In 2015, after two years of intensive public consultation and an historic accord with 193 countries, the United Nations (UN) set the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This ambitious agenda aims to tackle 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across social, environmental and economic dimensions.
Following this, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put a call out to the private sector to get behind the momentum set by world leaders and help to achieve these goals. Subsequently, UBS - one of the world's leading wealth managers and the largest universal bank in Switzerland boasting impressive market access, global connections, challenged their 65,000+ employee base to help make a positive impact in sustainable development.
So in April 2016, UBS launched the Grand Challenge, an internal competition developed in partnership with leading economic think tank, the Center for Global Development (CGD) and 100%Open, to find innovative financial solutions to help address five challenges aligned with the UN’s SDGs.
The challenges included climate conscious investments, low-income savings, infrastructure investment, capital for treating diseases and improved education. More than 1200 UBS employees, making up over 300 teams, across the globe stepped up to the challenges. The 245 submissions were narrowed down to six finalists who then pitched their ideas at a Global Final event in Zurich at the end of June in front of a distinguished jury panel chaired by the Global Head UBS and Society, and former Managing Director of the World Bank, Caroline Anstey.
"We believe we can make a significant and lasting impact in addressing some of the most serious challenges facing society today. These issues are pressing, and while we don’t profess to have all the answers, we’re prepared to take the lead."
The winning team SPAVEST (Spend, Save, Earn, Invest) offered a low-cost, automated retirement savings method, for low to middle-income individuals, that enables them to gradually build their savings by capitalizing on passive saving via mobile payments. SPAVEST now has the opportunity to further develop their idea, with CGD experts in Washington DC, with the intention of taking the solution to market.
We were proud to work closely with UBS on the Grand Challenge, building on our successful collaboration on last year’s Future of Finance Challenge. We believe it demonstrates the power of leveraging the scale and expertise of big players in the private sector in helping to tackle major social challenges.
The question now is, if UBS are prepared to take the lead, then who’s following suit in stepping up to a social impact challenge?