United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) catalyses action across the financial system to align economies with sustainable development. UNEP FI brings the UN together with banks, insurers and investors globally to shape the sustainable finance agenda. As the UN network for the finance sector, we’ve established the world’s foremost sustainability frameworks within the finance industry to address global environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges. We incubated the Principles for Responsible Investment, now the world’s leading proponent on responsible investment, and are facilitating implementation of UNEP FI’s Principles for Responsible Banking and Principles for Sustainable Insurance, as well as the UN-convened net-zero alliances. We convene financial institutions to apply the industry frameworks on a voluntary basis and develop practical guidance and tools to position their businesses for the transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy.

UNEP FI helps financial institutions to develop practical approaches to setting and implementing targets in areas including greenhouse gas emissions,  nature, sustainable consumption and production, and financial inclusion to address inequality. The solutions developed effectively establish industry norms and provide a blueprint for the finance sector to tackle global challenges and set strategies and operations on a sustainable pathway. UNEP FI also informs policymakers of the enabling environment needed to mainstream sustainable finance. Founded in 1992, UNEP FI was the first organisation to engage the finance sector on sustainability. Today, we cultivate leadership and advance sustainable market practice with more than 400 financial institutions, with assets of more than US$80 trillion, headquartered in over 85 countries. UNEP FI supports implementation of global programmes at a regional level across Africa & the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean and North America.


Industry-based principles

UNEP FI supports global finance sector principles to catalyze integration of sustainability into financial market practice. The frameworks UNEP FI has established or co-created include:

  • Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB), launched in September 2019 and now signed by some 300 banks representing over 45% of global banking assets. Signatories are working to align their strategies and practice with the vision society has set out for its future in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, and relevant national and regional frameworks.
  • Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), established 2012 by UNEP FI and today applied by one-quarter of the world’s insurers (25% of world premium). The PSI has developed industry guidance on integrating ESG risks in non-life and life & health insurance businesses.
  • Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), established in 2006 by UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact, and applied by half the world’s institutional investors (USD 83 trillion) by 2022. We now operate the Investment Leadership Programme together with the PRI, to catalyse trail-blazing cross-industry and investment initiatives to inform the wider responsible investment agenda.

These frameworks establish the norms for sustainable finance, providing the basis for standard-setting and helping to ensure private finance fulfils its potential role in contributing to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Agreement on Climate Change agreed by governments around the world in 2015.


In-depth thematic research, guidance and communities of practice

UNEP FI convenes financial institutions to advance knowledge and practice in areas including climate, nature, pollution & circular economy, the SDGs & impact and social issues.

UNEP FI has a long-standing programme on climate change, which has accelerated action to contribute to achieving the goals of the UN Paris Agreement. Aligning all public and private financing with pathways to net-zero by 2050 is critical to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

UNEP FI convenes three finance sector ‘net-zero’ alliances, and is working with key stakeholders to help members align portfolios with science-based greenhouse gas emissions pathways through interim targets:

  1. Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (‘AOA’), launched in 2019, now signed by more than 70 institutional asset owners (pension funds, insurers, sovereign wealth funds) with over USD 10 trillion in assets, about 7% of global investment.
  2. Net Zero Banking Alliance (‘NZBA’), launched in 2021 with over 100 banks and USD 65 trillion, about half of global banking industry assets. The majority of NZBA members are PRB signatories that are setting ambitious climate targets.
  3. Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (‘NZIA’), launched in 2021, convening 25 leading insurers representing about 12% of world premium, working together to establish the transition to net-zero insurance.

The Alliances form the asset owner, banking and insurance elements of the Global Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ) and are accredited by the UN-backed Race to Zero.


History

The UNEP Statement of Commitment by Financial Institutions on Sustainable Development was the original backbone of the Finance Initiative when it was created in the wake of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. By signing up to the Statement, financial institutions openly recognized the role of the financial services sector in making our economy and lifestyles sustainable and commit to the integration of environmental and social considerations into all aspects of their operations.

The PRI, UNEP FI, UNCTAD and UN Global Compact launched the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative (SSEI), launched in 2012, which involves 90 stock exchanges accounting for almost all publicly-listed capital markets.

Read more historical background to UNEP FI.

Plot the evolution of sustainable finance over the years since UNEP FI’s launch in 1992, and our role in that journey by navigating our interactive timeline below.

UNEP FI’s members may use UNEP FI’s logo in their corporate communications materials where appropriate. Find the logo graphics and guidelines for usage here.