Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has used a speech at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street to encourage the investment industry to opt for a sustainable path.
In an address on Wednesday, Ban welcomed the NYSE to the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, a UN programme that brings some of the world’s largest stock exchanges together in the name of sustainability.
But with fewer than 1,000 days until the deadline of the UN’s millennium development goals, which end in 2015, he described the financial services sector’s role as “crucial”.
“Investment must be sustainable – delivering value not just financially, but also in social, environmental and developmental terms”, he said.
“Increasingly the global business community hears this message and is responding. Over the past decade, more than 7,500 companies have committed to the United Nations Global Compact.
“Our aim is to generate a critical mass of socially responsible investors, entrepreneurs and businesses prepared to uphold social and environmental principles, fight corruption, promote gender equality and reject economic exploitation.”
In June 2012, at the Rio+20 talks in Brazil, five global stock exchanges pledged their support to the SSE initiative, including NASDAQ OMX, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and the Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE).
Since its foundation in 2009, a total of eight have signed up, covering some 13,000 listed companies across the world. The addition of the NYSE – the largest stock exchange in the world, listing firms collectively worth over $16 trillion (£10.4 trillion) – was described by Ban as “a significant step forward”.
He added, “Increasingly, investors understand that embracing social, economic and environmental responsibility does not mean sacrificing investment returns. Indeed, it promises more stable portfolios.”
See here for Ban’s full speech.