Spotlight on Investors' Environmental Responsibility
New York/Nairobi, 25 October 2005- Institutional investors have a far greater opportunity - and in some cases a legal obligation - to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into their investment decision-making than is traditionally believed.
This is the conclusion of a new study, done on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative.
The study finds that the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into investment analysis, so as to more reliably predict financial performance, is clearly permissible and is arguably required in all jurisdictions.
The study, launched today at the United Nations headquarters, has been compiled by leading international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
The 150-page report, which focuses on the largest capital markets jurisdictions - Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US, also considers the likely evolution of the interpretation of the law with respect to investors and ESG issues. The study is entitled: "A legal framework for the integration of environmental, social and governance issues into institutional investment."
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, commenting on the study, said: "This is groundbreaking work that will accelerate the integration of ESG issues into the mainstream investment community worldwide. What was once considered a niche area is set to become mainstream as institutions with trillions of dollars under management embed ESG thinking into their investment approach."
He added: "As the world's largest pension schemes, government funds, insurance reserves and foundations adjust this will set in train a new dynamic along the investment chain. When these large institutional investors move on ESG issues the broader markets will listen and react."
Paul Watchman, Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and senior author of the study, told more than 450 participants at the two-day UNEP FI 2005 Global Roundtable meeting at UNHQ that: "We are not suggesting that investors pursue a moral crusade but, in most jurisdictions, the law gives a wide discretion, encircled by general duties rather than exacting standards. A number of the perceived limitations on investment decision-making are illusory.
Mr Watchman explained that those advocating a greater regard for ESG issues in investment decision-making often encounter resistance on the basis of a belief that institutional principals and their agents are legally prevented from taking account of such issues. "Far from preventing the integration of ESG considerations, the law clearly permits and, in certain circumstances, requires that this be done," he said.
Mr Watchman, a keynote speaker at the UNEP FI Global Roundtable of bankers, insurers and asset managers, as well as government and civil society representatives, continued: "It's not everyday that commercial lawyers have the opportunity to challenge industry to be more courageous, but that is the position in which we find ourselves having produced this report for the UNEP FI".
The report's lead author concluded by stressing that: "Institutional investors have more freedom to integrate ESG issues into their decision-making than they think. Whilst normally we find ourselves encouraging our clients to be more cautious, in this case we can instead say 'be more imaginative'."
About the UNEP FI Global Roundtable
Initiated in 1994, the UNEP FI Global Roundtable has spanned the globe from Chicago to Frankfurt, and from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo. It is now recognised as the premier finance and sustainability event, gathering the most influential practitioners in the field.
Over 450 participants from the financial services sector, government agencies, civil society, academia and the broader corporate world are attending the 2005 Roundtable in New York, with official sponsors including Bank of America, ABN AMRO, JPMorgan Chase, Westpac and Deutsche Bank.
Under the theme of "A World of risk: A world of opportunities?", the Roundtable will be the scene for cutting-edge discussions around themes following the business lines of financial institutions and is designed to help decision-makers explore the real risks and opportunities arising from complex sustainability challenges.
Among the highlights of the event will be the release of the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer study and the announcement of preliminary findings of UNEP FI’s second round of research on the materiality of environmental, social and governance issues to securities valuation.
For more on UNEP FI's Global Roundtable see www.unepfi.org
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer study
Full title: A legal framework for the integration of environmental, social and governance issues into institutional investment
Available at: http://www.unepfi.org/
UNEP FI Global Roundtable 2005
Confirmed speakers and moderators include:
Robert Annibale - Head of Global Microfinance Business, Citigroup
Joseph Boren - President and CEO, AIG Environmental
James Cameron - Founder, Climate Change Capital
Bernard Cochemé - CEO, UN Joint Staff Pension Fund
Hendrik Garz - Director Equity Strategy Services, WestLB
Martin Hancock - COO, Westpac (London)
Hanns Michael Hölz - Global Head of Sustainable Development and Corporate Citizenship, Deutsche Bank
Leo Johnson - Co-Founder, Sustainable Finance
Luiz Maia - CEO, ABN AMRO Asset Management Brazil
Louis Redshaw - Head of Environmental Markets, Barclays Capital
Jesus Tambunting - Chairman and CEO, Planters Bank of the Philippines
Paul Watchman - Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Vincent Zeller - CIO, Groupama
Sponsors & Supporters:
Bank of America, ABN AMRO, JPMorgan Chase, Westpac, Deutsche Bank, CIBC, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Canada, Calvert Group, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Insurance Australia Group and National Australia Bank.
UNEP Finance Initiative
The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a unique global partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the private financial sector. UNEP FI works closely with approximately 170 financial institutions that are signatories to the UNEP FI statements and a range of partner organisations to develop and promote linkages between sustainability and financial performance. Through regional activities, a comprehensive work programme, training and research, UNEP FI carries out its mission to identify, promote and realise the adoption of best environmental and sustainability practice at all levels of financial institution operations. For more information on UNEP FI see: http://www.unepfi.org/
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is a leading international law firm, with over 2,400 lawyers in 28 offices in 18 countries across Europe, Asia and the US. The environmental, planning and regulatory law practice is widely recognised as a global leader in the field for the breadth and depth of its expertise. Freshfields also has a respected pro bono legal practice, which has enabled the company to work in close cooperation with international governmental and non-governmental organisations.
A press conference for the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative Global Roundtable will take place at 11:15am on 25 October 2005 in the pressroom of the United Nations building.
The platform will be available to take questions on the hopes and aspirations for the year’s major event on finance and sustainability:
Monique Barbut, Director, UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
Martin Hancock, COO, Westpac (London)
James Mahoney, Director of Public Policy, Bank of America
Paul Watchman, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Media representatives interested in attending the Roundtable and/or press conference, and not in possession of a valid United Nations grounds pass, will need a pass issued by the UN’s Media Accreditation Office. A letter of assignment, on letterhead, dated and signed by an authorised person should be faxed to: Gary Fowlie, Chief, UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, and faxed to +1-212-963-4642. Two pieces of photo identification (such as a passport, national credentials, police press pass, driver’s license or state ID) are also required. To follow up, please call 1-212-963-7164.
For More Information Please Contact
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: 254 20 623084, Mobile: 254 733 632755 or 41 79 596 5737, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If there is no prompt response, contact Elisabeth Waechter, UNEP Associate Media Officer, on Tel: 254 20623088, Mobile: 254 720173968, e-mail: email@example.com
In New York Jim Sniffen, UNEP Information Officer, on Tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210
UNEP News Release