SCANDINAVIA - Norway and Sweden are leading countries in the implementation of socially responsible investment (SRI), however Finland, Denmark and particularly Iceland are all "lagging behind", experts have claimed.

Jeanett Bergan, adviser for responsible investment at KLP Kapitalforvaltning - which manages pension funds for local municipalities in Norway - told delegates at the IMN Scandinavian Institutional Investors Summit some aspects of SRI policy were "unique" to the Nordic region.

She noted her own firm, KLP, is "mostly recognised for excluding companies" from their investment portfolio, but added the key question investors should ask is whether to "stay as an owner to influence the company, or to disinvest".

That said, Bergan asked, "who decided that you can't engage with a company you've excluded? I think it is wrong as you can engage and sometimes you are successful, and sometimes you are not".

For example, Bergan revealed exclusion can still have an engaging impact as a company which had been excluded by KLP contacted the firm to ask what they could actively do to improve the situation and possibly reverse the exclusion.

"Exclusion should always be the last resort, but it is important to have that option," added Bergan, although she pointed out t "for the Nordic region the issue of excluding companies is unique compared with abroad".

She added: "It will be very interesting to see the developments in this area as there is now a strong drive not to exclude companies and to be an active owner."

Bergan recognised the concept of SRI is "constantly moving and including new issues", which places an "endless list of dilemmas" on investors regarding the issues they should have opinions on. 

She also claimed while Norway and Sweden were leading countries in the issue of SRI, with Finland and Denmark "coming along but lagging a bit behind", it is unclear whether Iceland is also looking into this issue, as she had "not heard much about it".

In response, Stefan Halldorsson, managing director of the Lifeyrissjodur Verkfraedinga, the Engineers Pension Fund, in Iceland, admitted the country is "somewhat behind in this" but suggested it "should come to Iceland as well".

However, he pointed out the delay could be partly attributed to the fact the unions had not "put this on the agenda, unlike in other Scandinavian countries", although Halldorsson added Iceland is "very well-positioned in environmental issues", as projects such as clean energy are "very important".

He added: "We are more focused on these issues domestically, but not as a specific programme", as he claimed the forum for these issues within Iceland has "not really become active yet".

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