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Investing With the Highest Possible ROI: A Stable Society

October 15, 2021

A good heart alone will not change the world — for that we need compassion, collaboration and to put our good hearts into action. 

I don't actually believe in charity, but I sincerely believe in doing the right thing: acting on your good heart, according to universal values such as honesty, empathy, respect and justice.

A good heart alone will not change the world — for that we need compassion, collaboration and to put our good hearts into action.

I strongly believe that a protected, nurtured child will grow up to be a responsible adult who will be able to contribute to a stable society.

I strongly believe that a protected, nurtured child will grow up to be a responsible adult who will be able to contribute to a stable society.

UNICEF has the unique United Nations mandate to ensure that the 196 countries that have become party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child — the most rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history — comply with the treaty so that children's rights are realized.

What is holding back the international community is the paradox that while UNICEF is charged with helping countries deliver results for every child, UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments, businesses and private individuals.

We therefore need to perceive donations to UNICEF for what they really are: investments that yield the highest possible return (ROI). The return is not directly monetary but comes in the form of a safe and healthy child who grows up to become a responsible adult who contributes to his or her community so that families can raise safe and healthy children, business can develop and communities can prosper and thrive. 

The investment is acting on your good heart. The result is a stable and flourishing society — the ultimate return on an investment in UNICEF.

Maria Ahlström-Bondestam, inaugural Chair of the UNICEF International Council. © Cristina Rijskamp

The UNICEF International Council is a fantastic platform from which to advocate for the vision of acting on your good heart. It brings together UNICEF's biggest private partners and stakeholders as we use our influence, leverage our networks and advocate on behalf of the world's children. Our collective action accelerates the progress towards the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while UNICEF has the convening power of different stakeholders from governments and civil society to the private sector and academia.

To achieve the U.N.'s 17 SDGs by 2030, we need to make the global goals local by ensuring that everyone understands what rights children have and why and how their realization is imperative for our businesses, communities and our collective future.

To contribute is a basic human need. It makes us feel that we belong and that our lives have a greater meaning or purpose.

At the age of 9, I wrote to the President of Finland to get a dangerous slide repaired in our neighborhood. I received a written reply from the President's office — and they repaired the slide! It was my first contribution to society and I felt seen and heard. My actions mattered.

To contribute is a basic human need. It makes us feel that we belong and that our lives have a greater meaning or purpose. To act on your good heart is an investment in the realization of the SDGs and a fulfillment of the promises they make to the world's children. The ultimate return on your investment is a thriving, equitable society.

I see it as a privilege to have been given the opportunity to contribute and affect change along with my fellow members of the UNICEF International Council. I strongly feel that if we don't protect the children to whom we are leaving this world, then what is the point of life? And if good, decent people like you and me don't stand up for what is right, then who will?

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Maria Ahlström-Bondestam is Co-founder and Chair of the Eva Ahlström Foundation, a longtime partner of UNICEF Finland. She is the inaugural Chair of the UNICEF International Council, a collective of more than 90 philanthropic partners committed to improving children's lives through their combined influence, investment and expertise. In 2020, the Eva Ahlström Foundation initiated the Ahlström Collective Impact, a unique collaboration between public and private companies, foundations and stakeholders within the Ahlström network with the aim of making strategic investments in UNICEF to support the realization of SDGs 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality) and 17 (partnerships for the goals). 

Top photo: On a visit to India with UNICEF in 2015, Maria Ahlström-Bondestam spent time getting to know students in Rajasthan. © Haru/UNICEF/2015