ITALY – The launch of an Italian social investment forum could only be a few weeks away, according to Milan based environmental and social research consultancy firm Avanzi, which is spearheading the initiative.

Davide Dal Maso, a partner at Avanzi, says the creation of a European forum, called for by the European Commission, is spurring the establishment of the Italian group.
“I think it will happen very soon, we’ve planned to hold another meeting for the Italian organisations in Milan next week. We have to speed up the process very rapidly, also because of the EC bid, so I think it is a matter of weeks and not months.”

He adds that the domestic market lacks such an organisation:
“My personal opinion is that there is plenty of room in Italy to decide how to organise the forum. In other countries, such as Germany for example, there isn’t room for an overall green finance forum, because there already are associations that cover a number of items, such as green purchasing, green house keeping and green reporting in the financial sector,” says Dal Maso.

“What we are doing is organising a group that covers a broader scope than the UKSIF, for example. We don’t want to consign ourselves to solely SRI, there are other topics, namely the management of environmental risks in loans, access to green financial products for private and corporate customers and the way financial institutions directly affect the environment,” he comments.

The names of the other organisations involved in the process are not public yet, but they all have similar aims, reveals Dal Maso: “We will manage this forum in co-operation with other Italian organisations, we’ll specialise in some of these issues, SRI and environmentally related risks, but not all of them, so each organisation will cover a certain area.”

Although the Italian pension fund market is just picking up pace, there is already an interest in ethical funds, according to Dal Maso.
He points out that the first ethical open pension fund was launched last month:
“The fund is provided by Bologna based Unipol, which is traditionally an insurance company but has moved to banking now. Unipol Banca is involved in the co-operative movement, and they operate with negative criteria only at the moment, but they will move to positive criteria later on. It’s a European wide fund, so the portfolio is quite wide.”

Some sector wide pension funds and trade unions in Italy are also considering socially responsible investment (SRI) within their portfolios.
Dal Maso says that at a recent Avanzi conference, speakers included Francesco Lorenzetti, a member of the board at the pension fund for the chemical sector, Fonchim, and Maurizio Sarti, a trade unionist at the pension fund for civil servants, INPDAP.
“The pension fund for Geometri, a professional organisation for non-graduate architects, has issued a bid to find an asset manager willing to manage their assets with SRI criteria. This is the first example in Italy,” says Dal Maso.

Avanzi was established in 1997 with the aim of providing businesses and government organisations with practical tools to achieve sustainable development.