Philippe Zaouati, Chief Executive Officer, Mirova
Philippe is one of four candidates standing for the non-asset owner position on the PRI Advisory Council
RI suggested some prompt questions for the candidates:
1. Where (with examples) do you think your experience fits, and might enhance, the remit of the PRI Advisory Council?
2. What are the issues you will be campaigning on/pushing as an Advisory Council member, why, and how?
3. What is your vision of the future direction of the PRI and how can you contribute to its realization?
I have elected to submit my candidature for the PRI Advisory Council because I believe the experience I have amassed over the more than ten years I have spent developing responsible investment lends me a valuable perspective on the topic. After the financial crisis in 2007-2008, I realised how essential it is that we resituate the public interest at the centre of our economies’ investment activities. In view of this aim, I have contributed to the development of responsible investing, notably in France and Europe, through my work with industry associations like AFG, the French asset management association, and EFAMA, its European equivalent, where I have chaired the SRI committees, and through my contributions as a board member of organisations such as the ICGN, the IIRC and the European rating agency Vigeo. I also forged a pluri-annual research programme in partnership with the University of Cambridge, the Investment Leaders Group (ILG), which brings together a dozen leading investors and international asset owners. The ILG has published several white papers, notably: ‘The Value of Responsible Investing,’ a work describing the ethical, economic and financial motivations for responsible investing. Lastly, I was responsible for the inception of Mirova, the responsible investment division of Natixis. This asset management structure, now a fully-fledged subsidiary of Natixis Asset Management, brings together 50 professionals and manages over 4 billion euros across all asset classes, ranging from equities and bonds to impact investing and infrastructure funds. I believe I can be a strong voice for management companies within the Advisory Council. While asset owners were the founders of the PRI, and must remain its guiding force, asset managers represent a large group of signatories and play a key role in disseminating the philosophy and practices of responsible investing. The PRI offer a unique forum that brings together the many players involved inresponsible investment, from asset owners and asset managers to advisory firms and rating agencies. Shifts in the PRI’s governance practices and the streamlining of management structures have both contributed to fostering greater dialogue and involvement on the part of all signatories. Although there is always room for improvement, I, for my part, appreciated the way the listening process was conducted and led to the proposals for change presented in Montreal. The voice of asset managers must take into account their considerable diversity as well as the major trends shaping the asset management industry.
Responsible investment players are very heterogeneous and represent a variety of approaches. This can be seen by some as a challenge, but is actually a great asset. As the CEO of Mirova, I run a boutique firm that develops a conviction-driven SRI that assumes full responsibility for its strong choices, sector biases and clear stances, but I am also responsible for providing the research expertise necessary to integrate ESG criteria throughout Natixis Asset Management. Responsible investment, which initially developed within the confines of equity portfolio management, has become greatly diversified; witness the sharp increase in the number of signatories that are managers of private equity or infrastructure funds. This is a crucial development. Managing assets responsibly means, first and foremost, reconciling the asset selection process with a long-term perspective. In this sense, real assets are one of the key development areas for responsible investing. At Mirova, we are fortunate in possessing investment expertise in all asset classes, and we have been able to take advantage of synergies among their differing approaches. Our ESG research team applies the same philosophy to analysing corporate behaviour, infrastructure projects, or the projects underlying a green bond.
Lastly, the PRI are the ideal place to take action. Having participated, for a number of years, in group engagement initiatives, we have had considerable opportunity to gauge the usefulness and strength of the PRI as an organisation. For instance, the launch of the Montreal Carbon Pledge last month is yet another example of the leadership role that the PRI must continue to play and extend. As CEO of Mirova, I chose to endorse this pledge. By the end of 2015, we will calculate and publish the carbon footprint of all our portfolios invested in equities.
By striving to promote greater and more constructive dialogue between the various categories of signatories, by speaking clearly on behalf of a strong and diverse asset management industry, by promoting the extension of responsible investment to all asset classes, by encouraging the PRI to persist in their role of guidance and leadership, I hope to be able to contribute efficiently to the organisation’s prestige and to a financial industry that is increasingly compatible with a sustainable world.