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Funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Julia Walker
Julia Walker
Head of Market Development, Risk, Asia-Pacific, Refinitiv

To advance the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, Refinitiv is harnessing the power of fintech and trusted data. Find out how our initiatives on sustainable leadership and closing the infrastructure funding gap can help to meet climate change objectives.


  1. Meeting the Paris climate change agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is estimated to require US$6.9 trillion annual investment in infrastructure by 2030.
  2. To help with funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Refinitiv is at the forefront of two global initiatives focused around the digitalization of finance.
  3. The Sustainable Leadership Monitor and Digital Governance of Infrastructure initiatives are important benchmarks for responsible business behavior and infrastructure activity.

Millions of activists around the globe are hitting the streets with one united plea: We must act on the climate change crisisOur leaders are confirming that the threat is real and that we need to act. The clock is indeed ticking.

Fortunately we have a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all in the form of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However having a blueprint is one thing, financing and making it a reality is another.

Earlier this year, Refinitiv joined the UN Secretary General’s Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals (DFTF).

The mandate? To focus on the impacts of the digitalization of finance with the aim to recommend and catalyze ways to harness digitalization for the acceleration of the financing of the SDGs.

On 25 September at Refinitiv’s New York headquarters, we were delighted to announce the initial fruits of our labors at a reception attended by the UN DFTF, the leaders of the UN and World Bank and the speakers at the UN Financing for Development summit.

Julia Walker moderates a discussion on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals, featuring guests Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at the Standard Bank Group; Frank Elderson, Executive Director at De Nederlandsche Bank; and Simon Zadek, UN SG Task Force
Julia Walker moderates a discussion on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals, with guests (L-R) Frank Elderson, Executive Director at De Nederlandsche Bank; Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at the Standard Bank Group; and Simon Zadek, of the UN SG Task Force

At this event, we announced two new strategic initiatives that have the power to make a difference and accelerate progress of the SDGs.

Benchmarks for sustainable development

Population growth, migration and urbanization trends demand an increase in infrastructure development, especially in emerging economies and developing countries.

The OECD estimates that meeting the Paris climate agreement of 2017 and the SDGs will require US$6.9 trillion a year in investment in infrastructure up to 2030. However, an enormous funding gap remains every year.

The first of our initiatives, the Digital Governance of Infrastructure, will shine a light on infrastructure by providing standardized, trusted, and transparent data for global infrastructure activity.

Our core belief is that holistic information about macroeconomics, project financing, markets, and geopolitical and operational risk data is vital for creating real benchmarks and advancements in the infrastructure blueprint.

The second focus is the Sustainable Leadership Monitor.

This was developed with the World Economic Forum as a measurement framework with practical benchmarking capabilities.

It allows investors to analyze over 7,000 companies with 400+ ESG data sets, giving users the option to sort companies by industry, country, and market cap, and focus on specific ranks, such as gender equality, racial diversity, or use of renewable resources.

This tool can assist in directing capital flow towards positive and measurable impact and drive accountable and responsible business behavior.

Watch: Sustainable Leadership Monitor

DFTF Co-Chair Maria Ramos said in her co-host remarks: These two projects symbolize what happens when we combine ambition and aspiration with commitment, passion, and action.

Maria Ramos, Co-Chair, DFTF Quote. Funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals

How fintech can drive sustainability

Fintech is already supporting the financing of the SDGs. The issuance of over half-a-trillion dollars of green and sustainable development bonds, made possible by the availability of cheap and credible data, attests to the use of the money raised.

Satellite imagery is increasing information flows to investors about climate risks and impacts, and it can identify emerging food security challenges. Governments are raising and saving money through digitalized tax collection and social welfare programs.

Fintech SDGs Quote. Funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In our collaborative efforts to advance the goals of the UN’s 2030 agenda, we aim to expand infrastructure data and transparency, support environmentally sound investing, and create greater opportunities for the world’s citizens. And data is just the beginning.

According to a recent DFTF report, 90 percent of today’s data has been produced in just the last two years. While data might appear to be a neutral commodity, it is anything but.

At its best, it can facilitate sustainable innovation, improve quality of life, enhance accountability, and combat climate change. Without data, however, corruption, inequalities, and human suffering flourishes. We need data to shine a light on the world’s iniquities.

Data SDG Quote. Funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals

With the use of hard data, standardized benchmarks, and scalable technology, our aim is to attack the problem by transforming the current financial system.

  • Investing in sustainability: The physical risks of climate change pose a clear and direct threat to assets and infrastructure. Businesses that mitigate risk through smart, eco-friendly choices will be ranked as sound investments because they will be better prepared to face climate change. They also offer more transparency to their operations and higher managerial ethics. Companies with high Environmental, Social, and Governmental (ESG) scores are generally more ethical, sustainable, and profitable. With data covering sustainability, governance and long-term financial returns, among others, we are going from the simple belief in good business to the real impact of hard investment metrics.

SDG Quote. Funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Fighting financial crime and corruption: The illicit economy impacts all aspects of society. It is estimated that $150 billion in revenue is produced from forced labor every year, and it is estimated that $2 trillion in illicit proceeds will be laundered through the world’s financial markets and banking system. Corruption can also siphon funds that could have been invested in education, roads, or health care. The most effective way to detect and obstruct these activities is through data, by identifying the networks, routes, and players involved in financial corruption and inhumane practices.

Corruption SDG

  • The digital economy: Four billion people (more than half of the world’s population) do not have Internet access. Millions of them have never had a bank account. The digitalization of finance can help empower the world’s population to have better control over their own money and assets.

Digital economy, SDG. Funding the UN Sustainable Development Goals

“If we do not manage to expand access to financial services to everyone, we will be leaving hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings behind,” said Elliott Harris, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, during our reception.

By mid-2020, the DFTF will submit a report on recommendations to harness digitalization to accelerate SDG financing.

“Digitalization provides the opportunities for citizens to have choices in many different parts of the financing value chain,” said Simon Zadek of the UN SG Task Force. “The experience of digitalization is translated into forms of democracy that go beyond procedural elections.”

Clear and decisive action

Meeting the SDGs requires a fundamental rethink.

Trillions of dollars need to be mobilized for sustainable development. Solving the challenge starts with initiative. Providing insight is the next step. At Refinitiv, we say: “Data is just the beginning.” In this case, it is the beginning of clear and decisive action.

As Ramos said: “If we don’t make the right choices now and, perhaps more importantly, if we don’t act on the choices we make, our ability to succeed in creating sustainability and achieving sustainable development goals is going to be seriously compromised.”

Find out more about our Sustainable Leadership Monitor and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.