Tuesday, January 4, 2011

SIO chief calls for truce

The head of the Social Investment Organization, Canada’s umbrella group for socially responsible investing, has called for greater cooperation between the retail and institutional sides of the business. In a New Year’s editorial published on Responsible Investor, SIO executive director Eugene Ellmen noted that at times, the two sides appear to be “locked in a cold war.”

“Too often, the mainstream camp accuses fund companies and advisors of imposing simplistic ethical distinctions while the retail folks say the mainstream is watering down our basic values,” Ellmen said. “It’s time for our industry to forge a common front on issues we all agree on – a clean environment, better conditions for workers and communities, safe and useful products for consumers, and good returns for all investors.”

Peter Chapman, executive director of Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), was also asked to share his New Year’s thoughts, along with about a dozen other well-known figures from the SRI world.

Chapman says in 2011, he’d like to see “great strides” in incorporating a long-term view into how fiduciary duties are understood, building on 2010’s successful expansion of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and continued advances in integrating ESG issues into investment strategy and decision-making. “It is increasingly clear that investment success depends on a healthy society and a sustainable environment,” Chapman added. “Unless we believe capital markets can function as a perpetual Ponzi scheme, long-term vision is essential for fiduciaries. Since most asset owners still struggle with implementation, topping our 2011 to-do list is developing stronger tools to make ‘long-termism’ a reality.”

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