Newton’s Carlisle recognises positive changes in PRI governance

New board member had criticised initiative for “losing its way”

Sandra Carlisle, the Head of RI at Newton Investment Management who was appointed to the board of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) last year after accusing it of “losing its way”, has acknowledged the positive changes in governance at the body.

Carlisle, the board candidate proposed by a group of asset managers critical of the PRI, was voted onto the organisation’s board last November with 51.2% of the votes cast, beating Masuru Arai, the former Daiwa CIO (48.8%) to the single open asset manager slot.

Carlisle spoke to Responsible Investor at the launch of climate change/gender equality push initiative Two Degrees of Change spearheaded by Newton IM CEO Helena Morrissey and outgoing UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.

She said that her first board meeting at the PRI was under her belt and that her three-year tenure would be a good chunk of time. “It’s an exciting time for the PRI, which is reaching ten years, in its ability to drive the responsible investment agenda and drive change.

“That will be very exciting.”

She described the governance changes at the PRI as extremely positive and said there was a high level of commitment from the board to make sure that the PRI succeeded in its objectives with the leadership team.

Carlisle also described her PRI board seat as a learning opportunity as she had never had the challenge of a board before.

On her first impressions, Carlisle said: “It’s been around ten years and it has achieved huge momentum.”

Carlisle joined the PRI’s board under a cloud of controversy last year after a group of some of theworld’s most powerful asset managers, including Newton, wrote a joint letter to Martin Skancke, chairman of the PRI, criticizing aspects of the PRI’s strategy and saying they wanted far more involvement in its direction.

Commenting on these concerns that PRI membership was a tick box approach, she said: “One just can’t be adding signatories. It’s form over substance if anyone can sign up and get a badge. The PRI is the only organisation of its kind. It’s a legitimate and big voice and a big tent.

She continued: “If everyone is welcome it’s a challenge to balance out different interests. It’s a big family and family members don’t always agree. Changes can and should be made. There is a commitment to making the PRI more effectives. If it is not effective it won’t achieve its aim and failure is not an option.”

She added that the PRI did not represent the interests of a single group but a diverse range of organisations.

Last December, the PRI announced an ambitious plan to improve accountability among signatories, including establishing “gold, silver and bronze” rankings, delisting wayward members and giving newer ones more time to understand and implement the principles.

Commenting on the PRI’s consultation, she said it was looking at what the organisation needed to look like in the future and what it meant to be a signatory. “It’s issues such as can you pay to play? What do members think it means? Views of all members are being discussed.”

The PRI will make specific recommendations for the next signatory meeting in Singapore in September 2016.