Monday, May 4, 2009

SRI: the best kept secret in Canada

Last Thursday, Eugene Ellmen, the Executive Director of the SIO, spoke to the Forest Hill chapter of the Rotary Club. In addition to providing some information on the newly released SRI Review (see SRI Assets Jump 21% to more than $600 Billion Thursday April 30), he provided an introduction to socially responsible investing, and some of the current issues we are working on.

He described how the events of the past eight months have shown that there is a disconnect between the way investments are managed and the concerns of ordinary citizens. What is SRI about? Measuring impacts and presenting them in a practical way to investors so they can make informed decisions as to what they want to invest in. Do Canadians really want this? Ellmen cited Globescan research that answers this question with a resounding ‘yes!’. 78% of Canadians want to know more about the ESG performance of the firms they are investing in.

Then why, Ellmen asked, is SRI ‘Canada’s best kept secret?’

Certainly, most of what he said was new to the Rotarians in attendance. The Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards and help build goodwill and peace in the world. The people involved in Rotary are committed to using their time, money and resources to build a better world. The live their ideals on a daily basis. Pretty much the profile of the SRI investor. Except for one thing. They’ve never heard of SRI.

So why haven’t we been able to reach out to these people? Ellmen feels that on the retail side, advisors are poorly informed. “The struggle of our industry is to claim some shelf space for SRI products”. Although the most recent SRI Review shows that retail assets are growing, it’s not the kind of growth demand statistics would indicate. We have a lot of work ahead of us to make that happen.

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