Australian sustainability researcher SIRIS clears way for strategic partnerships

Clarity on reasons for entering into voluntary administration

Sustainable Investment Research Institute (SIRIS), the Melbourne-based sustainability advisory firm, has put parts of its business into voluntary administration to clear the way for it to enter into strategic partnerships with third parties.
Filings with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) show the firm, founded in 2000 by Mark Bytheway, went into administration last month.
But Bytheway explained to Responsible Investor the move was taken under advice in order to, in effect, clear the decks for parts of the business to be acquired or merged.
Bytheway said: “SIRIS has had and is in discussions with a number of groups regarding developing strategic partners”. The firm is talking to non-ESG research providers who might be able to leverage its research and data “in the context of financial and investment research distribution and managed investment product development”.
In short: “We are in discussion with several parties with respect to hosting and offering and possibly merging, SIRIS’s Asian data and research.”

The move to what he termed a “cleaner business structure” would take around three weeks, Bytheway said, adding: “We intend to make severalannouncements regarding our restructure and new capital at that time.”

Company Chairman Charles Macek told Responsible Investor back in 2011 that the firm was actively on the look out for alliances as the ESG data market was becoming increasingly commoditized.

SIRIS, which has 14 staff in total, covers around 800 Asian stocks on ESG factors via its PrSIM (Profiling Sustainable Investment Metrics) platform; clients have included fund managers such as Perpetual. Services offered include portfolio construction, research and data, corporate governance and proxy voting services.

SIRIS is “funded and supported” by major finance groups such as financial services provider, the A$110bn IOOF [Independent Order of Odd Fellows] and brokerage house Goldman J.B. Were, although it is independent and majority staff owned.

Other ESG research firms have been active in the Asia Pacific region in the last year or so. Sustainalytics, the ESG research firm that is backed by Dutch institutions PGGM, ABN Amro and Triodos, has been on the acquisition trail in the region. Last year it bought Singapore-based Responsible Research and signed a partnership agreement with SynTao in China. MSCI has also been building its ESG research capabilities in Beijing, China.