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PRI Advisory Council candidate profile: Priya Mathur, CalPERS

RI profiles of the six candidates for the open PRI Advisory Council seats.

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Priya Mathur, Board Member, CalPERS
Priya is one of two candidates standing for the two asset owner positions 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?

Priya Mathur
As a member of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Advisory Council (the Council) for the past three years, I have worked hard to strengthen the organization and to advance the principles on which it was founded. One of my first objectives when I joined the Council was to address the governance concerns that were beginning to swirl at the time. As a board member at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), I have championed efforts to fully integrate responsible investment into our own Investment Beliefs and investment decision-making processes. Looking ahead, the proposed governance structure provides a strong foundation on which to build. I am excited to turn my focus to PRI’s US strategy – both to expand our US signatory base and to mainstream responsible investment in the US. PRI governance has been my key focus over my tenure on the Council. At my urging, the Council created a Governance Committee, which was tasked with reviewing best practice board governance trends, reviewing and updating PRI’s own governance principles, policies and practices and facilitating transparency to the PRI’s signatories regarding PRI governance. I was asked by the Council to chair the Governance Committee, which ultimately initiated a comprehensive review of PRI’s governance structure. This review involved extensive signatory consultation and resulted in a proposal that has received broad support from signatories. While this important governance work has been ongoing, it has also been crucial that PRI continue to focus on its core mission – promulgating responsible investment. I have actively engaged in the development of PRI’s new strategy and have worked to advance responsible investment at CalPERS and beyond.At CalPERS, I have been an advocate for responsible investment practices. To achieve a stable portfolio and funding status, we cannot afford to ignore important risks facing our portfolio over the long term. This is why I have been so vocal about integrating a robust assessment of climate change, labor rights and other ESG factors into our investment decision-making. In fact, CalPERS was one of the first asset owners to sign on to the Montreal Pledge, committing to carbon footprinting not only of our public assets, but our private assets too. CalPERS has also been engaged in policy advocacy for sustainable markets, including PRI’s work on strategic barriers to a sustainable financial system and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.
I also helped lead the CalPERS Board process to adopt a set of ten Investment Beliefs that deepen CalPERS efforts to incorporate the importance of workers, the environment and accountability on corporate boards as key pieces of our investment strategies. As a fiduciary at CalPERS, I have been advocating, for example, to have us consider the impact of the growing wealth inequality in the United States as a key risk to the future returns of the fund. The US economy is driven by consumption. If workers in the US are not making a decent wage, how are the companies in our portfolio going to be successful in selling them products? For CalPERS to succeed, the 99% need to succeed, not just the 1%.
I have also demonstrated leadership around diversity. In the US, CalPERS helped launch the Diverse Director DataSource, a resource for qualified and diverse board candidates. I have personally served for many years on the Champion Circle for Astia, a global organization “committed to propelling women’s full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high growth businesses….” I bring this commitment to diversity to the Council.
An important part of PRI’s new three-year strategy involves efforts to gain greater penetration in the United States – both from a signatory standpoint and for responsible investment more broadly. PRI has already seen an uptick in US signatory growth over the past year and has developed a plan to cultivate a climate of responsible investment, as well as to expand our US signatory base, especially among US asset owners. I see a key aspect of my role on the Advisory Council as being an on-the-ground champion for this important US effort.
PRI has pivotal role convening thought leaders, facilitating collaborations around the world and augmenting the body of knowledge supporting responsible investment. I am excited to be a contributor to this important effort, both in the US and globally, and I ask for your vote to reelect me to the PRI Advisory Council.