Religious leaders urge Theresa May to appoint dedicated SDG minister

Leaders within the UK's six most predominant religions have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to bolster the Government's action plans for achieving the aims of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), after a recent report revealed that the nation is delivering on less than a quarter of its SDG targets.

To mark the end of UK Inter Faith Week on Friday (16 November), leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist faiths have sent a joint letter to May raising their concerns about the Government’s current approaches to social inequalities, healthcare and nutrition.

The letter cites socio-economic strains compounded by Brexit as a key barrier to SDG progress, arguing that they fuel “negative attitudes” to those “incorrectly perceived” to be the cause of inequalities – namely migrants, asylum seekers and those claiming benefits.

Drawing on recent research suggesting that action on the Goals could generate up to $12trn for the global economy, the document then goes on to argue that action on the SDGs would “build cohesion and resilience within communities”.

On a broader scale, it states that more ambitious action on the SDGs would “ensure that the UK is able to help resolve challenges [it] shares globally with the international community”.

To reap these rewards, the letter recommends that the Government appoints a dedicated minster for the SDGs. It also urges ministers to produce a “coherent” plan of action for all 17 Goals, including details of how it will work with faith communities to achieve its aims. 

“At a time when there is so much in the news about divisions in our nation and in the world, we are seeking to demonstrate that faith communities in the UK are already working for the betterment of our society and the world,” the Bishop of Bedford Richard Atkinson said.

“We are looking forward to working alongside Government and the British people in taking the vitally important SDGs.”

Slow progress

The letter comes shortly after the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) published the first independent review of Britain’s progress on the 17 Global Goals, revealing that the UK is only performing well on 24% of its targets.

Drawing on insight from more than 100 businesses, charities, trade unions and Government agencies, the review concluded that 57% of the SDG targets considered “relevant” to the UK were suffering from policy gaps or inadequate action.

The review’s findings have spurred the Government to launch its first voluntary review into how the nation’s business community is contributing to the SDGs.

Investment drive

In related news, global wealth management firm UBS has today (19 November) adopted a new platform that allows investors to find impact investment opportunities that will see their money used in a way that aligns with the aims of the SDGs.

Called Align17, the digital tool aims to give impact investors “a measurable social and environmental impact as well as a compelling financial return”.

UBS has already trialled the tool among 150 of its Zurich-based investors and is set to launch it across 16 of its London locations this week. The move forms part of its commitment to raise $5bn in SDG-related impact investments over five years.

“In order to achieve the UN global goals by 2030, the world requires an estimated annual investment of $5-7trn of new capital,” Align17’s chief executive Georgie Benardete said.

“A major contributor will have to be private wealth investors, working effectively alongside institutional and government funds. Through Align17, we empower a new generation of private investors to become a catalyst for positive change.”

The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and PwC are urging investors to adopt the SDGs as a capital allocation guide, arguing that the consideration of social and environmental sustainability should be considered as part of investor’s fiduciary duty.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie