Advancing Sustainable Development by Facilitating Sustainable FDI, Promoting CSR, Designating Recognized Sustainable Investors, and Giving Home Countries a Role

By Karl P. Sauvant, Resident Senior Fellow, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, and Evan Gabor, J.D. candidate, Columbia Law School.

Foreign direct investment (“FDI”) can be an important vehicle for development. However, in recent years, the focus has not just been on development generally, but sustainable development specifically. Thus, this paper focuses on how countries can increase levels of FDI geared toward projects likely to contribute as much as possible to their sustainable development—in other words, how countries can increase flows of sustainable FDI. To that end, and in light of the World Trade Organization’s ongoing Structured Discussions on a multilateral framework for Investment Facilitation for Development, this paper outlines four issues and related proposals whose implementation through an investment facilitation framework for development would help to ensure that FDI makes a maximum contribution to sustainable development: (1) How can one identify, ex ante, sustainable FDI, to assist countries in facilitating and targeting inflows of sustainable FDI? (2) How can one promote corporate social responsibility (“CSR”)? (3) How could one create the special category of “Recognized Sustainable Investor” to incentivize international investors to implement their CSR commitments and engage in sustainable FDI? (4) What role can home countries play in promoting CSR standards and in facilitating outward FDI flows, especially the flow of sustainable FDI? Looking at the question of a multilateral framework from the perspective of its objective—namely “for development”—is particularly important as this objective should guide the negotiations of such a framework.