Going Beyond ESG:
Social Value and the SDG Impact Standards

In recent years, various development institutions have engaged with the private sector to enable responsible investment, resulting in several sets of useful principles and frameworks to guide these investments. However, currently there is no common set of assurance standards to ensure that an investor’s impact management practice is “SDG-enabling.”

To address the lack of authenticity around SDG-enabling investment, UNDP’s SDG Impact aims to provide investors and businesses with the clarity, insights, and tools they need to support and verify their contributions to achieving the SDGs. SDG Impact has also developed a groundbreaking methodology to translate development needs into investment opportunities at the local level.

The SDGs are an issue -based agenda launched by the United Nations and adopted by all UN member states in 2015. As the world seeks to unite around these goals the SDGs have gained significant traction from business, funders and charitable organisations across the world. Reporting on SDG performance at an organisation level is typically done by businesses using sustainability and impact reporting frameworks such as GRI reporting, Social or Natural Capital Protocols or issue specific standards like the CDP.

What are the SDGs and what are they for?

“The Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.”

The SDGs exist as a ‘call to action’ or a set of ‘development objectives’ so they provide a shared set of goals for all organisations and governments to strive towards to achieve a more prosperous and equal world.

What is the SVI Framework?

The SVI framework refers to the Principles of Social Value and the stages of completing a social impact or SROI analysis. The Principles of Social Value provide the basic building blocks for anyone who wants to understand how their decisions causally link to social value, for example, in order to increase equality, improve wellbeing and increase environmental sustainability. They are generally accepted social accounting principles and are important for accountability and maximising social value. The Principles have been drawn from other existing principles from sustainability reporting, cost benefit analysis, financial accounting, and evaluation practice. The Principles of Social Value are a framework to follow in order to create a complete account of social value. By complete, we mean that it contains all material outcomes for all stakeholders who are affected by an activity. This ‘complete’ account is necessary if an organisation wants to make decisions that maximise the value created by its activities, by maximise we mean reduce any negative outcomes and increase the outcomes that can create the most value.

The SDGs are designed as a set of shared issues to drive a sustainable agenda. The goals, targets and indicators have been designed for nation or country level reporting with national or global populations in mind. Organisations can use a number of reporting frameworks and business tools to incorporate SDG reporting and select indictors which are of an appropriate scale and consistency. The SVI framework and principles are an excellent option for organisations that wish to monitor and manage their contribution especially to socially orientated indicators, and for incorporating the concerns and perspectives of their directly influenced stakeholders.

The SVI framework may protect organisations from:

Cherry picking SDGs to report against

Defining their reporting areas (SDGs) at a level that is too broad or mixed to be useful for management

Investing resources in pursuing impact in areas which their stakeholders do not value

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