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What Do the SDGs Have to Do With Me?

By Laura Davis | Mon Aug 28 2017
Have you heard people throwing around the term Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs and wondered what it’s all about? Is it just meaningless development jargon, or is there something more to the United Nations efforts of setting an audacious goal and getting stakeholders headed in one direction? Keep reading for a synopsis of the goals and for information on what goals the IAN’s work is contributing to.
Just over a year and a half ago, on January 1, 2016 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development came into effect during the UN Sustainable Development Summit at the UN Headquarters in New York. These goals, set for 15 years with a completion date of 2030 call for all countries and various stakeholders, whether rich, poor or middle-income, to encourage prosperity while at the same time protecting the planet. The 17 goals set out by the United Nations are a call for all countries to help improve the circumstances and lives of people around the world. These goals, though not legally binding to a country, have been adopted by 193 nations with the expectation that leaders and governments will take ownership and establish ways to monitor and achieve them in their homelands.
Prior to the SDGs, there were a set of goals known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired in 2015. To their credit, the MDGs became a strong point of interest for Governments and a way for NGOs to hold them accountable. The 8 goals were often criticized for being too narrow and many believed they didn’t consider the core issues of poverty and missed gender inequality, human rights and economic development. While these goals were intended to be applied around the world, they ended up as targets for poorer counties, while continuing the age-old dependency and financing from wealthier states. The MDGs were very specific and measurable, however, that was also their largest criticism. Since they were so specific, it left out several other important issues. This criticism led to the creation of the SDGs.
Source: OSAA: Millennium Development Goals
To rectify the MDGs, the United Nations undertook the largest consultation in the UN’s history; surveying 5 million people in 88 counties to find out their goals and visions for the world in 2030. The new goals, which include 169 specific targets touched on things such as: no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, decent work and economic growth, reducing inequalities, and clean water and sanitation, to name a few. These goals acknowledge that to end poverty, there must be strategies in place that help build up the economy while simultaneously addressing a large range of social and environmental needs and issues.
Though they can seem high and lofty, the SDGs, now in year 2, have made some progress towards their 2030 goals. Many believe all the small steps will aid in pushing these goals forward. Recently, in July 2017, the United Nations released a report entitled Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals. This report gives a high-level analysis of the progress made towards achieving the 17 goals, based on data that was available April 2017. If you have a few minutes, we recommend you read the report to see where the goals currently stand.
Source: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
The SDG’s and Impact Investing
Not surprisingly, impact investors globally are using the SDGs to benchmark their investments. A recent report put out by InvestorFlow (an impact investor network) investigated impact investor’s preferences related to the goals. They found that their network had strong preferences towards: Goal 1 (no poverty), goal 3 (good health), goal 6 (clean water), and goal 7 (affordable and clean energy). The goals that were least tangible for the group included goal 14 (life in water), goal 15 (life in land), and goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). The top preferred goals highlights people’s desire to contribute towards healthy and prospering economies and livable cities.
The SDG’s and RENEW
Much of the work that impact investors do can be counted towards the SDGs. Hopefully it’s not to irreverent to say “it’s the economy stupid.” I can honestly say I feel like the work of the IAN can be counted in a small way (currently – but watch out world) towards 15 of the 17 goals. Don’t worry, I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s dig in deeper on a few goals that directly relate to our work:
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
One important aspect of sustainable economic growth is a nation’s ability to create high quality jobs while at the same time bolstering the economy. To count towards the goal, jobs of course need to include good working conditions. To date, this has been an important part of RENEW’s investments: creating and bolstering jobs and helping our entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, while encouraging good working conditions for their workers.
As of December 31, 2016, the IAN has created or sustained 1,490 jobs, and our companies work with 4,300 smallholder farmers. To our first point, I believe it goes without saying that a person with a job has better access to health care, clean water and education for his or herself and the family, but we’ll let that point rest for now.
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
It’s been noted that one of the ways to achieve the SDGs is through partners; multistakeholder partners, governments, NGOs, and the private sector. All these groups and different partnership models have been called the glue that will hold this agenda together, and will be the reason these goals are seen through and met.
On the United Nation’s website, it outlines what is needed with goal 17. “Urgent action is needed to mobilize, redirect and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of private resources to deliver on sustainable development objectives. Long-term investments, including foreign direct investments, are needed in critical sectors, especially in developing countries”. With every new investment made, through RENEW and other similar vehicles, we’re pushing this goal forward and helping to make these goals a reality. And we are doing it through partnerships. Partnerships with angel investors, the development community and local entrepreneurs.
While the SDG’s are audacious, let’s not forget, setting audacious goals are a big part of achieving alignment and success in the world of entrepreneurship. We all play a role. We all believe the world would be a better place, if we accomplish them. So watch out world, RENEW and the IAN are playing our part.
Read more about the Impact Angel Network and RENEW’s portfolio and the companies we currently invest in on our website.

Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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