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ADAP and the Global Goals: Keeping it Simple

“End poverty in all its forms everywhere.”

This statement is clear, comprehensive, and ambitious. It’s the first of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development drafted by the United Nations and agreed to by 193 world leaders in 2015. These goals are very much in the news this week as the U.N. meets in New York.

When they were first drafted, the U.N. goals were criticized as overly detailed, unfocused, and vague. The Economist described them as “worse than worthless,” and Foreign Policy lamented that referring to them as “a high-school wish list on how to save the world” seemed “unfair to high schoolers.” Nevertheless, the Global Goals have since been warmly embraced by investors and companies as a unifying framework to think about global trends and aspirations.

Covering everything from hunger, sanitation, energy, poverty, climate action, and much more, the Global Goals are indeed incredibly broad. So what should an investor make of them? In ADAP’s case, our approach is to simplify. In blasting the Global Goals, The Economist stated that the goal of ending poverty should stand “at the head of a very short list.” We fundamentally agree with this need for focus. At ADAP, we believe that:

  1. ending poverty is the single most important of the Global Goals

  2. business has an essential role to play in achieving this goal

  3. there is a lack of funding for early-stage social enterprises addressing extreme poverty

So there it is: ADAP’s raison d'être in three short bullet points. Global Goal 1 IS our goal: to end extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere. The goal is:

  • Ambitious. The goal is NO poverty, not less poverty. That’s why we talk about eradicating extreme poverty, not alleviating it.

  • Time-bound. The goal is to end poverty by 2030. The clock is ticking, and we need to be impatient. That’s why we focus on getting things done quickly.

Every company that ADAP partners with MUST directly or indirectly impact extreme poverty. Some companies will also have impacts on other Global Goals. An off-grid solar company will help achieve Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy), and a company that empowers women and girls helps address Goal 5 (gender equality). We will work with such companies to measure these impacts as well.

We currently have companies in our portfolio that are impacting goals 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 17, and we anticipate having many more companies addressing multiple Global Goals in Fund 2. But Global Goal 1 is ADAP’s North Star. It’s simple, bold, and urgent - just what we need to maintain our focus. By forging a different approach to poverty, we believe we can play an important role in achieving this critical goal.

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