GLOBAL - Support for the Natural Capital Declaration (NCD) - a statement by the financial sector demonstrating its commitment to work towards integrating natural capital criteria into financial products and services, to be launched at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June - is growing.

The chief executives of Standard Chartered in the UK, Nedbank in South Africa and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, were the latest financial institutions to back the campaign, bringing the number of supporters to 20.

The new endorsers join the chief executives of financial institutions from Australia, Ecuador, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Paraguay, the British Isles and the US.

Andrew Mitchell, founder and executive director of the Global Canopy Programme (GCP), one of the convenors of the NCD, said: "By endorsing the Natural Capital Declaration, CEOs are demonstrating their leadership and commitment to start understanding the value of natural assets and the services they provide.

"This is part of a wider trend among governments, businesses and now the finance sector to increasingly take account of risks and opportunities related to the world's rapidly disappearing natural capital."

The declaration also calls on national governments to develop the enabling policy framework to support and incentivise organisations - including financial institutions - to value and report on their use of natural capital, and thereby work towards internalising environmental costs.

The UN's Environment Programme Finance Initiative's (UNEP FI) interim head Yuki Yasui said: "By launching the Natural Capital Declaration at Rio+20, our message to the summit's negotiators and government delegations is that the financial sector is ready to take the next step on the path of smart and sustainable finance, and that it calls for policymakers to put in place enabling conditions to facilitate this."

The announcement on the latest signatories comes today as Bas Rüter, director of sustainability of NCD signatory Rabobank, speaks about the declaration at an event on natural wealth accounting in New York, co-sponsored by Botswana, France, the World Bank and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The event is part of a fortnight of negotiations taking place this week to inform the Rio+20 Conference.

The declaration is being convened by UNEP FI, GCP and Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV).

The declaration and a full list of signatories can be found here.

In the US, global membership organisation WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) has launched the WCD Global Nominating Commission.

The commission is a high-level task force of select corporate board nominating committee chairs and members from around the world, as well as chief executives, focused on proactively building diverse boards and candidate slates.

The commission will consolidate data on director candidates and report effective resources and approaches for building diverse boards and candidate slates.

Initially, it will:
•    Collect and report business cases of effective approaches to building global, diverse boards
•    Develop matrices of skill sets needed for boards in 2012 and beyond, to be shared with corporate nominating and governance committees worldwide
•    Encourage search firms to assure every director slate includes women and other diverse candidates from around the world
•    Call for nominating committees to develop and release their boards' approach to diversity in the candidate selection process
•    Provide insight on how nominating committees can make best use of annual board evaluations
•    Aggregate and release specific methods for nominating committees to access world-class diverse talent by listing participating search firms and how best to work with them.
•    Share information on board training programmes and effective 'onboarding' resources, where users can rate, review and comment on the resources, and how best to use them
•    Continue to develop new methods for advocating and encouraging global board diversity to "make a difference around the board table, in the world and for the world".
In Germany, support for sustainable investments has faded, according to a new study.

On a scale of -100 to +100, the sentiment index for sustainable investment compiled by Union Investment in cooperation with professor Henry Schäfer of Stuttgart University was down from plus 22 in 2011 to plus 4 in 2012.

Three main factors contributed to the fall in the index.

Fewer than half of investors said they took account of sustainability criteria when making investment decisions, compared with 64% last year, while the priority weighting given to sustainable strategies within the overall investment policy also fell from 59% last year to 42% this year.

A lack of information was the third factor, with only 40% of respondents stating that they felt well informed, or very well informed, about the issue of sustainability, down from 57% last year.

Alexander Schindler, a member of Union Investment's board of managing directors responsible for business with institutional clients, said: "The latest findings lead us to believe that a degree of uncertainty has crept into the evaluation of sustainable investment strategies.

"Added to which, many investors have apparently shifted their priorities in the wake of the European sovereign debt crisis because securing the minimum return they require probably takes precedence over everything else, given the tough market environment.

"Sustainable investments are not a fair-weather strategy, though. We must continue working on communicating the economic benefit of these approaches - particularly with regard to risk management."

Despite having fallen, the index indicates that the overall, underlying sentiment among investors is stable and positive.

Schäfer said: "Institutional investors who have been investing sustainably for some time are continuing to do so, but the market is slowing down.

"However, investors who have been reticent until now, such as company pension schemes, could become strong growth drivers and so provide an additional boost for sustainable investments."

In light of the current level of sentiment, Schäfer believes there is a particular need for solutions tailored to customer requirements.

"Sustainable investment strategies are very well established among German investors, but many institutional investors still seem unclear about which suit their individual needs and whether they can be implemented in their own investment process," he said.

This year, more than 200 institutional investors - such as insurance companies, pension funds, banks, corporations and foundations, with total assets under management of more than €2.4trn - took part in the study.