It has been a busy summer for our team at SDG Impact. As we have shared, on 31 July, we completed a public consultation period for our Standards for Private Equity funds and for our SDG Bond Standards. We held more than 50 events to gather feedback from, Africa, Europe, and North and South America, from more than 4,000 participants.
Later this year we will release the next versions of the Private Equity and SDG Bond Standards and will debut a third set: Practice Standards for Enterprises. The Enterprise Standards will be available in September. All three sets of Standards are intended to be public goods provided by UNDP; they are available for voluntary use by any organization interested in strengthening the measurement and reporting of its SDG contributions.
During the coming months, we will continue sorting through the feedback we have received, which is rich and detailed. We’re thankful that so many individuals and organizations took the time for thoughtful reflection and comment. In our initial review, we see several recurring questions and recommendations.
- Simplicity: Several reviewers noted that the Private Equity Standards had been significantly streamlined between the first and second drafts. These reviewers encouraged us to keep working on conciseness and clarity, and perhaps to include more visuals and summaries throughout the documents.
- Challenges in different parts of the world: We appreciated learning about the concerns of investors or bond issuers in various regions on how to make best use of these standards. We are designing online training with the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship CASE at Duke University; we expect the training to be available mid-2021.
- Integrity: Many commenters agreed with us on the understanding that the SDG Impact Standards will help ensure that investors and issuers will have the tools to target and document their contributions toward the SDGs. As one international financial services firm said, “The Standards encourage meaningful stakeholder engagement throughout the impact measurement and management process, which in our opinion, is key to avoiding green/social washing.”
- Verification: We received many questions about the process planned for Certification and the SDG Impact Seal, still under development, which will allow funds, bonds and businesses to receive an independent accreditation demonstrating their compliance with the SDG Impact Standards and their contributions to the SDGs.
- Compatibility: We continue to receive questions about how our SDG Impact Standards differ from or complement other Principles. The SDG Impact Standards are compatible with other social and environmental investment standards and principles and we appreciate the feedback regarding the need to demonstrate this more clearly.
We can’t answer every question just yet but be assured that we are considering all your contributions, and they are informing our ongoing work. The questions and recommendations you’ve offered during the public consultation process will feed directly into the revisions of Standards, which we expect to release sometime this fall.
The UNDP SDG Impact Standards are provided as a freely available self-assessment tool for organizations aiming to align their internal processes and practices to better address sustainable development risks and opportunities—and to facilitate their SDG contributions. We’ve received numerous comments on how useful the Standards are in creating the building blocks for an impact management system. While the Standards are still in development, we encourage organizations to use the current drafts as guides for evaluating or designing their own impact-management processes.
When the certification process is ready, organizations may choose to have their practices formally assessed against the Standards. UNDP-accredited, independent certifiers will verify an organization’s practices against the Standards and each of the core practice indicators. The certifiers will report on the organization’s work, detailing where it has implemented the processes well and pointing out concerns it must address before it asserts alignment with the Standards.
We anticipate that once an organization is positively assessed, it will be eligible to apply for an SDG Impact Seal. After we release the final Standards for Private Equity in October, we will begin piloting the certification process with a group of funds.
If you missed the 31 July deadline, please do not wait until we officially reopen the next comment period to submit your feedback. Our goal from the beginning has been to make this a collaborative process. Input is welcome at any time. We’re especially curious to learn more from the many organizations who have reviewed the Standards and have begun using them. We are all ears.