Invest NYC SDG Initiative Cover Photo

CSB Research

Invest NYC SDG Initiative

Engaging the private sector, government, and community to develop projects that help create a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient NYC.

New York City was the first city in the United States to align its ambitious sustainability goals with those of the world. Our purpose is to support NYC in its work to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — “localizing the SDGs.”

Launched in 2019 at the Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) at the New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Invest NYC SDG is a multi-year initiative designed to help build a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient urban economy in New York City. Using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) as a framework, we catalyze projects by engaging government, the private sector, and community stakeholders to tackle some of the major challenges of our time, such as reducing carbon emissions, supporting equitable and sustainable urban mobility, and addressing food insecurity.

While housed at an academic institution, Invest NYC SDG is not primarily a research project. Research provides the basis of this project, but our main goal is to leverage the convening power and influence of NYU to inspire collaboration between the public, private, philanthropic, social, and academic sectors to accelerate the development of new, sustainable businesses and organizations in New York City. As the first city in the world to systematically align its sustainability goals with the UN SDGs, New York City has created an important foundation with its sustainable development plans. Invest NYC SDG builds upon that foundation and helps pave the way for progress. 

We are working to identify the best private-sector business and finance opportunities where there are significant interested key players, realistic business incentives, alignment with government policies, partnerships with communities, and significant impact in meeting the SDGs. Through concrete projects in NYC, we are also identifying government policies and/or finance innovations needed to be successful. With this work, we are creating a road map and tool kit for other cities, both in the U.S. and internationally, to take on the SDGs with strong private-sector support.


The Process

Government Needs the Private Sector

New York City's long-term strategic plan and Green New Deal, OneNYC 2050, was created in alignment with the UN SDGs. Systemic change, however, requires engagement and collaboration between the private and public sectors, at both regional and local government levels. The opportunities are myriad: the UN Business and Sustainable Development Commission's 2017 Better Business, Better World report identified $12 trillion in business opportunity through multi-stakeholder interaction. 

The Private Sector Needs Government

Effective private-sector investment in advancing the SDGs means understanding that the focus areas in this project are largely supported by public infrastructure, and owned and operated by public entities. This infrastructure requires ongoing management and maintenance within changing physical and financial environments. Real constraints exist for governmental action, particularly as agencies are pushed to do more within the SDG framework. Government entities also face regulations that can inhibit their ability to partner with the private sector in developing innovative projects and policy. But systemic policy and operational change can take place.

NYU Stern CSB Creates the Space and Supports the Conversation

The NYU Center for Sustainable Business is creating the platform for multi-stakeholder engagement. As a major research university, trusted by public- and private-sector stakeholders, NYU brings a broad academic community with many departments engaged in SDG issues. Leveraging these resources, NYU Stern CSB connects important stakeholders among the public sector, interest organizations, and the private sector (including both the corporate and finance sectors) to develop a shared vision of how private-sector investment can be stimulated in partnership with the public and non-governmental sectors.


PROJECT AREAS

Sustainable Mobility

The Equitable Commute Project

Expanding micro-mobility as a sustainable and equitable commuting option is critical for transportation justice. The ECP is building public and private support to put 5,000 e-bikes in the hands of lower-income New Yorkers through a combination of steep negotiated vendor discounts, subsidies for purchase, and low-cost microlending through certified B-Corp and CDFI Spring Bank, including to people without credit histories. The ECP’s first distribution event occurred on December 2, 2021, at The HOPE Program’s Bronx offices. press coverage

BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Driving Building Decarbonization with PACE Financing in NYC and Nationally

Invest NYCSDG is supporting a robust Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) lending program to increase critical energy efficiency retrofits, create thousands of green jobs, and advance the largest opportunity to reduce carbon in NYC. Since early 2020, Invest NYC SDG has worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability (MOC&S) (now the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Justice (MOCEJ)) under an MOU, as well as the NYC Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC) to develop an innovative data tool to help prioritize outreach to underlying mortgage lenders of buildings subject to Local Law 97, which mandates greenhouse gas emission reductions and penalties for 28,000 buildings.The data tool is searchable by mortgage lien holder and provides details on the portfolios of mortgage lenders and the carbon emitted by individual buildings and in the aggregate. We are using the data tool to leverage the interest of major banks to reduce their scope 3 emissions and take a leadership role in helping to decarbonize NYC buildings in their own portfolios. 

