Coming soon: New version of UNEP FI’s Portfolio Impact Analysis Tool for Banks will be launched soon, as well as additional tools for holistic impact analysis.


UNEP FI’s Work on the SDGs and Impact

The attainment of the SDGs is a cross-cutting aim for UNEP FI, whether through its industry standards (such as the Principles for Responsible Banking) or its thematic work (such as the Asset Owner Alliance or the Natural Capital Finance Alliance). In addition, as a means of driving convergence across industries and topics, UNEP FI has created the Positive Impact Initiative.

UNEP FI’s Positive Impact Initiative

The Positive Impact Initiative (PII) is a think-and-do-tank within UNEP FI exclusively focused on closing the $2.5 trillion SDG financing gap.

Based on a unique theory of impact, PII works with finance sector representatives and other stakeholder groups to mainstream impact analysis and management in business and finance as a cornerstone to financing the SDGs.

A unique theory of impact

PII’s work is anchored in the idea that the SDG financing gap is first and foremost a business model gap. For most current business models, positive and negative impacts to people, planet and the economy are externalities and are therefore considered as a cost centre.  PII’s approach is based on the idea that there is an as-yet unexplored potential for positive impacts to generate revenues and be the heart of business models. PII believes that new, impact-based business models can significantly decrease the cost of achieving the SDGs and give rise to business and financing solutions at scale, including in emerging and developing economies, where needs are most acute.

A better understanding of impacts is therefore essential for business strategy. PII advocates and develops solutions for impact analysis and management in mainstream business and finance to bring these ideas to life.

FAQ: What do we mean by “impact-based” business? How does impact-based business and finance relate to the financial valuation of impacts?

Principles for Positive Impact Finance

Released in 2017, the Principles for Positive Impact Finance provide a high level framework to enable finance and its public and private stakeholders to analyse and manage impact across the economy, as the starting point to improve the impact of existing businesses and to stimulate the emergence and growth of new, impact-based business models.

The Principles define Positive Impact Business & Finance as “that which serves to deliver a positive contribution to one or more of the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, environmental and social), once any potential negative impacts to any of the pillars have been duly identified and mitigated.”

This definition is inclusive – it is relevant to all sectors of the economy, and to all types of financing – and it is holistic – it covers the three economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development at the heart of the SDGs, from both positive and negative impact angles.

These characteristics are intended to help set the basis for a common language across the investment chain.

FAQ: Is all positive impact finance (as per the Principles for Positive Impact Finance) meant to be financing only impact-based business?

Holistic impact analysis & management

The Principles stipulate that to deliver Positive Impact Business and Finance, entities (financial or non-financial) need adequate processes, methodologies, and tools, to manage the impacts of their activities.

To support this, the PII has devised an Impact Radar that maps the specific impact areas business and finance can have a positive or negative effect on. It provides a holistic set of impact areas across the three pillars of sustainable development and in full alignment with the SDGs.

The PII has also developed Model Frameworks for holistic impact analysis and management.to provide guidance on integrating impact considerations into business processes and decision-making, as well as prototype tools to implement the guidance.

The Impact Journey

The PII’s holistic approach has two aims: to improve the impact performance of existing business and finance (increase positive impacts and decrease negative impacts), and to support the emergence of new, impact-based business models. These transformations will not happen overnight. The PII has sought to provide a solid foundation for all stakeholders through the high-level framework of the Principles, as well as a first set of tools to help them progress on this journey.

More information

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2 April 2020

UNEP FI launches new holistic impact analysis tools for the finance sector

2 April 2020 – UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s (UNEP FI) Positive Impact Initiative (PII) has launched two new tools for corporates, banks and investors to work together and step up their capacity to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With millions of people affected in their daily lives across the globe by the…

2 April 2019

Positive Impact Initiative launches two working groups

Geneva – UNEP FI’s Positive Impact Initiative (PI) is announcing the launch of two new Working Groups, where UNEP FI members, members of sister organizations and external stakeholders are working together to develop and test tools for holistic impact analysis: Impact Frameworks for corporate finance and investments with unspecified use of funds: corporate financing is an essential but…

26 November 2018

Visionary solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals’ funding gap from UNEP FI’s Positive Impact Initiative

Paris, 26 November 2018 – How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? UNEP FI’s Positive Impact Initiative proposes a new approach: social, economic and environmental impacts have an as-yet under explored potential to generate financial revenues: impact-based business models can be developed, with the delivery of positive impacts as a driver of sustainable business growth…

4 June 2018

Europe moves to put its sustainable finance strategy into law

On May 24th the European Commission released its first legislative package under its Action Plan for Sustainable Finance, including proposals on a sustainable taxonomy and investor duties. The Commission aims to make the financial sector a powerful actor in fighting climate change and meeting the sustainable development goals by further aligning the industry with the…

5 April 2018

Blog: Creating an impactful taxonomy

Sustainable finance is experiencing continued rapid growth. The European Commission’s recent proposal of a taxonomy as a common language for all actors in the financial system – one of several conclusions of its High-Level Expert Group – is an opportunity to establish useful guidance. In his blog, UNEP FI’s Head, Eric Usher welcomes the EC’s…

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2 April 2020 | Online

Launch: UNEP FI Impact Analysis Tools

UNEP FI has launched two hands-on tool prototypes that will enable banks, investors and their service providers to implement a holistic approach to impact.

