NEW YORK, USA, SEPTEMBER 3, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all aware how interconnected we are. It serves as a vivid example of the importance of forming partnerships across sectors to combat the challenges the world is facing, especially the pandemic, the global climate crisis, and the extent to which both are impeding progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Accordingly, the United Nations has embarked upon a strategy of dynamic inclusion with the global family office community to share information on their work in the pandemic context and to pursue a more interactive and long term engagement with families in order to meet the SDGs.
“We are not at the end of the pandemic. A UN reform that operates with higher coordination and coherence on the ground will be able to be more efficient and effective.” – Jens Wandel, Secretary-General’s Designate for COVID19 Response and Recovery Fund
The idea of the Family Office for Sustainable Development (FOSD) was born at the end of 2020 and is a collaboration between PVBLIC Foundation, the UN Secretary-General’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, and the UN Office for Partnership. The FOSD platform was created to help the UN harness previously untapped human, intellectual, entrepreneurial and philanthropic capital. It calls for a genuine willingness to listen and engage differently with the Family Office sector.
“This FOSD platform is a partnership created with Jens and the UN to give you an in-depth overview of what the UN system is doing post-COVID and to help families find ways to engage and activate.” – Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, Executive Chairman PVBLIC Foundation
The FOSD’s mission is to educate, engage, and activate private wealth holders in unprecedented ways, namely by creating a listening channel within the UN and opening a door for meaningful dialogue, thereby enabling a much broader and deeper level of engagement. The Family Office for Sustainable Development (FOSD) will foster education, promote engagement, and spark action that supports COVID-19 recovery and SDG achievement.
“This is SDG 17 (partnerships) in action. The Secretary-General has promoted what he calls ‘network multilateralism’ and I think we are a prime example of that.” – Jens Wandel, Secretary-General’s Designate for COVID19 Response and Recovery Fund
According to INSEAD’s April 2020 report, “Family Offices: Global Landscape and Key Trends”, family offices are a burgeoning wealth sector possessing almost US$6 trillion in assets. While the preponderance of family offices are situated in the United States and Europe, there is an increasing percentage (25%) based in emerging markets in Africa, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region - areas where COVID-19 has dramatically increased suffering and exasperated systemic imbalances in health, education, gender inequality, and welfare.
Moreover, currently one in three family offices engage in sustainable investing. In five years, 30% of family offices are expected to allocate 25% of their portfolios to sustainable development related impact investments. This makes a compelling case for supporting their alignment to the objectives and realization of the SDGs.
Family offices are critical partners, having helped in myriad ways to offset and alleviate the consequences of the pandemic as well as contributing to an array of other arenas and needs outside this most recent development emergency. As family offices grow and advance their portfolios, they seek direct equity investments via trusted networks, often exchanging ideas about how to best deploy their resources to meet their philanthropic objectives. Essentially, family offices seek partnerships, which are the hallmark of SDG 17, and can facilitate the information and guidance they require. The United Nations, thus, has an important role to play in supporting the successful engagement of family offices towards sustainable development and investments.
Taken together, these trends and characteristics underpin the logic for the creation of a purpose built, robust platform for family office engagement with the UN, enabling family offices to make their direct investments and philanthropy more impactful, more global, and more durable - contributing greatly to the realization of the SDGs.
In March of this year, PVBLIC Foundation appointed London-based Marta Drummond as FOSD’s Global Coordinator. She was tasked with creating a powerful network of Family Office leaders (Principals and Next Geners) globally and bringing them to interactive, high-level briefings with UN leadership.
This spring and summer the FOSD Partnership met five times for high-level briefings with family Principals, Next Geners and their key advisers on impact and sustainability from Europe/CIS (April), Africa (May), Asia/Pacific (May) and Latin America/Caribbean (June) Middle East (June). Approximately 50 family offices participated.
These educational briefings were organized in partnership with Jens Wandel, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Reforms, and the UN Office for Partnerships, with the following key objectives:
1) Build an awareness of the United Nations’ dynamic and interactive approach to engaging private sector support in the context of the pandemic and Decade of Action.
2) Offer the Global Solutions Catalogue to enable families to identify “shovel ready” projects they could support, and;
3) Elicit interest in engaging in multilateral partnerships with the UN in respect of the development projects that families are contemplating or have initiated.
On September 2nd, seventeen families that were part of the first five sessions joined PVBLIC Foundation, Jens Wendel and other UN partners for a collaborative session focused on engagement.
The United Nations is intent upon creating and facilitating new pathways focused on sustainable development for all stakeholders, embedding resilience for systemic recovery. The creation of the FOSD is an integral part of this effort. Of the 50 Family Office representatives that participated this far, all have expressed a desire to engage in further dialogue and to introduce this program to other families.
The meetings have helped Family Office Principals and key advisers increase their awareness and understanding of FOSD roles and responsibilities, thereby encouraging families to consider looking outside their comfort zones. A number of impactful programs have already been identified, and certain families are considering supporting countries with the collaboration of the United Nations.
“We’ve sought out families that could demonstrate genuine engagement and tangible commitment to helping those in need, either via their expertise, commercial activities or philanthropy. These briefings led to a better understanding of how the UN works and sparked dialogues leading to collaboration with UN teams on the ground, exactly the result that the FOSD was created to bring about.” - Marta Drummond, FOSD Global Coordinator
PVBLIC Foundation and the UN Office for Partnerships are excited by the success to date and will be hosting other high level briefings this Autumn. Families Offices are welcome to learn more and to apply here.