CFC’s Impact Strategy Framework – The Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Building on the Millennium Development Goals, they balanced the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. The goals are interconnected, but at the base of their heart they aim to tackle the root causes of poverty and set the world on a more prosperous and sustainable path.
Each country carries primary responsibility for its own economic and social development, but acting in collaborativepartnership, in this globalized world, is widely believed to be the best way to take bold and transformative steps towards a more sustainable and resilient world. Recognizing this, SDG 17 explicitly calls for an enhanced ‘Global Partnership for Sustainable Development’ which involves bringing together governments, civil society, and the private sector to mobilize all available resources. This call to action has been taken up by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), as its everyday vocation, which adopted the SDGs as its impact framework.
Commodities are where poverty is more entrenched
Commodities are the basic products that underpin both our material progress and our everyday lives – from the rice on our plate, the cotton of our trouser or the copper and lithium in our smartphone, to the oil and gas that propels our vehicle. These products also sustain and propel the economies of the many countries that produce them. When more than 60% of the merchandise a country exports, in value terms, are these basic products, we call the country commodity-dependent. This commodity dependence has a direct bearing on vulnerability and poverty. A state so persistent that even its abundance may become a curse rather than becoming an asset. Therefore, CFC has remained focused on addressing this commodity dependence through its sustained efforts for value chain upgradation and product diversification with innovations and creativity at its core.
Because of the fundamental economic role of commodities, CFC projects may impact on the advancement of all 17 SDGs. While acknowledging this, yet CFC wishes to follow its own list of priorities depending on where it matters the most to alleviate people from poverty. CFC’s impact management strategy, therefore, mainly focuses on identifying its direct positive impact on selected ‘core’ SDGs – SDG ONE, TWO, FIVE, EIGHT AND TEN – where the impact is most apparent, and which can be assessed and measured across the whole portfolio of projects supported by the Fund. In this manner, the CFC seeks to have a clear portfolio-wide view of its contribution to achieving the SDGs.
SDG 1 - No poverty - end poverty in all its forms everywhere
Even before COVID-19, baseline projections suggested that 6 per cent of the global population would still be living in extreme poverty in 2030, missing the target of ending poverty altogether. The fallout from the pandemic threatens to push over 70 million people into extreme poverty. The triple threat of COVID-19, conflict and climate change makes the global goal of ending poverty by 2030 beyond reach unless immediate and substantial policy actions are implemented with due earnest. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of social protection systems to protect people’s health, jobs, and income. As a result, many new social protection measures have been introduced in 2020. But, 4 billion people worldwide are still left without any social protection, the majority of whom are the poor and the vulnerable in the developing world.
To share a scenario from a community of our project beneficiaries in a developing country, CFC came to experience that many smallholders were living on the brink, and then they went into an abyss when the pandemic hit. CFC, with its Emergency Liquidity Facility (ELF), tried to get them something for the dual purpose of putting food on their table, while their children’s education remained minimally disturbed up to certain time. With inputs from these smallholders, businesses and SMEs eventually proceeded towards upgradation of their value chain or productivity growth with resources from CFC. The CFC, therefore, contributes to SDG 1 by investing in businesses that improve people’s livelihoods throughout the supply chain through enhanced income and help them alleviate poverty eventually.
SDG 2 - Zero hunger - end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Even before the pandemic, the number of people going hungry and suffering from food insecurity had been gradually rising since 2014. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems, which could add hundreds of millions more people to the chronically undernourished, making the goal of ending hunger a more distant reach. The COVID-19 pandemic might have pushed an additional 83-132 million into chronic hunger in 2020. In addition, countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.
The world can produce sufficient food to feed everyone adequately. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment. The CFC supports projects that work to increase smallholder’s productivity, through technical assistance, access to proper inputs, improved infrastructure, and access to credit. CFC also supports projects that build farmer’s resilience to external risks. In these ways, the Fund helps to ensure that people get access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round.
SDG 5 - Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Women and girls, everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free of violence and discrimination. Gender equality by 2030 requires urgent action to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public spheres.
