San Francisco pension fund set to sign up to Principles for Responsible Investment

Boost for responsible investment as funds write to Congress on Financial CHOICE Act

The San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS) looks set to decide to become a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) this week as the environment for responsible investment in the US is shifting.

SFERS is set to approve the decision at a meeting this week – at which PRI Board Member Priya Mathur of CalPERS is set to present the case for signing up.

The issue is on the agenda at the fund’s Retirement Board meeting on June 14 and Executive Director Jay Huish has said, in a memo ahead of the meeting, that the recommendation is for the board to “direct staff to complete the process of becoming a signatory” to the PRI.

Mathur will provide an “educational session” on the benefits of being a signatory, with Huish saying the PRI is an “important resource” for SFERS’ staff in terms of responsible proxy voting and active engagement.

“The Principles are consistent and complimentary to the Retirement Board’s Environmental, Social and Governance Value Statement,” he added – noting that annual signatory fees are estimated at $6,500.

The PRI has sometimes struggled to gain traction in the US, though SFERS, whose portfolio is worth $21.5bn, will join the likes of fellow Californian funds the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA), CalPERS and CalSTRS as well as other top asset owners like state funds from Maryland, New York and Connecticut.Many of these funds have just issued a joint statement to Congress on the passing of the controversial Financial CHOICE Act, stressing the need for shareholder proposals as an “essential tool to maintain corporate transparency and accountability”. It comes amid an outcry from institutional investors at the replacement for the Dodd-Frank Act last week.

“The Principles are consistent and complimentary to the board’s ESG value Statement”

Meanwhile the PRI is focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The London-based organization will develop an SDG programme that helps signatories to align their responsible investment practices with the SDGs and integrate the SDGs into its work on public policy, investment practices, engagement and the Reporting Framework.

It would also provide guidance on how to integrate the SDGs in investment strategies, policies and decisions and integrate the SDGs in active ownership. The PRI will also “promote improved disclosure on ESG issues and the SDGs by companies and other entities” and provide information on the SDGs to “create awareness and education”. In addition it would promote investor collaboration on the SDGs and “define and measure” the impact of current PRI and investor activities in support of the SDGs and communicate publicly about the ways in which the PRI’s current activities support the SDGs.