Passive House Accelerator: Source 2050


A catalyst of zero carbon building, the Passive House Accelerator applies physics, building science, and digital modeling tools to optimize construction costs and building performance, reducing building heating and cooling energy use by 80-90%. Two major obstacles inhibit broader adoption of energy efficient and low carbon construction methods: workforce skills and product access. Source 2050 seeks to address product access by creating the first ever comprehensive high performance construction marketplace for professionals to collaborate and exchange practical, project-based techniques and discover the new products that make achieving these green construction goals possible. Source 2050 was selected as a NYU Tandon CUSP Capstone project for Spring 2022.
 

Organic Solid Waste Processing and Resource Recovery

Zero waste to landfill by 2030 is a key tenet of NYC's sustainability goals, but this ambitious goal has stalled. NYC has an opportunity to invest in projects that ensure its 2 million tons/year of organic solid waste will be locally managed as resources that create renewable energy (biogas), fertilizer products (compost and biosolids), and clean water - products that can be used locally. Our proposed solution is to drive public and private investment into organic waste processing through anaerobic digestion at the Department of Environmental Protection’s 14 existing water resource recovery facilities to build a circular economy for organic waste while lowering the city's carbon footprint and reducing landfill reliance. 

Low Carbon Concrete


As a use for glass waste and a component of concrete for building and infrastructure construction, ground glass pozzolan can provide an important contribution to New York City’s environmental commitment of zero waste to landfill by 2030. Recovery, processing, and use of NYC’s 180,000 tons of waste glass into ground glass pozzolan would also significantly reduce NYC's CO2 emissions. Invest NYC SDG is supporting Urban Mining Industries (UMI), the only commercial-scale glass pozzolan producer in the U.S., in securing a site near Sims Recycling’s South Brooklyn Marine Terminal MRF for the construction of a ground glass pozzolan plant, and product commercialization in the public and private sector in NYC.

FOOD AND HEALTH

FoodMap NY

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation has awarded $2M to Invest NYC SDG to help develop long-term solutions to food insecurity. In partnership with Cornell University, Invest NYC SDG is focusing on ways in which private engagement and investment can provide long term, market-based solutions to food insecurity in underserved NYC neighborhoods and rural New York State communities. We can increase private-sector engagement by acting as a catalyst and matchmaker, working with partners to develop research-driven and community-backed plans for new public–private pilot programs that can boost resilience and equity in New York State’s food system. Read Press Release

M.A.P. NYC

Urban agriculture provides socioeconomic benefits to communities, improving access to fresh local food while offering educational opportunities and green jobs. Invest NYC SDG and NYU Tandon have built a wiki-style database, visualized as a map, to understand the extent and nature of agricultural production in NYC, as well as its correlation with neighborhood demographics, gentrification, and food security status. By creating a baseline of urban agricultural activity in NYC, we can help set production goals, advise on supportive government policies, assist growers in connecting with the resources they need to build thriving farm businesses, and ultimately help create well-paying green jobs. Explore the interactive map

Healthy Corner Stores

At least 750,000 New Yorkers live in areas subject to food apartheid - characterized by little or no fresh, healthy, and affordable food. NYC’s corner-store infrastructure is an under-leveraged resource: 13,000+ minority-owned corner stores (bodegas) feed millions of New Yorkers every day. Invest NYC SDG has convened a multi-stakeholder working group and is developing a pilot program connecting corner stores, community-based organizations, vendors, and distributors. Building on small-scale pilots around the U.S., the goal of the new program is to (a) identify best practices and (b) definitively measure the impact of a bodega-based healthy food channel in order to (c) attract the private investment and other resources needed for a citywide expansion.

Rikers Island Indoor Farm

Rikers Island is slated to close its doors as a jail in 2027. Developing uses for its 413 acres near the center of NYC presents a rare opportunity. Spurred by former Mayor de Blasio’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor, Invest NYC SDG proposed an interim use to create a new legacy and a green vision for NYC’s future: a 32-acre indoor farm that uses vertical farming, aquaculture, and greenhouses to produce more than 490,000 pounds of leafy greens and vining crops, and 90,000 pounds of salmon or trout weekly, year-round. We seek to employ formerly incarcerated persons in an economically sustainable business that provides a pathway for worker ownership through an ESOP or worker cooperative model. We are discussing these governance options with the Democracy at Work Institute and social entrepreneur and organizer Omar Freilla, a leader in this field.

Speaking Engagements

Circular City Week New York 2022 Doing the SWMP: Planning for Zero Waste in Major Citiies

Circular City Week New York 2022 - Doing the SWMP: Planning for Zero Waste in Major Cities

Hosted by Kendall Christiansen, Executive in Residence, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Busines. Cities need comprehensive long-term plans for managing all types of waste, including recyclables and organics. New York City's next Solid Waste Management Plan is due in 2025, with planning starting now. Planners from Toronto, Vancouver, Austin and Boston will describe their efforts.

