Investec Leverages the UN Global Compact SDG Innovators Programme to Promote Sustainable Investment in South Africa
Elevating all 17 Sustainable Development Goals
3 kids, a chef, a racing driver, an ex-punk rocker, a farmer, and a stockbroker are taking part in a learning experiment that will take them on a journey to find out what sustainability means, and why it is important for the planet.
Called ‘The Class of 2030’, this initiative is the first of a 3-part initiative created by Investec to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an organization.
An international bank and wealth management organization, Investec’s purpose is to create enduring worth – living in, not off the society. The company aims to contribute meaningfully to its people, communities, and the planet.
Embracing that purpose was exactly what the Wealth & Investment (W&I) division of the company did. Leveraging on the learnings by a teammate who attended the United Nations Global Compact Young SDG Innovators Programme in 2019, the team created an implementable, sustainability focused, business solution that would add value to Investec’s stakeholders.
The Class of 2030
“The UN Global Compact’s Young SDG Innovators Programme provided a platform to learn, think exponentially, and gain a strong understanding of sustainability, the SDGs, and how they relate to business.” says Maxine Gray, Head of Strategic Development at Investec W&I.
Maxine Gray, Head of Strategic Development, Investec W&I
One of the biggest challenges faced by organisations is making sustainability a crucial part of their company strategy and culture and not only a regulatory need and corporate responsibility.
“We framed this challenge by asking “How might we create a mindset shift that brings the SDGs as a foundation for sustainable business which is engrained into how we work, live and think?”, says Maxine.
“We decided not to choose one specific SDG as the core of our solution but rather sought to focus on driving the integration of the SDGs wholistically into the business.”
Their 3-pronged solution included:
1. The Class of 2030:
The Class of 2030 takes its name from the global SDG deadline in 2030. This initiative is a learning experiment that is taking a diverse group of 8 on a journey to find out what sustainability means, and why it is important for the planet. Every class member receives personalized tutoring on one SDG from an esteemed expert in the field.
Working with the Marketing team and the creative agency, Fell & Co, there was a rigorous selection process to ensure that The Class had a diverse and unique representation “of society” selected across Investec’s core geographies in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The initiative aims to transform how Investec teaches clients, staff, and the community about sustainability. It is a learning movement that will help create and train new advocates and changemakers who will promote sustainability in their communities, work, and different areas of life.
Frankie, Billie, and Ashlee are identical twins and part of The Class of 2030
Based on reflections from The Class so far, the key outtake of the experiment is that everyone learns differently. Participants also identified the fact that the theories in traditional learning models can be intimidating and new approaches like this initiative help to breakdown complex sustainability ideas. The magic in human connection, brainstorming and discussion was highlighted as well as how important it is to connect day to day activities to sustainable living.
The Class has been sharing the knowledge they are acquiring through a social media campaign. They are encouraging their audience to take small but consistent sustainability actions which can make a considerable impact as a collective. They also urge their audience to find impact through curiosity, discussion, and reflection.
Investec will take the learnings from The Class and use them to drive interest, education, and involvement in sustainability over time within and beyond the company.
2. The Investec Global Sustainable Equity (GSE) Fund
The Investec Global Sustainable Equity Fund is an investment solution that provides investors an opportunity to invest in companies that contribute on a net positive basis towards the 17 SDGs. The Fund aims to identify investments with 3 key characteristics, including companies that are making a net-positive impact on one or more of the SDGs, high quality and well managed global companies that have strong or improving ESG risk ratings, and businesses that incorporate sustainability into their decision making.
The GSE Fund was officially launched in November 2020 to the public and has assets of $49 million as of July 2023. The Fund also has a net positive SDG score of 4.8 with data verified by ISS SDG Impact Rating (scores ranging from -10 to +10).
Investec Global Sustainability Equity Fund provides investors an opportunity to invest in companies that contribute on a net positive basis towards the 17 SDGs.
“The link between sustainability and return is closer than many people think,” says Barry Shamley, Investec Wealth & Investment Fund Manager, South Africa.
“Business practices and outputs that are aligned with the SDGs provide a net-positive outcome for the planet and its people while aiming to deliver positive investment returns. The Investec GSE Fund proves that it is possible to do good at the same time as doing well”.
Barry Shamley, Investec Wealth & Investment Fund Manager, South Africa
The team managing the GSE fund continues to engage with internal teams, clients, and potential clients, and the media to bring awareness to this sustainable investment opportunity. New Paragraph
3. The Road to 2030:
The Road to 2030, which is the third element of the young innovators’ project, is a series of educational articles featuring different perspectives and insights on each of the SDGs. The article series, hosted on the company’s website seeks to amplify awareness about the SDGs externally and internally, and is targeted at the organization’s clients, partners, and employees.
Each SDG will be covered, featuring two articles, one authored by Maxine Gray and Simone Smith focusing on bringing the targets to achieve the SDG to light, and another, guest-authored by a colleague from South Africa or the UK, bringing a personal perspective to each SDG.
This 3-part sustainability initiative is considered a success within Investec as the solutions are achieving their objectives. These include shifting mindsets through education, context, and awareness, evolving business through product and process development, harnessing demand, and creating opportunity through a sustainable product/service offering.
Aligned to these initiatives, Maxine was recognised as the winner of the 2020 SDG Pioneer South Africa in recognition of showcasing how business can be a force for good.
Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network South Africa, Dr Achieng Ojwang, acknowledges the value that Investec is bringing to advancing the SDGs.
“We are pleased with the impact that Investec has achieved. The solutions they have created through their organization continue to make impact till date within Investec and externally, in South Africa’s investment ecosystem.
We are also seeing similar, groundbreaking work by our other participating companies to ambitiously drive sustainability using the framework of the SDGs and the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles. We invite other organizations to join us in making global impact” she notes.
Dr Achieng Ojwang, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network South Africa