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CalPERS launches massive database of academic research on sustainability

California pension giant to host 700 papers

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest US public pension fund, has launched a searchable database of more than 700 academic studies on sustainability – believed to be the most comprehensive collection of research of its kind.

Academic partner the University of California, Davis has conducted an “exhaustive search” of the literature and aims to include all relevant studies in the database, accessible via CalPERS online Global Governance Library – although it’s acknowledged that research in many areas is still in its infancy.
It is the fruit of the $260bn (€194.4bn) fund’s Sustainable Investment Research Initiative (SIRI) that was launched in January with a call for papers. It follows a symposium organised by CalPERS and UC Davis on June 7.
More than 90 submissions were received and seven were debated at the symposium (see below). Professor Brad Barber of UC Davis and Robert Jackson of Columbia Law School presented an overview of the research to CalPERS’ Investment Committee yesterday (June 17).

CalPERS will use the research to assess how sustainability issues impact all of its investments. “With this knowledge, we will be better able to define what is relevant and what best aligns with our fiduciary duty,” it says.
The papers contributed to a “a rigorous technical discussion” at the symposium and focused on the impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues on long-term value creation and capital market stability, the fund said.The research will feed in to a board discussion of investment beliefs scheduled for July which will in turn inform CalPERS’ “total fund” thinking on sustainable investment, distilling its current corporate governance principles.

In turn, this will contribute towards an expectations document on sustainability for all its asset managers, both internal and external. Link

The Symposium Program Committee, co-chaired by Barber and Jackson, includes some of the leading lights of investment research such as Rob Bauer of Maastricht University and Elroy Dimson of the London Business School.

Papers presented:

  • Stakeholder Relations and Stock Returns (Jeroen Derwall)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and Asset Pricing in Industry Equilibrium (Artem Durnev)
  • Do Managers Do Good with Other Peoples’ Money? (Ing-Haw Cheng)
  • Active Ownership (Dimson)
  • Signaling through Corporate Accountability Reporting (James Naughton)
  • Corporate Governance and the Environment (Mario Amore)
  • Do Private Equity Fund Managers Earn Their Fees? (Berk Sensoy)