Investors to meet with EU for SRI policy talks

Eurosif takes talks on mandatory CSR reporting and Europe-wide SIP to Brussels.

The European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif), the industry lobby group, is to meet with Commissioners from the European Union in early February as part of a series of discussions on formulating EU policy on issues such as mandatory environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting for companies. Matt Christensen, executive director of Paris-based Eurosif, told Responsible Investor that the talks in Brussels had come about after EU Commissioners agreed 2009 was a good time to put SRI issues on the political agenda as a response to the credit crisis. In the meeting scheduled for February 10th with two to three EU Commissioners, Christensen will be accompanied by Eurosif members including APG Investments, represented by Rob Lake its head of responsible investment, and Jean-Pierre Sicard, head of sustainable development at France’s Caisse des Dépôts, the national treasury fund, as well as trade unions and non-profit organisations. Christensen said the February 10th meeting will be a gathering for policy suggestions such as the type of mandatory reporting the lobby group hopes to see. A working group of Eurosif members has been initiated to formulate its policy positions. In late 2008, Eurosif held preliminary meetings with Richard Howitt, European Parliament spokesperson on corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Christensen said: “These discussions require talking to several different directorates-general (DGs) (EUdepartments) because the topic straddles their focus areas, for example: trade, development, environment, social affairs and internal markets. The latter – internal markets – is one of the most important in this area and we hope to get a meeting with the relevant EU Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, on the subject of mandatory reporting, which we believe could fit in with a proposed EU transparency directive.” Christensen said topics high on the Eurosif agenda included mandatory reporting of both carbon emissions and issues of ESG ‘materiality’ to investors as well as the potential introduction of a Europe-wide statement of investment principles (SIP), mirroring an existing legal requirement for UK pension funds. Other broader discussions planned, he said, included concerns over stock lending and concert voting issues, both currently being examined by the EU. “We would also like to see more work on what the recent government equity stakes taken in banks around Europe can mean in terms of moving forward debates on better corporate governance,” said Christensen. He said Eurosif was combining its lobby efforts with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), which has a working group looking at the issue of social reporting, as well as the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), Europe Corporate Governance Institute and CSR Europe.