Italian insurance giant Generali signs up to UN Principles for Responsible Investment

Move comes amid broader SRI push from leading insurer

Assicurazioni Generali SpA, the largest Italian insurance company, has signed up to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment – amid a broader socially responsible investing (SRI) push.

The insurer, which has some €470bn in assets under management and was founded in Trieste in 1831, becomes the third Italian asset owner to sign up. The country’s largest pension fund, the €5.7bn Fondo Cometa, joined in December last year; the other only other Italian asset owner signatory is the $150m Global Crop Diversity Trust. In total there are now 11 Italian signatories while the PRI has grown to 908 members.
Generali signed up “to strengthen and publicise its commitment to ethical investment”, it says in its new 2010 sustainability report, its seventh. The report this year is more integrated with its mainstream financial report, it added.
Generali, which signed up to the Carbon Disclosure Project a year ago, says it has received more requests from environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysts about its social and environmental commitment and performance.

In May Generali launched an in-house methodology for selecting socially responsible investments (SRI) – initially covering €6bn of assets in three funds in France.It set up a new database (Sustainable Analysis of Responsible Asset, or SARA) to integrate environmental, social and corporate governance assessment criteria to investment decisions. As a result it selected 120 companies for its Generali SRI portfolio in France.

“This approach is a concrete demonstration of Generali’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility and I believe it will become increasingly important in our Group, placing us at the leading edge of the insurance business,” said Assicurazioni Generali CIO Philippe Setbon.
Generali has applied an ethical filter to its global investments since 2006, forbidding investment in certain weapons manufacturers and companies involved in human rights violations, severe environmental damage and corruption.

Meanwhile, PRI Executive Director James Gifford has called on investors to engage more with public policy makers. Speaking at a briefing in London this week, he added issues such as public-private investment and corruption were moving up the PRI agenda. “It’s really important that investors have dialogue with government to allow the money to flow,” he said. “Governments need to facilitate the investment environment.”
The comments came as the PRI unveiled the final version of its report on Universal Ownership: Why Environmental externalities matter to institutional investors. An earlier version was released in October 2010.