Israeli group helps rank companies on UN sustainability goals for annual prize

YK Center, which advocates for UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, jointly announces awards for top SDG performers among banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

A worker cleans off a protest sign on the Golden Bull, a replica of Wall street Charging Bull, outside the Brazilian B3 Stock Exchange in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (AP/Andre Penner)
A worker cleans off a protest sign on the Golden Bull, a replica of Wall street Charging Bull, outside the Brazilian B3 Stock Exchange in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (AP/Andre Penner)

An Israeli organization has linked up with three international bodies to launch an award that will be given to banks, insurance companies and stock exchanges that have performed best in relation to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The award, to be given at the UN’s annual COP climate conferences, will eventually also be extended to companies.

The world agreed in 2015 to implement 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, by 2030.

The goals, which are made up of 169 targets, include climate action, but also improving society in areas such as health, education, increased equality, the eradication of poverty, and access to clean natural resources.

Israel’s YK Center, a think tank and incubator which promotes the SDGs, is working on the award together with the United Nations Global Sustainability Index Institute, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“The world can see how the finance sector is working hard to regain trust while becoming reliable partners for SDG implementation,” said YK Center CEO Tal Ronen.

The center is named for Israeli insurance and risk management expert Prof. Yehuda Kahane, who campaigns for the SDGs.

The top three winners in each category were announced earlier this month at the UN COP27 climate conference in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh, which ended early Sunday morning.

B3 from Brazil won the stock exchange section, followed by Japan Exchange Group and Deutsche Boerse.

Among the banks, Banco Bradesco from Brazil came first, with the French BNP Paribas taking second place and Mexico’s Banorte the third.

The French company Axa took top place in the insurance sector, followed by Zurich Insurance and the London-based Aviva.

This year’s awards will be presented to the companies in February at an SDG Lab in Davos, Switzerland.

In the future, they will be given annually at COP conferences, starting with next year’s COP28 in the UAE.

Roland Schatz, founder and CEO of the UN Global Sustainability Index Institute, added that the research would be broadened to include small and medium-sized companies and that Israeli companies would be included as well going forward.

From left: Tal Ronen, managing partner and co-founder of YKCenter, Ambassador Peleg Lewi, Massamba Thioye, project executive at the UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub, Prof Yehuda Kahane, and the Foreign Ministry’s Special Climate Envoy, Ambassador Gideon Behar. (Courtesy)

To arrive at its analysis of 30 banks, 30 insurance companies and 10 stock exchanges, the UN Global Sustainability Index Institute examined the legally binding annual reports published in the last five years by the world’s top 500 listed companies, with a combined market capitalization of more than $25 trillion.

Researchers compared how each one of the 500 companies spent its budget and its plans for the future, judging it against the rubric of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets.

Its findings were buttressed with reports in the financial media, as well as comments by financial analysts, on the companies’ statements and claims, which were then used to rank the companies on sustainability.

“The SDG Commitment Report Awards provide transparency on how the lighthouses in the banking, insurance, and stock exchange industries are increasingly committed to accepting the SDGs as their additional compass in business,” said Schatz.

Prof. Phoebe Koundouri, co-chair of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said it was important to ensure that those providing funding to companies, cities, hospitals, and other institutions across the world understood that they also had to disclose their guidelines for investment decisions.

“We are looking forward to seeing all the experts joining our UNFCCC Innovation Hub next year at COP in Dubai” said Massamba Thioye, head of innovation at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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