Women play a crucial role in agriculture, especially in developing countries, where they comprise around 43 per cent of the agricultural labor force. The situation is far more precarious in Africa, where CFC have invested the most. Gender disparities, however, are evident in unequal access to productive resources. By prioritizing the support of projects promoting gender equality (e.g. women-led enterprises, high percentage of women among the beneficiaries of the project, creation of employment for women, high number of women in senior positions, among others), the CFC contributes to the advancement of SDG 5.
SDG 8 - Decent work and economic growth - promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all
In many countries, having a job does not guarantee the ability to escape from poverty. According to the ILO, almost 1.4 billion workers are estimated to be in vulnerable forms of employment. Those workers are more likely to be informally employed, have fewer chances to engage in social dialogue and are less likely to benefit from job security, regular incomes, and access to social protection. The CFC supports projects that generate employment with decent working conditions. By investing in small and medium-sized enterprises, the Fund helps to create several quality jobs, promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, in the world’s most vulnerable regions.
SDG 10 - Reduced inequalities - reduce inequality within and among countries
Inequality is a multiheaded monster that cripples the humanity from inside out. Inequality promotes corruption, perpetuates poverty, ignites popular strife, heightens xenophobia, deepens personal hopelessness and undermines public faith in the market and governance. Inequality persists in its various forms, whether income, wealth, opportunities, or other dimensions. Economic marginalization has led to a strengthening of chauvinist and supremacist identities and other social problems such as the opioid epidemic. Now, due to COVID-19 pandemic, this anomaly only exacerbating existing inequalities within and among countries and hitting the most vulnerable people and the poorest countries hardest and is projected to push back the poorest countries a full 10 years on their SDG progress. The real GDP of LDCs increased by 4.8% in 2019 and is estimated to decline by 1.3% in 2020 because of the disruption unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CFC invests in projects in the world’s most vulnerable regions, helping people to earn a fair share of the global value created from commodities, thereby reducing inequality. Addressing inequality is a matter of utmost important in both developing and developed world. Mere economic growth is not enough to address inequality, the pie has to be shared in a manner which is fair as well.
Besides above-mentioned SDGs, CFC is also actively working to mainstream climate action SDG 13 as a core and shall update further development in due time.
Measuring CFC impact across its portfolio
Despite its broad scope, it can be challenging to report Impact Measurement using the SDG framework. Since the monitoring of the targets is done on a national and on a global level, it may be challenging to attribute the contribution of a particular enterprise/business/organization in advancing specific goals. Currently, there is no official guideline for the private sector and the civil society to report on their work related to the SDGs.
To overcome these difficulties, it is necessary to convert the SDG framework in specific indicators. Having considered the different options available, the CFC decided to adopt the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS+) as its main reporting tool.
IRIS+ is a catalogue that pulls together the most useful metrics from across the impact investing industry, making it easier to create a system to measure performance. It is managed by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and is the most used tool for impact investor to report on their impact.
After an in-depth assessment, the CFC has mapped the most relevant IRIS+ metrics with its core SDGs. As result, the CFC has determined the main indicators to be monitored by its projects in line with its mission.
Implementing the impact strategy
The development impact is one of the major criteria for selection of interventions receiving CFC support. Each project, received through the Open Call for Proposals, is expected to provide indicators of its intended impacts. Starting with the 13th Call for Proposals in 2018, the CFC asks all proponents to present the estimated impact of their projects using the SDGs framework. More specifically, they are required to describe how their project would contribute to the advancement of the core CFC SDGs. The proponents need to express the target impact indicators for each year of their projects and their baseline values using the IRIS+ metrics. They are also expected to provide details of how project activities contribute to the core SDGs targeted by the CFC. Projects which are unable to provide such information are normally not recommended for further consideration during the screening stage.
The impact indicators are checked by the CFC at the due diligence stage and are included in the project agreement between the CFC and the project proponent. The project agreement assures that the project will aim to achieve the intended outcomes and will report specific impact indicators, as agreed with the CFC. This information is provided to the CFC on an annual basis. Consistent and regular impact reporting alongside with financial indicators is a distinguishing feature of the CFC Impact Strategy.
