A R1,625bn (€141bn) South African investor coalition led by the R711.15bn (€62bn) Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) – the 6th largest pension fund in the world – is giving heavyweight backing to the United Nation’s-backed Principles for Responsible Investment by funding research into regulatory barriers on their take-up by investors in the country as well as the lobbying of companies on environmental, social and corporate governance performance. The investor network said it will also campaign to raise awareness about the business case for responsible investment in a bid to persuade other South African pension funds to join in considering environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors in their investment decisions. It said part of this work would include discussing the potential for future joint corporate governance engagements. South Africa becomes the third country in the world to host such a network following the emergence of PRI networks in Brazil and South Korea. The network will also document evolving best practice on integrating ESG issues into investment in a South African context with support from the Noah Chair for Responsible Investment at theUniversity of South Africa (UNISA), the country’s biggest higher education facility. John Oliphant, head: investments and actuarial at GEPF said, “As investors we recognise that ESG issues such as transformation, human rights and climate change can have a financial impact on our investments if they are not successfully managed, and we are therefore committed to helping build South African capital markets that are sustainable over the long term.”Other signatories include 27Four Investment Managers, Advantage Asset Managers, Frater Asset Management, Futuregrowth Asset Management, Hermes Equity Ownership Services, Investec, Kagiso Asset Management, Prescient Investment Management, Prudential Portfolio Managers, RisCura and Sanlam Investment Management (SIM). Separately, the PRI has also signed a partnership with the Danish Government to promote and support applied academic research within the field of responsible investment. The partnership aims to develop the PRI Academic Network, created in September 2008, a web-based platform for exchange of knowledge between academics and investment analysts.