Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sustainable investing in unprecedented times: a conference preview

Since the credit crunch took hold in 2007, it’s been a challenging time for investors of all stripes. The 2009 Canadian Responsible Investment Conference will explore the SRI community’s response to market volatility.

From climate change to community investment, this year’s conference, held in Winnipeg from June 7-9, “Sustainable Investing in Unprecedented Times,” features a number of high-profile keynote speakers and an array of workshops.

Mark Jaccard, a professor at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University will tackle climate change. The trend towards compulsory policy changes, such as carbon taxes, emission caps and fuel regulations is inevitable, he argues. “The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we replace emissions reduction talk with emissions reduction action.”

Former OSC chair Ed Waitzer will discuss financial re-regulation in Canada and around the world, focussing on what went wrong and whether the current crisis will lead to a ”teachable” moment. If so, Waitzer says, financial leaders will need to extend their horizons “beyond regulation, into other international processes regulation and widen the circle.”

Other highlights include the results of a survey of Canadians’ attitudes on sustainability, presented by Nancy McHarg of the Strategic Counsel. Lloyd Axworthy, a former foreign affairs minister and now president of the University of Winnipeg will speak on community investment and revitalization. David Martin, the president of Bromart Holdings which owns and controls the CSL Group and Horizon Capital Holdings will focus his speech on aboriginal development and the role of the investment community.

The conference also includes workshops on green real estate, clean technology, renewable energy, shareholder advocacy, academic research on SRI in Canada and microfinance.

A special advisor-only workshop, moderated by Toronto-based SRI specialist Sucheta Rajagopal, will tackle the difficult question: Is the market downturn shaking investor commitment to SRI?

A two-day course on the Global Reporting Initiative, touted as the most widely-used framework for sustainability reporting, will be available following the conference. Deloitte, which will be hosting the course, will also present a module on assurance related to sustainability reporting.

The conference agenda is available here.

SRI Monitor will be providing extensive coverage of the conference, starting next week.

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