Geneva has been home to the headquarters of many UN agencies and leading NGOs for decades. Over time this International Geneva has created multiple cross-collaborations with the finance industry, resulting in a unique ecosystem. Geneva has a well-established reputation for its commitment to human rights and peace; however, the organizations represented in Geneva also bring together many economic and financial experts through, for example, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The latter has even created a specific channel dedicated to sustainable finance in Geneva : the UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).
UNEP FI was born in the wake of the Rio Summit in 1992. The creation of this specific sector within UNEP is based on the belief that finance plays a specific role in promoting sustainable development : banks and capital markets that finance the economy have both the power and the responsibility to fund sustainable economic models. UNEP FI is a public-private partnership that aims to highlight the financial materiality of environmental, social and governance issues to financial institutions. Its key achievements include the establishment of the international initiative Principles for Responsible Investment. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, launched the initiative in 2005 and UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact coordinated the development of the principles. Financial institutions that are signatories to the six principles adhere to a spirit of cooperation for the public good, which is unique to the UN and to the spirit of Geneva, within the highly competitive world of international finance.
Since their launch, the PRI have enjoyed tremendous success. Today, more than 1,200 financial companies are signatories, whether as asset managers or investors. Geneva was the birthplace of a movement that has spread throughout the world and made sustainability a common commitment for all of these institutions. By requiring signatories to report on their progress towards sustainability, the PRI are gradually transforming good intentions into action and are influencing a momentum of tangible change that now pervades to the entire industry.