About the Observatory

Capital markets can have a decisive impact on the level and direction of sustainable investment and can contribute towards filling the financing gap for the SDGs.

UNCTAD estimates that the value of sustainability-themed investment products amounted to $5.2 trillion in 2021.
However, sustainable finance is still in its early growth stage, with sustainable mutual fund assets representing 4% of the global fund market and green bonds representing just 1% of the global bond market. Moreover, most sustainability-themed investment products are domiciled and invested in developed economies, and most are “self-labelled”, raising concerns about sustainability washing and consistency of standards.

With a vision to build a future global financial ecosystem in which sustainable development, as defined by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is fully embedded into the business model and investment culture and to bring more credibility, transparency, and consistency to the market, UNCTAD launched the UN Global Sustainable Finance Observatory (GSFO).

The Observatory promotes and facilitates the transition of sustainable investment from market niche to market norm, leading up to 2030 and beyond. It addresses the challenges of fragmentation in standards, proliferation in benchmarking, complexity in disclosure, and sustainability washing concerns.

We work in tandem with the standards setting processes of the financial industry and regulatory bodies, as well as other international organisations,  data providers and investors to promote the full and effective integration of sustainable development into all aspects of the global financial ecosystem.

Areas of work

Through the following activities, the Observatory will integrate relevant instruments and outputs on a virtual platform to strengthen the assessment, transparency and integrity of sustainable financial products and services.

Provide a capacity-building platform for assisting developing countries on policies, regulatory measures, product development, industry standards, reporting and other related issues to ensure they benefit from sustainable finance.


Promote the integration of SDGs into the sustainability assessment ecosystem in a coherent and synergistic manner, including through the established UN Core Indicators for SDGs reporting by enterprises.


Build a global database of sustainable investment funds and other products to improve the open-source availability of sustainability data for key stakeholders and the public.


Conduct sustainability assessments of “self-labelled” sustainable products on global capital markets, and award best performers.


Establish a pool of various sustainability ratings on capital markets to encourage better reporting methodologies in different industries.


Compile a global inventory of good regulatory and policy practices for sustainability integration and to facilitate peer learning.

Partner organizations

The Observatory seeks to leverage and partner with leading sustainable finance-related initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact, the Principles for Responsible Investment, UNEP Finance Initiative, International Organization of Securities Commissions and the World Federation of Exchanges, among other stakeholders.

All enquiries about the Observatory’s activities and about becoming a member of the Sustainable Investment Council can be directed to UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise: Contact us