One of the late Kofi Annan’s legacies, largely overlooked in the tributes marking his recent passing, is sustainable investing. As United Nations Secretary General, Annan launched the U.N. Global Compact in 2000, a voluntary corporate citizenship initiative based on a set of human rights, labor, environmental, and anticorruption principles. Its objective was to get companies to operate more sustainably and with a greater sense of corporate responsibility. Today, more than 7,000 companies are Global Compact signatories.
A few years later, in 2004, Annan led a Global Compact initiative to encourage the integration of environmental, social and corporate governance factors into capital markets. The resulting report, “Who Cares Wins,” laid out the thesis for sustainable investing:
“In a more globalised, interconnected and competitive world the way that environmental, social and corporate governance issues are managed is part of companies’ overall management quality needed to compete successfully. Companies that perform better with regard to these issues can increase shareholder value by, for example, properly managing risks, anticipating regulatory action or accessing new markets, while at the same time contributing to the sustainable development of the societies in which they operate. Moreover, these issues can have a strong impact on reputation and brands, an increasingly important part of company value.”