Slow and steady does not win all races. And this is conspicuously apparent when it comes to fueling solutions to the world's social and environmental challenges. No sooner had the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us that a 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer world was slipping out of reach, we had an international climate conference marred by enthusiasm for coal and reluctance from several major powers to fully endorse the 1.5 degrees Celsius report and therefore the urgency of the situation. With each step forward, it seems we take a half step back.
Now in the first months of 2019, we have burned through nearly a third of the time we have to implement the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Yet, despite progress, we are seeing record forced displacement and inequality. The UN secretary-general has called for $5 trillion to $7 trillion of investment each year to meet the goals, a sum that global philanthropy and government aid is not prepared to meet.
Simply put, we are not moving fast enough on addressing the major problems the world faces. And the results could be catastrophic.
So, despite what the tortoise and the hare may have taught us, there are some races where slow and steady doesn't win. In this case, there is no prize for effort and the consequences of inaction are irreversible.
In the impact investing industry, we can reflect on considerable progress. Our 2018 Annual Impact Investor Survey found that 226 respondents from around the globe managed $228.1 billion of impact investments among them — considerably more participants and capital than previous years. This money is both producing returns for investors and helping to solve social and environmental challenges.
As an industry we can be proud of that achievement. But we cannot become complacent — because it's not enough. Impact investing still operates at the margins of our financial system. The vast majority of the system continues as it has always done: channeling capital to projects that are oblivious to or actively harm environmental and social progress, that fuel inequities and cavalier business behavior. That system isn't working. It isn't serving the planet. It isn't serving the people. And frankly, it isn't serving many investors either.