Hugh Wheelan: The RI DigiFest 2020 comes as ESG holds its own despite COVID-19 fears

The Responsible Investor Digital Festival: Summer 2020 takes place from June 15-19

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We are thrilled to announce today the launch of the Responsible Investor Digital Festival: Summer 2020 – or RI DigiFest for short – running from June 15-19. 

In the face of the coronavirus crisis, we believe that now, more than ever, investors and companies need to come together to articulate the why, what and how of a sustainable finance future.

It is time to show that responsible investment is the answer to our long-term financial and societal challenges.

That’s why we’re putting together a stellar week of keynote addresses, high-level plenaries, live Q&As, thematic breakouts and specialist events, delivered via a unique digital festival. 

We’re aiming to create the biggest on-line responsible investment gathering ever! 

Take a look right now at the RI DigiFest site: we’re really excited about bringing this together, and we think you will be too.

We will be announcing the top-level speaker line up shortly, so register for update information on the RI DigiFest site.

There were concerns that the current COVID-19 crisis would plunge sustainable finance to the bottom of political and economic agendas. 

Our editorial coverage on RI tells a very different tale.

As governments and central banks initially responded to the economic turbulence with new QE programmes and demands on manufacturers, they appeared to ignore their previously trumpeted social and environmental ambitions. 

But when it comes to investors, ESG has remained front and centre for many – and become more important for some. 

Just look at what’s happening at this year’s AGM season: in Australia, shareholders are voting in favour of climate resolutions in record numbers, while in the US, the big banks continue to be challenged on corporate purpose, while oil companies face “greenwashing” resolutions from both sides of the political spectrum (including one that calls Exxon a “climate bedwetting, pro-CO2 tax oil giant”). 

In France, the responsible investment community is trying to change the rules so that shareholder proposals on ESG can be made more easily.

More than a decade after the 2008 crash, sustainable finance experts are also leading the debate on what a potential new batch of public bailouts should look like, with a keen focus on fair tax

RI’s readers have also been offering pioneering thought leadership on the role of investment and finance in the pandemic: Christopher Wigley, a former green bond investor for Mirova, wrote of the need for issuers to launch social bonds to channel funds to much-needed pandemic and recovery projects – just weeks before such transactions began really taking off

Rathbone’s Matt Crossman called for the post-COVID rebuild to be based on the Sustainable Development Goals in another piece; while James Hulse highlighted the links between the pandemic and the finance industry’s relationship with the natural world. 

And Fiona Reynolds, Head of the Principles for Responsible Investment, reflected hopefully on the differences between this crisis and 2008.

As lock-downs were introduced across the world, climate financial think-tank 2DII was asked by European supervisors to use its expertise developing climate stress tests to create a set of coronavirus scenarios that banks, insurers and other investors could use to assess risks to their portfolios in varying situations.  

But the EU’s regulators haven’t lost sight of their other big priority: amid the chaos of COVID, the European Commission has ploughed ahead and launched a major consultation on how it should expand its sustainable finance agenda. It recently awarded mandates for studies on sustainability in banking, ESG data and ratings, and plans for a green label for retail investment (link to come), and now it is asking the world – and more particularly the investment industry – where else it needs to intervene in order to foster more sustainable financial markets. Questions in the consultation touch on everything from pay rules through disclosure to the limitations of passive investment.

In Asia, China – the biggest carbon market in the world – looks set to roll out its Emissions Trading System this year, as planned, and momentum continues to grow for ESG funds in India, while Japan’s biggest pension fund pushes on with its sustainable finance efforts.  

And while the COP26 climate summit may have been cancelled (although the responsible investment community has big plans there, too), there is currently no sign of slowing in the ESG and sustainable finance world more broadly. 

All of these subjects and many more will be on the agenda at The Responsible Investor Digital Festival: Summer 2020.

We hope to see you there!

To keep updated on all these developments and more, sign up for a free trial to Responsible Investor here