What the tectonic shift in ESG interest means for Responsible Investor?

We are undergoing a re-alignment in global policy, regulation and consumer attention based on huge meta-drivers; so what does it all mean for investors?

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I’ve worked through a few tectonic market shifts in my career, but I’ve never worked through one as big and rapid as the one we are witnessing in ESG right now.

We are, I believe, undergoing a re-alignment in global policy, regulation and consumer interest based on huge meta-drivers – the climate/energy transition, pollution, biodiversity, and rights challenges (human, social, labour, technological) and renewed focus on better governance of our institutions – within the context of instant information (risk and benefit) transmission.

This is powering a rapid push on responsible/sustainable business and investment. 

These shifts happen rarely, but when they do, carry broad and deep implications; familiar, technical examples include the introduction of global accounting standards for companies or Global Investment Performance Standards for investment managers. Other broader societal schisms include internet adoption or the Global Financial Crisis.

The tipping point has been the regulatory drivers behind the ‘responsibility’ shift, which are now potent and rolling. The EU Green Deal and Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth are two clear regional examples that will have global ‘translation effects’ for all companies and investors; public or private. This will be amplified rapidly under a new US administration that shares many of the same aims, and fed by a Chinese administration that is hugely implicated in the competitive race for a green global energy transition.

Of course I would say the above because – as you probably know – I co-founded a media and events company called Response Global Media, publisher of Responsible Investor and Responsible Company.

However, in my darker moments I review all the talk on ESG and responsible investment,  re-examine the actual output and results, and re-focus on the chasm between the two.

I remain optimistic, but realistic; after all we seem to have gone from investment backwater to 'bubble' in the blink of an eye.

I talked recently with a mainstream credit portfolio manager at a large asset management house, who told me that the C-suite at the house was 'obsessed' with ESG. It chimes with what I am hearing from compliance, policy and change management professionals: 'permission' has been given from the top to reshape these organisations for a different future. What that future will be is now the issue. This is not the same sense I had 13-14 years ago when individuals were peeling off from banks and asset managers to start climate investing outfits.

Why all the above pontification? Well, it poses big questions that we ourselves have to deal with through our journalism, and particularly our events. 

And it’s the latter that I’d like to focus on here: how do we build on our existing, highly-respected, global/local events and keep them relevant, fresh and challenging. After all, our mission at Responsible Investor is sustainable change through financial markets, not sustainable intention; good as it is to ‘hear’ that now.

The RI Europe 2021 conference

With the above in mind, we recently finalised our programme for the RI Europe 2021 Conference: The EU Green Deal and Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth: the implications for investors, which will take place during the week of June 14-18.

The digital conference will comprise a series of plenaries and deep dives across 1 week: 5 x plenaries, 5 x deep dives, plus keynotes/case studies. Importantly, we’re also going to be compiling an EU Action Plan ‘How To’ guide for investors and companies, because we feel there is a real need for clear information on the scale of the changes here.

The implications of the EU regulations cut across all asset classes and at pretty much all levels of the way most financial services providers operate: research, investment, compliance, product, marketing, reporting, etc.

You can sign up for event info and see the draft programme here.

The ‘How To’ Guide will be published in October 2021 in anticipation of the publication of the EU’s Renewed Strategy for the Action Plan on Sustainable Finance. It will be a combination of RI in-house editorial and third-party content produced in liaison with RI.

The RI Country Spotlight conferences

As EU regulation rolls out potently across the E, S and G areas, translation and implementation at the country level becomes paramount. Governments are evolving their domestic responses to ESG, notably on climate change based on their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement. In the biggest European institutional markets this is rapidly translating into pension fund attention on ESG reporting, strategy and related asset decisions.

To that end, in April and May, RI is organising a series of Country Spotlight events to bring together the relevant domestic policy makers, regulators, investors, asset managers and service providers.

We start our series with the three European heavyweight markets in terms of institutional investment:

The Netherlands: April 12-16: (pension funds running assets of €1.4 trillion) 

Switzerland: April 26-30 (2000 pension funds (AUM €750bn+)

The UK: May 10-14 (1300+ pension funds running assets of circa £1 trillion)

In the week before each Country Spotlight event we’ll be running a series of Country Spotlight Articles, comprising pieces on the specific market’s policy and regulation drivers and investor and company responses.

RI Japan 2021

Our other flagship event in H1 this year is RI Japan, our established and highly regarded event, this year in partnership with JPX, the Japan Exchange Group, and Keidanren, the powerful Japanese business association.

The great agenda and sign-up info can be accessed here.

In H2 2021, we’ll be back with major RI conferences in Canada and the US, and a series of thematic and operational workshops.

I’ll leave you with a little plug as to:

What makes RI Events different and better than the rest?

  • Our journalistically-focused events team puts together professional, and specialist, curated panels and panellists on ESG drivers, policy, regulation, commercial and financial realities and sustainability outcomes.
  • The relevant business and finance questions are elaborated…and answered!
  • No time waste: we get to the point on what it means for business and investment reality.
  • As a result, we get high quality corporate and institutional investor audiences.

We hope to see you at an RI Event soon!