Washington D.C. — Amid volatile currencies and political uncertainty, the Sustainable Development Goals can provide direction and opportunity for private-equity investors in high-growth emerging markets.
That idea seemed to take hold Tuesday at the International Finance Corp.’s Global Private Equity Conference in Washington DC.
The SDGs represent as much as $12 trillion in revenues and savings by 2030 in sectors ranging from affordable housing to forest ecosystem services and energy efficiency. The 17 U.N. global goals offer investors once focused on ‘do no harm’ investment approaches a set of long-term investment opportunities in solutions to global challenges.
“How does that work in practice?” the Economist’s Matthew Bishop asked a panel that included Sev Vettivetpillai, managing partner at the Abraaj Group; Gavin Wilson, IFC CEO; and Lise Kingo, head of the U.N. Global Compact.
The group concurred: Education, focus and implementation. “Could all CEOs take an SDG crash course within their first weeks on the job?” suggested the IFC’s Wilson.
And change to accelerate change. The IFC itself, a part of the World Bank Group, “can change from being a financier to a financial intermediary. To help mobilize private capital and move ‘from billions to trillions,’ it can be a matchmaker and provide guarantees.”
Other ideas: “Look at data to identify gaps and opportunities,” advised the UNGP’s Kingo. In India, for example, much needed low-income food markets could create around 11 million jobs by 2030.
“Measure impact to align capacity, teams and strategies to the SDGs,” says Abraaj’s Vettivetpillai, who also leads the private equity firm’s impact investing.
Vivina Berla, co-managing partner at Sarona Asset Management, told ImpactAlpha, “We founded Sarona to provide smart capital to build better businesses across frontier and emerging Markets. It is exciting to see the SDGs provide a framework that the whole world can sign up to.”
The IFC’s Wilson concluded, “The good news is that there is now so much global entrepreneurial talent to take on these problems. The future (of the SDGs) is in emerging markets private equity.”