PRI to absorb Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA)

Hong Kong-based ASrIA to be the PRI’s presence in Asia

The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is to absorb the Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA), the leading association in the region dedicated to promoting sustainable finance and investment.

Under the agreement, Hong-Kong-based ASrIA will integrate its organisation and team into the PRI and will operate as the PRI’s presence in Asia.

ASrIA, which is headed by CEO Jessica Robinson, a former environmental consultant, was founded in 2001 by Tessa Tennant and David St Maur Sheil. It is currently chaired by Assaad Razzouk, co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based clean energy firm Sindicatum Sustainable Resources. All told, there are 30 people associated with ASrIA, including staff members, research fellows and advisory board members.

In 2011 ASrIA set up the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) and through that is a founding member of the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change.

ASrIA is one of the regional social investment forums (SIFs) that in 2013 banded together to form the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA) with a secretariat hosted by the US SIF, the Washington-based Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

The PRI has confirmed to Responsible Investor that ASrIA won’t now be a formal part of the GSIA. “We will however continue to work closely with them,” a spokesperson said. “ASrIA staff will become part of the PRI.”

As to further tie-ups with other regional SIFs, the PRI said it works with all of them and will continue to do so, adding: “ASrIA was a special case and it’s not something we are looking to expand on.”It’s intended that the link with the PRI will ensure that ASrIA’s ”legacy, networks and relationships” are maintained. It’s hoped it will “allow for much greater impact and progress on responsible investment in the region”. There are nine PRI signatories in Hong Kong, none of them asset owners. China has just four.

“ASrIA has been a champion and advocate for responsible investment across Asia for more than a decade,” said PRI Managing Director Fiona Reynolds in a statement. “The strong contacts that ASrlA has developed and their understanding of the nuances of local markets will help us to further develop and address investor demands as PRI looks to expand its footprint across the region.”

A large number of ASrIA’s c.35 members were already PRI signatories and those that aren’t are being encouraged to sign up. The two bodies have worked together before on events, publications and policy responses. ASrIA is also a partner with the PRI Academy training and education initiative.

“Being part of an international and well-established platform will allow for much more to be achieved and in a shorter space of time, as we respond to the dynamics and challenges of the region, ” explained Robinson. While small in relative terms, the Asian SRI market saw a year-on-year increase of 22% in assets under management since 2011, ASrIA said in its 2014 market review.

Increasing its presence in Asia is part of the PRI’s 2015-18 strategy, as pointed out by board member Masaru Arai, the former CIO of Daiwa Asset Management in Japan and current chair of the Japan Sustainable Investment Forum (JSIF). “I firmly believe that 2015 will be recorded as the Year of Change for Responsible Investment in Asia,” he said in a blog on ASrIA’s website earlier this year.