Australian govt backs world’s first RI academy with Aus$2.5m, floats ESG law changes

Training and academic programmes top of academy agenda.

The Australian government has given a huge boost to the development of responsible investment within the country’s pensions and finance industry by awarding a grant worth Aus$2.5 m (€1.25m) for the creation of one of the world’s first dedicated academies for training and education and research. The government has also asked the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to review its prudential guidance to Australian superannuation funds in a move that looks likely to see it recommend that funds take greater account of ESG issues in their investment decisions.
Announcing the grant, Senator Nick Sherry, Australian Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, said: “The academy’s addition to the sector will develop the critical skills and capacity of the investment industry to harness the potential of responsible investment.” He added: “In response to growing evidence of the importance of environmental, social and governance factors, global investors and asset managers are increasingly integrating a broader assessment of risk into decision making. As large investors in Australian listed companies, super funds can have significant influence over those companies’ operations and practices.This gives super funds the capacity to influence approaches to corporate social responsibility including management of non financial risk.” The grant was made to the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA), which will oversee the development of the academy. RIAA estimates that 50%-60% of all funds under management in Australia are run by signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. Yet it says there are no formal, academic-level training programmes available for investment professionals to develop skills in the area.
Louise O’Halloran, executive director at RIAA, said the academy would deliver face-to-face and on-line training courses, whilst also creating a web-based international network of responsible investment professionals. It also plans to create a range of diploma and certificate education courses on the impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues on investment practices that could be rolled out globally. RIAA is currently evaluating audit, accounting and finance firms with which it could work to create an Australian and potentially global responsible training standard.
Link to business plan for RIAA Academy