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Follow the Class of 2030 on Instagram. Picture: SUPPLIED/INVESTEC
Follow the Class of 2030 on Instagram. Picture: SUPPLIED/INVESTEC

The upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, is a timely reminder of the challenges we face in achieving the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The goals were established in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that, by 2030, all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Climate action is one of the 17 SDGs that humanity needs to have made sustainable, permanent progress on by 2030 to guarantee the future of our planet and its people. Investec has also identified climate action as one of the two SDGs (alongside reduced inequalities) where the organisation believes it can make the most impact. 

That deadline is less than a decade away and, while plenty of effort has been made to meet these goals and stall the effects of centuries of irresponsible environmental, social and humanitarian behaviour, there’s still much to be done.

While the responsibility for meeting the SDGs may seem to belong to the government, policymakers, industry and civil society, the reality is that the 7.8-billion people who will live on the planet by the end of 2021 can make a huge difference through collective action. The creativity, know-how, technology and financial resources from all of society are necessary to achieve the SDGs in every context. 

The question we need to ask is: how much do people know about these goals and the role they can play in helping us achieve them? When it comes to understanding sustainability, the various generations have different perspectives on the matter. The younger generation’s future is at the mercy of the decisions that the older generation makes for a future they will likely not live to fully experience. 

Enter the Class of 2030, an initiative that brings together a diverse and representative mix of people from SA and the UK (the learners), with experts on the SDGs (the tutors). Investec hopes to educate people about the aims of these set of goals and show how Earth’s population can affect them. By creating the opportunity for education in partnership with global thought leaders, we can take each of the class members on a learning journey, from not knowing what an SDG is, to becoming ambassadors and experts who can amplify the message and inspire others to do the same. We all own the SDGs and only collective action is going to determine the success or failure of a plan drawn up to save us from ourselves. 

For each of the class members to “graduate” they need to capture their learning and show how their SDGs will become a lived experience. They need to show how they will encourage people to act today and be the change so we can claw back the gains lost to inaction. This needs to be the class that challenges the unwritten rules of adulthood before the 2030 deadline is reached. They have no choice because it affects their future. They need to have uncomfortable conversations with the generation that controls most of the world’s wealth and investment decisions, but still shows little regard for the future its decisions, actions and investments will shape. 

Intergenerational transfers are not just about wealth, but also about values, culture, customs and wisdom. What one generation leaves behind becomes the platform for the next generation — the context within which they will live. Now, what if that platform was a healthier, more sustainable and more equal Planet Earth? It’s about investing in the future to ensure there is one. 

You can ‘do good’ and ‘do well’ at the same time

While the debate about actions and decisions is important, investing in that future is pivotal — choosing to back responsible causes and companies which are committed to sustainable and responsible practices is the most effective way of meeting the SDGs. There’s a myth that there’s a sacrifice involved in choosing the “good” option — but the link between sustainability and return is closer than many think.

It’s possible to simultaneously do good and do well. This is as true in the investment space as it is in any other. Investment is, by nature, a long-term commitment that aims to grow wealth — and investing in companies that support the SDGs helps create a positive, sustainable global environment. That prosperity will afford the classes of 2030 and beyond a fighting chance. 

While all SDGs are important, they are also interconnected. It’s impossible to address ending poverty without ensuring quality education. Good health and wellbeing are impossible without providing clean water and sanitation. The final SDG on the list is “partnerships for the goals” and perhaps best sums up the route to success. Where the other 16 SDGs are aims — the 17th ties them all together and demands collective action to achieve them. 

Activism takes many forms, but the basis of understanding the need to make a difference is an understanding of how crucial the 2030 deadline is. Once we get to grips with the situation, we can understand how we can make a difference. It’s a global movement of individuals that starts with simple actions: recycling; calling out gender inequality, economic and racial disparities; skipping meat a few days of the week; and lifting each other up as we ourselves rise.

The heart of this activism means showing responsibility for consumption, production, pollution and sustainable practices, and that means partnering with corporates that have the SDGs at the heart of their operations, not just as a heading in their annual report. The benefits of generational wealth are greatly enhanced when we realise our collective power to create change in our daily lives, however big or small. It starts with understanding the role you can play, for the love of future generations.

Follow @TheClassof2030 on Instagram to learn with the class.

About the author: Ryan Parkhurst is head of marketing Investec Wealth & Investment SA.

This article was paid for by Investec.

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