Three young Alexander Forbes professionals have been selected to present their sustainable development goals (SDG) solution at the United Nations Young SDG Summit.
The summit, on 21 September 2021, with an estimated 15 000 delegates, is being held on the side lines of the UN General Assembly Week.
The Alexander Forbes team of Penelope Gregoriou (26), technical investment specialist, Ndumiso Sithole (25), investment analyst, and Mzovuyo Nyamela (25), client investment specialist is one of only two South African companies selected to present at the SDG Summit. The investment house was selected out of 12 competing teams from 11 South African companies.
The three were tasked with identifying the key challenges facing Alexander Forbes and the SA retirement industry, and proposing a solution that will improve the sustainability of the company’s products and services.
“While many factors contribute to the retirement crisis, it’s easy to identify the gaps that contribute to it that we are best positioned to work towards. These solutions aim to address the expanding inequality caused by various socio-economic factors by addressing the three SDGs that have a fundamental role in contributing to a healthy and growing society and economy,” said Gregoriou.
According to Sithole, there are global conversations around sustainability and what measures corporate entities should take to ensure that they contribute positively toward a “more inclusive, diverse and sustainable future”.
Nyamela said SDGs were changing this narrative by helping companies define their objectives differently, allowing them to add value to the environment, and tackle socio-economic issues while generating profits. “They remind companies that sustaining life and making profit are mutually inclusive.”
The solution seeks to address the crisis in SA and address the challenge of low preservation rates for members, where the average South African employee retires on a pension income that’s around 30% of their last salary according to the Alexander Forbes Member Watch. This low percentage is due to the country’s low savings rate and most employees not preserving their retirement savings when they leave their employer, compounded by high household debt.
The offering would increase preservation rates to achieve better outcomes at retirement by encouraging sound investment decisions through a disruptive business model. The solution also has supplementary solutions, including financial protection for blue collar workers, deploying technology to aid the solution, and educational tools for members and their families.
The solution targets financially vulnerable people who constitute the Alexander Forbes member base. If adopted, the solution will address the goals of SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG 4 – Quality Education, and SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth.
“Sustainability has become an important topic in the asset management and employee benefit industry. The industry plays an important role in ensuring that group benefits are managed appropriately, benefiting employers, their employees, the society and the country at large,” said John Anderson, executive for investments, products and enablement at Alexander Forbes, and the company’s executive sponsor and liaison with the UN Global Compact. “As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, Alexander Forbes is committed to ensuring that sustainability issues are embedded in all aspects of our business. We are delighted that our young innovators will be showcasing their solution at the upcoming United Nations Young SDG Summit,” he said.
Alexander Forbes is a participating company and signatory of the United Nations Global Compact, which enabled the trio to be enrolled in the ten-month Young SDG Innovators Programme, to collaborate and accelerate business innovation towards the SDGs.
The summit will be attended by heads of state and government, business leaders, corporate sustainability experts, the heads of UN agencies and civil society organisations. At the summit, they will take stock of the state of the world, address gaps in progress, drive business ambition on the SDGs and highlight cooperative and actionable solutions.