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For MEDA and many other organizations in the international development sector, explaining how projects support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) is an ongoing and important part of telling their story.
The SDGs were set by the UN General Assembly in 2015, an effort to reach a series of targets by 2030. They cover social and economic development issues related to poverty, gender equality, climate action, decent work and economic growth and affordable and clean energy, among others.
At first glance, it might seem that the global movement to achieve these goals would be completely in synch with a faith-based mutual fund company such as Praxis.
But the reality is more complicated, says Praxis president Chad Horning. The UN’s SDGs are not all about corporate performance. “They’re about development. There’s some altruism to them.”
“These goals, while high-faluting and difficult to attain, bring values, faith or otherwise, altruism, back into this (SDGS investment) conversation in a way that we’re happy to see.”
Returning investors’ focus to people, planet, prosperity and peace are good things, he said. “We welcome that.”
The United Nations principles for responsible investment and the movement to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into investment decisions have brought many players with similar motivations into the industry.
The rate at which others in the industry buy into this approach could either be good news or a challenge to Praxis.
“We’re validated in a way, but we’re also subsumed, potentially, by this big thing.”
Praxis and its parent Everence Financial contribute to the responsible investment movement by buying positive impact bonds that have an international focus to them. As an example, he noted that early in this decade, the European Development Bank agreed to fund immunizations in the developing world, offering a bond to the markets so they could do the work over 18 months rather than 10 years.
“The way we describe what Praxis does, what Everence does broadly is this thing called stewardship investing.”
Lessons Everence and Praxis take from the Bible’s teachings about money are productivity and responsibility.
“Clearly, the Bible tells us to be responsible, think about our actions and the impacts of the way we use our money.”
Managing the tension between productivity and responsibility occasionally requires difficult conversations, he said. ◆