In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are now 140 countries seeking ways to become more sustainable and limit, if not remove, any negative impact their development has on generations to come.

Over the last few decades, and increasingly over recent years, sustainable and environmental issues have gained greater focus. And this is as true for investors, as it is for society as a whole.

By actively making the decision to invest in things that reflect our values and not in the things that cause harm, we can make a positive impact on the world and effect real change. We like to think of this as limiting the bad while embracing the good. And what it means in practice is limiting investment portfolio exposure to companies that are associated with things such as fossil fuels, weapons, alcohol, tobacco, and instead aligning to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 international goals, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2015, with the aim of fostering a more sustainable future for all by 2030. With only eight years left to deliver these SDGs, it’s more important than ever for the global community to strive towards making progress in achieving them.

Sustainable investing goes far beyond just the environmental impacts, such as climate change, energy efficiency and carbon emissions, it also includes social impacts such as diversity and human rights, and governance impacts such as whistleblower and anti-bribery programmes.

Our sustainable investing strategies will, at all times, be required to have a net positive alignment to the SDGs. By aligning with the SDGs, we can offer investment opportunities with a foundation for improving equality, reducing poverty and protecting the environment, while not impacting projected returns on investment.

In order for an organisation to be considered sustainable, it needs to be rooted within the corporate culture from the top down and sustainable business practices, such as providing adequate working conditions, paying a fair wage and being inclusive, should be embraced. This commitment should also extend to examining, and if necessary challenging, its supply chain to make sure it also meets these standards. The criteria used to determine suitability is known as environmental, social and governance (ESG), which is a set of standards that can be used to screen potential investments, providing greater confidence that you are putting your money where your values are.

As a local business and a good corporate citizen in a number of locations, and as part of a wider group that leads in sustainable transformation, sustainability has been at the heart of Nedbank Private Wealth’s strategy, behaviour and actions for many years, and we will continue to strive to do better.

While sustainable investing alone will not solve the all world’s social and environmental challenges, it will increase investment in those areas that are doing good and encourage those that aren’t to do better.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to choose between attractive returns and acting responsibly.