PRI unveils major five-year programme to 2013 including public policy plans

RI asset class research to broaden to hedge funds, infrastructure and commodities.

The United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment has laid out an ambitious five-year expansion programme, which aims to lead the mainstreaming of responsible investment globally. The initiative was unveiled to PRI signatories at its AGM in Sydney today. The $18 trillion investor movement said that among its major orientations to 2013 would be the creation of a public policy network to bring together national and international policy makers with responsible investors to work on areas of common interest, reduce barriers to responsible investment and jointly encourage better corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. This would be the first time the PRI as a collective entity has officially sought to work with regulators and governments on investor sustainability issues. The PRI said it also planned to launch new work streams on alternative assets including hedge funds, infrastructure and commodities as part of a major broadening across asset classes, which started earlier this years with the creation of best practice ESG guidance for investors in private equity.
Further research work streams will be added on themed ESG-focused investments in areas such as climate bonds, forest bonds, clean tech, microfinance, and sustainable venture capital. The PRI said this reflected increasing numbers of these types of asset classes appearing within its 
signatory base. Another key area for expansion, the PRI said, would be the PRI Clearinghouse, a private intranet website which allows investors to collaborate on engaging with companies and lobbying regulators and governments. It said the Clearinghouse would notably widen its focus to address what it called “higher-level, systemic issues”, which it said included economy-wide risks such as climate change. By 2013, the Clearinghouse plans to have specialist coordinators across each of the E, S and G issues with administrative and local language support to enable international investor collaboration.
To aid this, the PRI said it would create local networks in different countries for on-the-ground support. 

A mini PRI ‘Think Tank’, with specialists in each of the three ESG areas will also be created, supported by a dedicated economic/financial specialist, in order to back corporate lobbying engagements. The PRI also underlined its continued strong partnership with UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact.
James Gifford, executive director of the PRI: “The growth of the PRI initiative in the last three years has exceeded all expectations, growing from 50 to 550 signatories who manage around US$18 trillion of assets. It hosts a vibrant community of investors increasingly willing to collaborate and share best practice around implementation of the six

principles. However, despite this growth, the initiative itself is still only scratching the surface when it comes to reaching out to investors globally and providing support for signatories across many different areas of implementation. There are still many countries, sectors and asset classes where responsible investment remains limited or largely absent. There are many potential partners in governments, academia and civil society that can be better engaged in promoting long-term approaches to investment. And there are manychallenges around developing and spreading best practices, understanding the full risks and opportunities around ESG issues and improving the ESG information available to investors. If these challenges are not addressed on a global basis then responsible investment will remain in the usual markets and limited to the usual asset classes and approaches. Ultimately we want ‘responsible investment’ to become simply the way things are done.”