Austrian asset manager Raiffeisen Capital Management (RCM), one of the most recent signatories to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI), still “believes” in the concept of the project despite the recent defections of ATP and five other Danish pension funds.

RCM, a subsidiary of Austrian banking giant Raiffeisen, recently began implementing a sustainable investment strategy, for which it poached socially responsible investing (SRI) expert Wolfgang Pinner from competitor Erste Group, making him CIO of SRI from November.

He previously worked at Erste’s sustainable investment subsidiary Vinis, which had joined the PRI in 2009.

Pinner told IPE he was convinced the principles underpinning the PRI “make a lot of sense”, and that “it helps when a whole company commits to them”.

But he also acknowledged that the principles had seen “major restructuring” in recent years, after changes were made to the PRI’s methods of assessing whether a company has complied with its criteria or not.

“These changes were not ideal, perhaps” Pinner said. “Everything has to get back on track.”

However, he stressed that RCM “remains committed” to the principles and pointed out that “there are not that many opportunities for a company to show this commitment”.

In a statement on the signing, RCM chairman Mathias Bauer explained why his company had chosen to step up its ESG efforts.

“We see increasing interest from clients – especially severance pay funds (Vorsorgekassen) and Pensionskassen – in such products,” he said.

Pinner confirmed that, in many tenders, investors were looking specifically for managers that had signed the UN PRI, adding that, among his clients, the PRI had not suffered a loss of reputation.

Bauer added that RCM’s move was part of a ‘corporate social responsibility’ focus within the overall group that had “grown in importance” in recent years.

As a next step, RCM will be looking to launch funds – for individuals as well as institutions – investing according to ESG criteria.

Pinner said his sustainability team was also aiming to incorporate the concept of sustainable investment “a bit more within all of RCM”.