Preparing young leaders to achieve the SDGs

September 27, 2021

As consumers and future business leaders, the world's 1.8 billion people between 15 and 29 years old will play a critical role in achieving the SDGs.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint for a better and more sustainable future. But the COVID-19 pandemic has more than doubled the financing gap to achieve them. According to the latest OECD outlook, it’s estimated to increase from US$2.5 trillion pre-COVID to $4.2 trillion.

The role of the private sector is becoming more important because this gap could be filled by aligning only 1.1 percent of the $379 trillion in global finance.

There is good news. Investors are fully acknowledging that sustainable development is essential, not only for the well-being of people and planet, but also for the future of their businesses. And investors, businesses, and the private sector are increasingly willing to work with international development institutions, governments, and civil society to align their investments and practices to the SDGs.

They have requested guidance from UNDP on how to direct their investment capital. Questions we often hear include: “Where are investments most impactful and profitable?”, “How should we prioritize and choose from different options?”, “How can we maximize the likelihood to generate positive impact?”.

The private sector is moving from the niche market approach of “impact investing” to mainstream sustainable development.

At SDG Impact we have been working hard to provide global decision-making standards that provide practical guidance for businesses, bond issuers and investors to embed economic, social, and environmental considerations into their decision-making and day-to-day operations. They aim to transform the way we do business and investing.

But is this sufficient? How can we accelerate the change that we wish to see and that is needed to address the social and environmental challenges humanity is facing? For some time, we left those questions unanswered and simply tried to do better.

Then one day it clicked. Aren’t we leaving out 1.8 billion people in this world aged between 15 and 29 years old at a time when we need all hands on the deck?

SDG Impact is collaborating with educators to share work and experiences and to learn from the new generation of leaders.

UNDP Pakistan

We were working towards a new way of doing business and investing without considering business schools and educators. Those that are teaching and shaping the people who are our future CEOs, CFOs, and more recently, chief sustainability officers, enterprise owners, investors, managers, entrepreneurs, and consumers. The people who are the most influential, who care not only about their own future but also their children’s future.  This cohort craves change for people and planet the most.

So we began to collaborate with MBA programmes to share our work and experience, and also learn from the new generation of leaders.

We invited as Academic Partners Dr Hubertus H. Theissen and Maximillian H. Theissen, MPhil. Both are Affiliated Researchers at the Chair of Family Business Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany and they are Visiting Fellows at ESMT Berlin. They also are Founding Managers of the Family Wealth Impact Summit. They bring together Young Wealth Leaders who are ready to commit to impact investment. Leveraging their support and network, we secured a pilot workshop with Cambridge MBA students, which we delivered in June 2021. We presented the work at SDG Impact, and invited those committed to sustainable finance. We fielded a lot of questions, and the students shared their excitement about working towards sustainable development.

We are excited to announce that we have been invited by Professor Matthew Grimes from the University of Cambridge to deliver a part of his MBA core course curriculum at Judge Business School in 2022 and beyond. Our contribution will be part of the “Business and Society” course.  We are working hard on this in close collaboration with Hubert and Max Theissen, and Matthew Grimes. Our goal is to shift the focus of MBA programmes—and many others—from maximizing shareholder value to stakeholder value. We want to create a new way of looking at businesses and investing, one that embeds economic, environmental, and social impact into decision-making and management. We are looking forward to continuing with this new pillar of our work and collaborating with other MBA programmes.

Creating positive impact for people and planet is within reach. All we need to do is to change our mindsets. And young people will increasingly play a significant role on this journey. We are here to help them to achieve the change they deserve.