EUROPE - The European Centre for Corporate Engagement for information on corporate social responsibility and sustainable investment has started work.

The new organisation, ECCE, aims to become the international source of innovative and practical information for both academics and practitioners, it said in a statement.

"ECCE intends to help (institutional) investors to remove barriers to implementation of sustainable investment strategies, and explicitly aims at developing new instruments."

According to ECCE, it has a broad and expanding international network, which covers leading academic institutions, financial markets and the business community.

"For example, partner ABP Investments expects to benefit from new insights on sustainable investment offered by ECCE's research. ABP provides input for research projects, and is involved in translating results into concrete policies," ECCE stated.

"The research of ECCE helps us to include sustainability issues in our regular investment policy It is extremely important to us that we have direct access to knowledge and instruments which shed new light on the relationship between sustainability and investment risks and returns," Roderick Munsters, CEO of ABP Investments commented.

In addition to ABP, insurer Fortis supports the ECCE initiative with a Sustainable Finance chair at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

International ties have been established with Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, Governance Metric International (GMI), International Shareholder Services (ISS) and the Swedish partners Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) and Umea School of Business, ECCE said.

ECCE's research is innovative, because its focuses on analysing companies' extra-financial data, information, which has - directly or indirectly - financial consequences for investors. The goal is to show in detail whether there is a relationship between sustainability factors and corporate financial performance, ECCE indicated.

ECCE is a joint initiative of the professors Kees Koedijk of Erasmus University/Rotterdam School of Management, Rob Bauer of Maastricht University and assistant professor Jeroen Derwall.

Their team has twice received the US Social Investment Forum's Moskowitz Prize. In 2005 they obtained a large grant from MISTRA for a study into the role of financial markets in promoting sustainable development.