As part of its work with the financial community, the UN Global Compact initiated a meeting in 2004 at UN Headquarters in New York with a number of global stock exchanges. This initial dialogue led to a joint statement by the Global Compact and ten exchanges, expressing a commitment to explore further collaboration.

In 2008, UNCTAD and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) collaborated on two meetings at UN Headquarters in Geneva with investors, financial information providers, stock exchanges and public policy officials, which sought to promote responsible investment in emerging markets and examine the corresponding policy context. At the end of 2008, the Chief Executive of Aviva Investors called on all the listing authorities of global stock exchanges to consider whether their listing rules should include a provision promoting disclosure by companies on their sustainability performance and strategy.

This call to action and the groundwork laid out by the Global Compact, UNCTAD and PRI helped inspire a significant United Nations Initiative: The Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative.

In 2009 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon opened the first SSE Global Dialogue in New York City. Participants comprised of a number of the world’s exchanges, WFE, IOSCO, and PRI signatories, including Aviva Investors, FRR, TIAA-CREF and PREVI.

In support of the wider SSE initiative, a group of 30 PRI signatories led by Aviva Investors created a Sustainable Stock Exchanges Investor Working Group in 2009, which is coordinated through the PRI, to engage with global exchanges on the ways they can promote sustainable business practices, such as through enhanced sustainability reporting requirements. In addition to this work, many investors had been previously engaging and continue to engage directly with exchanges on ESG issues outside of the Working Group.

The SSE’s second Global Dialogue took place as part of the UNCTAD World Investment Forum in 2010 in Xiamen, China. The event was opened by the Chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission and focused on the relationship between exchanges and the regulatory frameworks in which they operate in light of emerging ESG issues.  In 2012, the third SSE Global Dialogue took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as part of the Global Compact’s Corporate Sustainability Forum. The first two Global Dialogues were organized by UNCTAD, the UN Global Compact and PRI. In 2012, UNEP-FI became the fourth organizing partner; hereafter, referred to as the ‘Quartet’. At the 2012 meeting, the Quartet reaffirmed their commitment to working together to promote and further strengthen the SSE initiative.

On the occasion of the 2012 event, the five stock exchanges participating in the event made a public commitment to promoting long-term, sustainable investment and improved ESG disclosure and performance among companies listed in their markets. UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, speaking on behalf of the Quartet, issued an open invitation to stock exchanges around the world to join Nasdaq, BM&FBOVESPA, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Borsa Istanbul and The Egyptian Exchange in making this public commitment to advancing sustainability within their markets. Since the event, several other leading exchanges have joined the group of SSE Partner Exchanges.

Going forward, the SSE initiative will continue to serve as a platform for dialogue for exchanges, working together with investors, regulators, and companies, to enhance corporate sustainability and encourage responsible long-term approaches to investment.