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Better Returns in a Better World

B. Sunita (internal inspector) inspecting harvest in progress. (India, 2007)


A joint initiative between Oxfam and the investment industry, the Better Returns in a Better World project aims to raise investor awareness of the importance of poverty alleviation as a corporate responsibility issue.

It seeks to identify the key barriers to institutional investor action on poverty alleviation and development, and to develop proposals to help overcome these barriers.

The project considers the potential contribution of investors in three areas:

  • Capital allocation
  • Influencing policies and practices of those companies in which they invest (with a particular focus on transnational companies which operate in developing countries and on developing countries
  • Wider influence on public policy

Read the paper that launched the project Responsible Investment: A force for poverty alleviation.

The role of investors in poverty alleviation

"If we want to deliver the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline, then institutional investors are sure to play an important role. The Better Returns project takes up this challenge by exploring how global investors interact with the poverty agenda, both in terms of risks and opportunities".
James Gifford, Executive Director, The UN Principles of Responsible Investment Initiative

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed in 2000, provide the principal framework for global efforts to tackle poverty. Over the past eight years, we have seen significant progress towards the realisation of the MDGs:

  • The number of people living on less than $1 a day fell by 278 million between 1990 and 2004
  • 2 million lives are saved every year by immunisation
  • 2 million people now receive AIDS treatment

Yet, there is still a long way to go:

  • 1.4 billion people still live in extreme poverty
  • 10 million children a year die before their fifth birthday
  • 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water

A key barrier to the realisation of the MDGs is access to capital. Under the right conditions, private investment can provide substantial development benefits through supporting economic growth, helping build essential infrastructure, and paying the taxes needed to provide schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure and services.

However, investments in developing countries have not been unambiguously positive. Capital flows have concentrated in a handful of large, middle-income countries such as China, India, and Thailand (with low-income countries receiving relatively little investment), many of the investment flows have been highly volatile, and, foreign direct investment has, on many occasions, been controversial because of concerns about human rights or environmental impacts.

Read the project completion report Better Returns in a Better World: Responsible investment - overcoming the barriers and seeing the returns.