This article is written by Victoria Kent, Investment Specialist at Elevate Super
How companies in Australia and around the world are striving to be a net positive force for change.
We all know that governments can be painstakingly slow to take action on the things that matter to us, like climate action. That’s why many companies are taking matters into their own hands and expressing carbon neutral pledges (for example) that exceed those recently outlined by our national government.
These companies realise that tackling the world’s sustainability issues is a matter for everyone, not just governments. Created to help mobilise business as a force for change, The United Nations Global Compact Network is the world’s largest sustainability initiative. We are proud members of The GCNA – Australia’s local chapter.
I attended the GCNA’s annual summit, aptly titled ‘Making Global Goals Local Business’, which ran over 11-12th May, 2021 where the theme of ‘building back better’ inspired both physical and virtual attendees (like myself).
Kylie and the gang at GCNA work tirelessly to get Aussie companies recognising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and taking active measures to achieve them. This is especially important in a country like Australia, which is currently lagging behind other nations, not least because of our government’s climate change stance.
Mandy Nicholson kicked the forum off with a bang, addressing us in Woiwurrung – the language of Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, who are the traditional custodians of Melbourne and surrounds.
I greatly admired her admission that this language was not taught to her, but something she had empowered herself to learn. Mandy held no punches by demanding businesses engage in true collaboration with indigenous stakeholders (as opposed to just consultation), and also cautioned against box-ticking greenwashing exercises.
Robin Mellon, Master of Ceremonies (MC) and CEO of Better Sydney, followed on by describing the 17 SDGs as “the existential issues we are facing every day”.
He explained the purpose we had gathered at the summit was to problem solve the issues, and warned there were no passengers, only participants. A self-confessed ‘electric vehicle nerd’ who traveled to the event from Sydney via electric car, Robin was a good example of someone who walks the talk.
Over two days, the summit showcased a variety of local and international leaders in the sustainability space. The ever-inspiring Paul Polman, ex CEO of Unilever and founder/CEO of Imagine, highlighted the burning platform of why we need to act, pointing out what should be obvious – “business cannot succeed in societies that fail.”
I’m a fan of good quotes, and especially liked this one Paul used to described man’s folly:
“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.” ― Hubert Reeves
I personally enjoyed hearing from the very humble Murray Saylor, MD of Tagai Management Consultants, as well as the well-travelled Sanaka Samarashinha, who holds various UN roles .
Sanaka reminded us change is not only possible, but it is also inevitable. He encouraged us to think outside ourselves and our country, as it was our selfishness and lack of vision that had put the planet in peril.
Figure 1 Leah-Anne Thompson / Shutterstock.com
He explained it is our Pacific Island neighbours who are the most at risk from climate change, while ironically having contributed the least to it.
The pandemic was an opportunity to “course correct”, he said.
My biggest takeaway from the summit was more of a theme than a specific session: as a business (or indeed, as an individual), it’s not enough to just be ‘less bad’.
What we should be aiming for is to be a net positive force for change. I think this rang especially true for me because in the investing world, sustainable investing is quite often at the ‘avoiding harm’ end of the sustainability spectrum, simply achieved through exclusion of less desirable sectors via negative screening.
This year’s summit encouraged companies to fall on the other end of the spectrum – contributing to solutions by investment in companies with positive environmental and social impacts.
At Elevate Super, we work hard to ensure the companies we invest in are net positive contributors to the SDGs. We know this because we measure it and score our portfolios out of 100, continuously striving to improve.
To find out more visit www.elevatesuper.com.au.
About Elevate Super
Elevate Super is a retail super fund, powered by successful fintech AtlasTrend. AtlasTrend was created in 2015 to build a new investment service to help our customers learn and invest with purpose in long term world trends. At Elevate Super, we believe you shouldn’t have to give up competitive financial returns to do good.
We assess and measure investments based on their long-term growth fundamentals plus positive contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a global blueprint for balancing our economic, social and environmental needs.
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