European civil society groups join forces for responsible investment activism

European Responsible Investment Network (ERIN) launches today

ShareAction, the UK-based charity, has joined forces with a network of international think-tanks, campaign groups, NGOs, trade unions, and faith groups, to launch an activist civil society movement for responsible investment in Europe, with activities ranging from shareholder activism to fossil fuel divestment and workers’ rights.

The European Responsible Investment Network (ERIN) launches today (June 9) at ShareAction’s European conference in Berlin. The network comprises 25 organisations from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the UK. They range from Dutch sustainable investment associations and Italian ethical banking groups to NGOs that address Norway’s sovereign wealth fund’s investment practices.

Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, said: “The Responsible Investment landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years, but much remains to be done to embed sustainable thinking and practice in the strategies of European pension funds and other large investors. Civil society has a critical role to play in driving progress. We are both proud and excited to be playing a role in uniting civil society to advance responsible investment in Europe. Together these groups have the potential to make Europe a global leader in the field.”

One area where ERIN says it will be able to leverage and share expertise across the network is on AGM activism. Through its AGM Army of individuals who attend UK AGMs, ShareAction has developed its activist approach. It will assist network members to do the same in their own countries, as well as help them access proxy shares for attending general meetings in other countries.

Andrea Baranes from the Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica said: “We’ve been involved in active shareholding for several years, buying shares of big Italian corporations to intervene at AGMs and build a dialogue with the companies. We believe that a cross-European approach is fundamental. The European Responsible Investment Network can have a real impact in this area, involving as many shareholders as possible, helping organisations to share experiences and best practice and ultimately have a stronger impact.”ShareAction’s Berlin conference has a particular focus on the low carbon transition.

Thomas Meinert Larsen, spokesperson for AnsvarligFremtid, an independent group under the Danish NGO Climate Movement of Denmark, said: “We hope that the network will encourage pension funds to divest from projects that are reliant on morally unacceptable and financially risky fossil fuel extraction, such as coal, tar sands, and Arctic and deep sea drilling, which are not in line with the political goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

German Protestant development organisation Brot für die Welt works to strengthen faith-based investors’ awareness of sustainable investment. Alexander el Alaoui, policy advisor, said: “Investing responsibly is not only an ethical obligation but a social necessity. In times of increasing social disparity, private and institutional investors alike must place social justice at the centre of their investment decisions. Faith investors, in particular, have a remit to invest in line with their mission, and this network will help them strengthen their voice and impact.”

List of ERIN members by country:

Europe-wide / International: Banktrack, Business & Human Rights Research Centre, E3G, Greenpeace, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union, WWF
Belgium: Réseau Financité
Denmark: Ansvarlig Fremtid (Responsible Future)
France: 2° Investing Initiative, Réseau Action Climat-France
Germany: Brot für die Welt (Bread for the world), Facing Finance, Fossil Free Berlin
Italy: Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica
Netherlands: Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), FossielVrij
Norway: Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in Our Hands), Save the Children Norway
UK: Asset Owner Disclosure Project, Carbon Tracker, Community Reinvest, InfluenceMap, ShareAction