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UN member States agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished by 2030. The following target is directly addressed by this topic.

Target 8.3: Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

The Goal

The companies listed on stock exchanges come from all economic sectors: services, manufacturing, mining and information technology. They generate revenues that pay salaries, buy goods and services from other companies, pay taxes and return dividends to shareholders. They are also significant employers: WFE estimates suggest that the 24,000 companies across just 26 of the 55 WFE’s equity market exchanges employ over 127 million people.

Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) form a large proportion of companies and employers worldwide. According to the World Bank, SMEs provide at least 45% of the jobs and 33% of the GDP in emerging economies alone. Although SMEs are important contributors to jobs and the growth of economies, they face significant constraints, including lack of access to finance.

Given the importance of SMEs to economies, a number of multilateral institutions, governments, policymakers and private sector actors across developed and developing markets are focused on addressing the SME financing gap. This has included a greater emphasis on the potential role of capital markets and stock exchanges in particular.

The Progress


SSEGrowthNum of the SSETotal stock exchanges tracked by the SSE have an SME listing platform

A framework for growth

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), one of the organizers of the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, published a report examining the role of stock exchanges in promoting economic growth and sustainable development. The publication was developed with the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), which represents more than 200 market infrastructure providers including exchanges and CCPs.

The report, entitled The Role of Stock Exchanges in Fostering Economic Growth and Sustainable Development, was officially launched at the opening session of the 57th WFE Annual Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. The report explains how stock exchanges operate, and why they matter; longer-term developmental challenges; and finally, how exchanges might be able to address some of those challenges.

A growth and sustainable development framework for stock exchanges

The report identifies two primary mechanisms through which stock exchanges can contribute to development:

  • Mobilising resources, both domestic and foreign portfolio flows, for sustainable economic growth and development. In addition to the core financing function of exchanges, the report also looks at what exchanges are doing to improve SME access to finance through dedicated markets, and to marshal funds to address sustainability challenges.
  • Promoting good governance in business practices, through the promotion of greater disclosure from their listed companies, including Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) disclosure.

The ability of exchanges to perform these roles is dependent, however, on the existence of an enabling environment, comprising relevant policy, processes and institutional structures. The report has therefore developed a framework for stock exchanges and stakeholders that can be used as a preliminary guideline.

The Tools

UNCTAD and WFE report

UNCTAD and WFE report

In the third chapter of the joint report, a review of all efforts by stock exchanges to promote sustainable development shows various initiatives and tools being adopted to promote environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure. This includes the progress of the SSE’s campaign to close the ESG guidance gap which doubled the number of stock exchanges offering guidance on ESG disclosure, and aims to have all exchanges providing guidance on this topic.

This report can be found on the SSE’s publications page here.

Technical Assistance

Technical Assistance

The SSE works with stock exchanges to advance climate action in their markets through donor-sponsored technical assistance. For more information, please contact the SSE team directly.

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