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French SRI body adds weight to European push

EUROPE - The European socially responsible investment community has taken another step towards the formation of a pan-European forum with the launch of the French Social Investment Forum (FIR) on January 26.

“ The French forum has been set up today, it’s fresh out of the oven,” says Robin Edme, one of the organisers of the forum.

The UK’s Social Investment Forum (UKSIF) and the Dutch Association of Investment in Sustainable Development (VBDO) have already been working together with other European research providers and asset managers to form a continental network for co-operation, which FIR will join.
The next meeting of the group, which has the working name Eurosif, will be held in March.

“ The situation at the moment is that a group of organisations are developing plans for a pan-European forum on socially responsible investment (SRI), which will act as a single source of information on what’s going on in SRI across Europe and provide the ability for people across Europe to network,” says Penny Shepherd, executive director of UKSIF.

Sheperd explains what the forum is seeking to achieve:“ There is a diversity of forms of investment. Most people think about SRI as being about portfolio management, and investing primarily on stock market quoted companies.
“ But, there are an increasing range of funds that are investing in, say, energy efficiency projects, which have both a financial justification and are changing environmental pressures.”
“I think we will continue to see that diversity of approaches, and we’re trying to create a space where people can talk to one another and learn from each other.”

The project is receiving support from Swedish asset manager KPA and UK investment managers Friends Ivory & Sime and Jupiter, who are “very enthusiastic” about the idea, according to Shepherd.

Apart from the British, Dutch and French organisations, the German-speaking forum is about to start operations with the environmental research group Ecologic as its flagship organisation.
In Italy, research provider, Avanzi, is taking the lead in forming the Italian forum of sustainable finance to be launched shortly.

On the future of the pan-European forum, Piet Sprengers, director of the Dutch VBDO, comments: “ I haven’t got a concrete idea, but it is an issue of transparency. I would like to see other pension funds in Europe have the same kind of transparency as UK funds have at the moment; their actions and reactions to SRI issues should be made public.”

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