The CFC collects diverse information regarding the impact of its projects over their life cycle while seeking to minimize the overhead burden on the operational, organizational, and human resources. The CFC follows a robust approach covering impact indicators and impact-measurements requiring project proposals to include:
Target Indicators: The indicators should clearly demonstrate the intended level of achievements for each year of the project. The CFC expects that these will be systemically assessed and reported by the proponent, demonstrating that the implementation plans are feasible and not based on unrealistic assumptions;
Baselines: Baseline levels for impact indicators should be included in the proposals. The CFC reviews and compares baseline data with other sources, e.g. similar projects;
Data on achievements: The CFC systematically follows up the achievements of its supported projects to ensure timely and accurate reporting of the progress and impact. The follow up procedures are introduced, and project proponents are informed of the consequences of incomplete or late reporting on the implementation and eventual success of the project;
Monitoring and Evaluation: Selective monitoring and evaluation for individual projects may be included but is generally constrained by the financial and human resources made available by the project proponents. The current focus of the CFC is on developing a practical approach for monitoring and evaluation across the entire CFC project portfolio ecosystem;
Co-financing of Project: Projects receiving CFC support frequently include larger financial institutions as co-financiers. Combining resources and technical facilities of the CFC with co-financiers enables more intense and detailed impact monitoring. This concept of co-financing not only make the implementation a shared journey in its truest sense, it also help CFC to punch way above its height.
CFC and ILO join hands to devise a system of Social and Environmental Management System
Besides measuring the positive impact its projects help to create, the CFC understands the importance of also consideringthe potential social and environmental risks of its operations. For this reason, CFC partnered with the International Labor Organization to develop its Social and Environmental Management System (SEMS). Such systems are designed to enable a financial service provider to identify social and environmental risks associated with a particular transaction and take this into account when deciding whether or not to provide financing as well as identifying opportunities to improve social and environmental performance.
CFC has always considered the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks when assessing a project. This analysis is included in the entire process of evaluating a new proposal, from the initial screening of the applications received to the ongoing monitoring of an active project. However, recognizing the great importance and complexity of this topic, the CFC decided to take a step further, aligning its procedures to the current best practices from the impact investment industry, by developing its own SEMS.
With the support of the ILO, the CFC, therefore, worked together to develop several tools and procedures to consider systematically the social and environmental risks of potential projects. These tailor-made tools consider the specific set-up of the CFC, the sectors it operates and cover all steps of CFC investment process. The main outcome of this project was the approval of CFC’s Sustainability Policy by the Executive Board, setting the standards for the social and environmental risk analysis of CFC operations.
Impact measurement: an ongoing work
The CFC recognizes that the impact investing sector is still developing a proper and robust system to allow all investors to manage and monitor their impact. The sector has actively taken up the challenge of measuring social impact and has made good progress in recent years, with the emergence of new tools, frameworks, and standards. However, there is still a long way to go until there are agreed parameters as comprehensive and reliable as those used for risk and return on the traditional financial market.
The CFC acknowledges these limitations and tries to give its contribution for the sector to progress towards a robust impact management practice. In this regard, the Fund engages with several relevant stakeholders in the field and tries to keep up to date with the sector’s best practices.
For its own impact management practice, the CFC understands that an interpretation of the impact metrics is best complemented with an analysis of the context in which the project operates, to provide a more complete picture of social performance. Standalone numbers cannot, by themselves, indicate positive or negative social value, or necessarily be compared across companies or products. That is why the Fund also builds close working relationships with the projects and intends to eventually carry out more detailed qualitative and quantitative studies on a sample of investments. This combined approach is the basis from which the Fund can communicate a credible story of its SDG impact. Also, as the Fund learns from these experiences so that CFC could invest more effectively by identifying and assessing sectors, regions and financial instruments which are instrumental in creating impacts that will uplift the project beneficiaries from the pits of poverty forever.