Italy’s first SRI week talks engagement and sees new RI charter signed by financial sector

Events across the country until June 6.

Italy is holding its first “SRI week”. It runs to June 6th 2012. Events will be held in Milan, Venice, Rome, Naples and Bari to promote and spread the culture of sustainable and responsible investment. It represents a significant move forward for SRI in the country, which will be compounded by the signing of the Sustainable and Responsible Investment Charter, a commitment by members of the Italian financial sector including the Italian Banking Association, the Association of Italian Insurers, the Italian Investment Management Association and their Federation (FeBAF), to stimulate the debate on social responsibility within the business community and to encourage the implementation of SRI practices. The Charter is articulated in three principles that mirror the renewed EU strategy 2011-2014 for corporate social responsibility, the first principle highlights the need to acknowledge the relevance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues within investment strategies for both moral and economic reasons. The second principle is focused on transparency, requiring a progressive increase in the quality of information provided on one hand by institutional investors and asset managers on SRI strategy/methodology and ESG criteria, and on the other hand by companies on their
sustainability policies, objectives, practices and results. The third principle focuses on the long-term dimension of investment strategies, encouraging institutional investors to manage their assets coherently with fiduciary duties, companies to implement top managers’ incentive systems in the interest of company’s stakeholders, and financial institutions to offer long-term orientated products.Investor-corporate engagement still represents one of the major SRI challenges in Italy. It’s no accident that this is one of the major themes of Italy’s SRI week. On the investor side, the first forays in active ownership date back to 2005 with the initiative of Etica SGR. Since 2005, three other organizations have stepped up their activities: two Italian pension funds and Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica, part of the Banca Etica Group. Each has different corporate governance missions and are at different stages of implementation. Pension funds, for example, are still mostly focused on internal discussions about the rationale for stewardship rather than on concrete actions. Within companies, the 2012 AGM season saw two giants of the Italian energy sector, Eni and Enel, come under pressure on resolutions raised by Fondazione Culturale Responsabilità Etica on corporate governance queries, environmental issues such as gas flaring in Nigeria and the construction of hydroelectric power stations in Columbia and Guatemala, and the transparency of the remuneration of their top management. Other ESG issues were raised by Etica SGR at the AGMs of Piaggio, Prysmiam, Yoox and Indesit. Italy’s SRI is coordinated by the Italian Sustainable Investment Forum with the collaboration of many organizations operating in the financial sector. It represents a unique opportunity to systematize and disseminate the various activities happening around SRI in Italy both in the institutional and retail investment areas.
To read the full program of the SRI week click on Link
Francesca Ussani is Communication Officer at Forum per la Finanza Sostenibile