).  As a signatory to the UNGC principles, we are committed to aligning our operations and strategies with the ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. Our active participation in the UNGCNI has allowed us to collaborate with like-minded organizations, share best practices, and contribute to the collective effort towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are excited to be a part of the Forward Faster Initiative and look forward to the opportunity to share our experiences, learn from other participating organizations, and collectively drive progress towards the SDGs.

At Norex, we firmly believe that a well-structured corporate finance strategy is essential for driving meaningful progress towards sustainability and the SDGs. By aligning our corporate finance strategy with our sustainability goals, Norex aims to position itself as a leader in sustainable business practices in India, inspiring other organizations to follow suit. – Mr. Vaibhav Agrawal, MD & CEO, Norex Flavours Private Limited

Are Actions Aligning with Targets?

While companies have made a promising start, aligning actions with targets demands ongoing commitment and rigorous tracking. Continuous evaluation of progress and strategic adaptations are essential to meet SDG commitments. This alignment not only enhances corporate reputation and positions companies as sustainability leaders but also builds stakeholder trust. Moreover, it drives innovation, fostering the development of new sustainable practices and business models. Sustainable practices ensure long-term viability by addressing environmental and social risks, thereby securing future success.

“ReNew is proud to be a committed participant in the UN Global Compact Network India (UNGC NI), a partnership that has significantly bolstered our sustainability efforts and reinforced our dedication to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Forward Faster Initiative represents a pivotal step in accelerating our collective progress towards a sustainable future. We firmly believe that achieving meaningful progress in sustainability requires a well-structured corporate finance strategy. As members of the Initiative, aligning our financial practices with our sustainability goals has enabled us to invest in long-term projects that support environmental and social well-being, thereby positioning ReNew as a leader in sustainable business in India. This strategic alignment ensures that our sustainability efforts are not only impactful but also scalable and financially viable, allowing us to set new benchmarks in the industry.” – Ms. Vaishali Nigam Sinha, Co-Founder and Chairperson, Sustainability, ReNew

UNGCNI’s Role

The UN Global Compact Network India (UNGCNI) plays a pivotal role in facilitating collaboration among stakeholders, fostering innovation, and sharing effective solutions. It provides comprehensive guidance, resources, tools, and support to help companies achieve their sustainability targets, while also monitoring progress to ensure accountability and transparency. Through policy advocacy, UNGCNI actively promotes sustainable business practices, reinforcing its unwavering commitment to meaningful SDG progress.

Call for Action

UNGCNI urges Indian companies to join the Forward Faster Initiative on Finance & Investments, driving India towards a sustainable and equitable future. We invite all stakeholders to stay tuned to our website for insights and updates on this transformative journey. We welcome your suggestions and views on accelerating SDG progress.

Together, we can create a substantial impact and ensure a better future for all.

Stay engaged, stay informed, and join us in this critical movement towards sustainability!

Read More: https://forwardfaster.unglobalcompact.org/finance-investment
Take Action: https://info.unglobalcompact.org/forwardfaster_sdg_finance_and_investment