Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and former Secretary-General of the UN, who died this month was a visionary who, among his many achievements, made a significant contribution to the development of modern corporate and financial sustainability. He recognized the value of the UN working more closely with the private sector, arguing that “the goals of the United Nations and those of business can, indeed be mutually supportive”. Under his leadership, the UN Global Compact was founded and, in 2006, while Annan was Secretary General, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) were launched.
Through the PRI initiative, which is a collaboration between the UN Global Compact and UNEP FI, Annan’s vision of meeting both the economic and social needs of the human population is closer to being achieved. Part of what made Annan such an effective leader is the huge respect he commanded across diverse sectors and competing interests. In acknowledging that governments alone could not push forward necessary changes to benefit our global community and by underscoring the importance of productively engaging with the private sector on environmental, social and governance issues, he helped pave the way for continuing developments in sustainable finance that UNEP FI, its members and partners are working toward each day.
While Annan’s death is met by sadness by so many across the world inspired by his words, actions and charismatic leadership, his legacy is only strengthened by the continued shared commitment of those who seek to build bridges in the name of principles for which he stood. Not least of these is a sustainable, inclusive and green financial system that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive, and UNEP FI is committed to realizing this crucial vision. Our thoughts continue to be with Annan’s loved ones during this time of healing, and we reflect with gratitude on his many contributions to our field and the UN community at large.