GLOBAL - Socially responsible investment (SRI) in France has grown by 69% between 2010 and 2011 to €115bn in assets under management, according to Novethic's annual study of the French SRI market.

SRI assets held by institutional investors grew by 70% in 2011, compared with 56% in the previous year.

This new drive was essentially due to policies enforced by insurance companies, which represented 40% of socially responsible institutional investments.

They surpassed the traditional SRI leaders, pension funds (20%) and public institutions (18%).

Individual investors account for one-third of the French SRI market, following on from the past two years.

The main source of inflows in this segment remains by far employee savings, which rose by 38% in 2011.

Today, one euro out of four in employee savings comes under SRI.

Novethic also studied nearly 200 European green funds from 18 countries to assess whether markets could fuel green growth.

With inflows of less than €2bn in three years and €13.3bn in assets under management, these environmental funds seem to be struggling to drive any green momentum on equity markets, it said.

It also lamented that the environmentally focused marketing of these funds was often way off the mark from their actual composition, as the funds sometimes include companies that are hardly green at all.

Green funds generate little interest among SRI investors in France, which invested a mere €865m.

Also in France, the board of directors of the French civil servants' pension fund ERAFP has unanimously decided to adopt a set of rules to govern its shareholder engagement policy.

In accordance with the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), of which it is a signatory, ERAFP has established a number of provisional guiding principles, which the scheme's management will ensure are duly applied from the actual round of general meetings. 
Meanwhile, London-based responsible activist investor Governance for Owners (GO) said it is pleased with the changes made by Spanish food casings manufacturer company Viscofan to improve its corporate governance.

These were made following earlier recommendations by GO to Viscofan and its receipt of the shareholder resolutions GO put forward on 4 April for Viscofan's 2012 AGM on 23 May.

Given the recently announced improvements in corporate governance, GO will abstain on its tenure and remuneration resolutions, as well as on the company's corresponding counter-proposal.

Lastly, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition (CSRC), led by Aviva Investors and representing $2trn (€1.6trn) of investor assets, has called on government representatives at the Rio+20 Earth Summit to mandate corporate sustainability reporting.

In an open letter to ministers, Paul Abberley, interim chief executive at Aviva Investors and representative for the CSRC, said: "A commitment from UN member states to work on an international agreement requiring companies to integrate sustainability issues in their annual report and accounts on a 'report or explain' basis would be a realistic, tangible and meaningful success from the Rio+20.

"Sustainability reporting is also a vital component in creating a responsible approach to capitalism. If investors continue to receive information that is short term and thin, then these same characteristics will continue to define our markets.

"At present, 75% of companies do not report on sustainability issues at all. While this trend is improving, at the current trajectory, it will be decades before sustainability reporting is common practice across global markets."

Wolfgang Engshuber, chair of the advisory council of the UN PRI, added: "Responsible long-term investors cannot make prudent investment decisions unless they have high-quality information on companies' exposure to long-term drivers of financial risk and return such as climate change, resource scarcity and global demographic and social changes, and the quality of their responses to them.

"To enable investors to do this, the PRI Initiative believes that governments should take steps to require companies to report publicly on how they have taken account of material sustainability factors or explain why they do not."