Watch Here
NYC 2025 road to recovery online panel discussion flyer

NYC 2025: Road to Recovery with NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business

On behalf of NYU Wagner and Stern Center for Sustainable Business, we invite you to join us for the opening panel discussion of the NYC 2025: Road to Recovery Series. We will be joined by experts and contributors to NYC 2025 as they discuss their vision for a stronger, fairer and more equitable New York City. NYC 2025 convenes non-partisan experts across a range of areas to hold an ongoing conversation about issues that must be addressed for the city to become stronger and more equitable than it was before COVID-19.

Watch Here
National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine Operationalizing Sustainable Development Workshop

Operationalizing Sustainable Development: Financing for Sustainable Development

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Committee on Operationalizing Sustainable Development held its second information gathering workshop on May 16-17, 2022. This virtual public workshop served as a central information-gathering mechanism for a consensus study examining key research priorities and possible actionable steps needed to operationalize sustainable development at global and local levels.

Watch Here

Decarbonizing NYC's Built Environment | CSB Practice Forum 2022

A session exploring the financial opportunities and challenges created by the NYC Climate Mobilization Act, including Local Law 97 and property assessed clean energy (PACE) loans.

WATCH THE VIDEO

NYU Tandon Undergraduate Summer Research Program

FoodMap NY undergraduate research students presented their summer research for Invest NYC SDG. With over 100+ participants, our students received a 3rd place in the sustainability video category.

WATCH THE VIDEO

Models for Financing the UN Sustainable Development Goals

This white paper was commissioned by the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) to examine models for financing New York City’s sustainability goals as they are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and inform its initiative, Invest NYC SDG.  It is also intended to give cities everywhere an overview of various finance mechanisms, key players in financing, and analyses of key examples. 

CSB is grateful for support from the following sponsors: ConEdison, Goldman Sachs, Pepsico, Sims Metal Management, and The New York Community Trust.

Read the White Paper

Creating a Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Future Economy in New York City

NYU Wagner's NYC 2025 initiative called for a series of thoughtful, forward-thinking proposals laying out a practical path for the next Mayor and City Council to follow to ensure a more inclusive post-pandemic recovery for all. Each of the 21 papers helps answer the question, what does a stronger, fairer, and more equitable New York City look like? Marianna Koval wrote a policy proposal to help the next City Administration understand how it can partner with the business community to develop investable projects that advance New York City's sustainability goals. 

Read the Policy Proposal

PARTNERS OF THE INITATIVE

With support from our sponsors, CSB aims to help create a blueprint for private sector financing of the UN SDGs at a municipal level in New York City.

INVEST NYC SDG TEAM

PROJECT LEADERSHIP 
Marianna Koval, Director 
Wythe Marschall, Senior Research Project Manager 
Divya Subramanian, Associate Director
Kendra Gibbs, Assistant Director

EXECUTIVES IN RESIDENCE 
Paul Lipson, Principal, Barretto Bay Strategies 
Kendall Christiansen, Principal, Gaia Strategies 
Gary Friedland, Scholar-in-Residence, NYU Stern School of Business 

STUDENT RESEARCH ASSISTANTS 
Max Wang, Master's of Data Science Candidate, NYU Tandon 
Sophie Weiss, BS Sustainable Urban Environmnets Candidate, NYU Tandon
Alan Fang, BS in Business Candidate, NYU Stern 
Lu Yii Wong, BS Sustainable Urban Environmnets Candidate, NYU Tandon
Harry Rios, BS Computer Science, NYU Tandon 

Thank You to our Steering Committee

Lara Croushore, Managing Director, Urban Ocean Lab 
Sander Dolder, Senior Vice President of Industry and Economic Innovation, NYC Economic Development Corporation 
Miles Draycott, Former Chief Risk Officer for the NYC Pension Funds
Jeff Gitterman, Co-Founder, Gitterman Wealth Management
Will Kennedy, Programme Officer, UN Office of Partnerships
Micah Kotch, Partner, Blackhorn Ventures
Nilda Mesa, Director, Urban Sustainability and Equity Planning Program, Center for Sustainable Urban Development/Earth Institute, Columbia 
Frances Resheske, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, ConEdison
Aniket Shah, Senior Fellow at Columbia University Center for Sustainable Investment, Columbia, and former Head of Sustainable Investing, Oppenheimer
John Williams, Chairman and CEO, Impact Infrastructure