28 February 2019 | BrightTALK webinar

Webinar: Positive Impact Real Estate Investment Framework

UNEP FI has recently published its Positive Impact Real Estate Investment Framework, part of a suite of resources to address the SDG financing gap and shift financing practices so that environmental, social and economic impacts are fully considered, intended and measured in investment activities. This webinar will provide an overview of the Framework, and include presentations from practitioners using an impact-based approach in their investment strategies and acquisition and management.

14 November 2018

Webinar: From TCFD to SDG Finance – Next Steps in Sustainable Finance

UNEP FI has pioneered work on Positive Impact finance, and TCFD implementation for investors, banks and insurers. Join this webinar to hear from the leaders at UNEP FI about the next steps in financing the Sustainable Development Goals, TCFD implementation, and how the bigger picture in sustainable finance is evolving.

10 July 2018

Webinar: Positive Impact – Real Estate Investment Framework

The UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and collaborators (RICS, PRI, Global Investor Coalition) is developing an impact-based investment framework for real estate to address the SDG financing gap. UNEP FI’s Property Working Group has issued a discussion paper which introduces a positive impact investment framework and requests feedback on the opportunities and challenges in investing…

6 December 2017 | Webinar

Webinar: Finance mechanisms to achieve the SDGs

Watch the recording of a webinar held on 6 December which addressed the issues of assessing needs, set processes developing innovative financial mechanisms and adapting existing instruments for funding the SDGs. It gathered several influential representatives from the finance community and the corporate sector to discuss the challenges of the financing the SDGs. The webinar was organised by Climate Action and Sustainable Investment Forum Europe and featured UNEP FI's Careen Abb from the Positive Impact Initiative.

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UNEP FI Corporate Impact Analysis Tool

The Corporate Impact Analysis Tool helps banks and investors gain a cross-cutting view of the impact status and possibilities of their clients and investee companies. Based on the Positive Impact Initiative’s unique approach, it provides a holistic analysis of companies’ impacts across different sectors and countries. Download tool here The findings of the Tool are…

UNEP FI Portfolio Impact Analysis Tool for Banks

The Portfolio Impact Analysis Tool for Banks represents a great step forward for holistic impact analysis in banking. Developed jointly by the Positive Impact Initiative with signatories of the Principles for Responsible Banking and UNEP FI Member Banks, the Tool will help banks analyze the impacts associated with their retail (consumer and business banking) and…

Positive Impact Real Estate Investment Framework

The UNEP FI Property Working Group, in collaboration with RICS, PRI, and members of the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change, have produced a practical, action-oriented framework to accelerate a new financing paradigm for the delivery of the global SDGs. The 25 leading institutional investors and asset managers of the UNEP FI Property Working Group…

Rethinking Impact to Finance the SDGs: A Position Paper and Call to Action

In Rethinking Impact to Finance the SDGs, we explore new ways to significantly decrease the cost of achieving the SDGs and stimulate business and financing solutions at scale. Social, economic and environmental impacts have an as-yet under explored potential to generate financial revenues: impact-based business models can be developed, with the delivery of positive impacts…

The Impact Radar

The Impact Radar aims to offer a credible and comprehensive set of impact categories that can be integrated with the tools developed to deliver PI finance and contribute to a common frame for the assessment of PI products in the industry. The radar captures the core elements of the SDGs in a way that is…

Model Framework for Financial Products for Corporates with unspecified use of funds

This Model Framework covers Financial Products for Corporates with unspecified use of funds, i.e. where the funds raised or guarantees issued are used at the Corporate’s discretion, without any specified use. For example: General corporate purpose (GCP) Loans/Overdraft, Corporate Bonds with GCP use of proceeds, Equity (primary & secondary issuance), Off-balance sheet corporate products (e.g.…

Model Framework for specified use of proceeds

This Positive Impact Initiative Model Framework covers Financial Products where the funds raised or guarantees issued are used for a specific purpose, in this case Project-related finance within the scope of the Equator Principles. For example: project finance transactions, Project-related corporate loans, bridge loans to project finance, project-related transactions supported by Export Credit Agencies (Products…

Financing the UN Development System: Pathways to Reposition for Agenda 2030

Financing the UN Development System: Pathways to Reposition for Agenda 2030 September 8th, 2017 This new report, a collaboration between the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office, looks at the major trends, opportunities and challenges around financing the UN and the 2030 Agenda more broadly. UNEP FI, through initiatives such as…

Principles for Positive Impact Finance

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance provide guidance for financiers and investors to analyse, monitor and disclose the social, environmental and economic impacts of the financial products and services they deliver. They provide a global framework applicable across different business lines, including retail and wholesale lending, corporate and investment lending, and asset management. The Principles require…

Positive Impact Manifesto

The Positive Impact Manifesto invites banks and other financial sector players to think more holistically about their role in the economy, society and the broader environment, and proposes a ‘Roadmap’ to establishing a new, impact-based and market-driven paradigm: positive impact finance. Positive Impact finance is defined in the Manifesto as “that which verifiably produces a…