mast image

Special Report

Impact investing

Sections

PRI in Person: The ongoing allure of the SDGs

“Sextant for the investor community”. “A gift from the UN to the world”. “A global to do list”. “A moral imperative but also an economic necessity”.

It has been evident for some time already that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have captured the imagination of institutional investors, and this was underscored at a conference of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in Berlin this week.

As well as recurring references throughout the event, the dedicated SDG panel featured a number of major globally recognised asset owners such as CalPERS from the US, ABP from the Netherlands, and Cbus, one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds.

CalPERS’ investment director for sustainability, Anne Simpson, argued that the goals were not only “a moral imperative, but also an economic necessity”, while Cbus’ Alexandra West, portfolio head for strategy and innovation, said that realising the SDGs would ensure a sustainable economy, and hence economic growth.

<

In Europe, Dutch pension fund managers APG and PGGM are arguably the forerunners when it comes to applying the SDGs. Earlier this year, they presented an SDG “taxonomy ”, the fruit of their work to assess the investability of the goals.

Speaking at the PRI in Person conference, Jose Meijer, vice chair of the board of ABP (APG’s main client) said the SDGs were “a gift from the UN to the world”.

They were an excellent fit for ABP, and would shape the world its beneficiaries live in, or want to live in, she added.

Inspired by the Dutch pension investors’ work, CalPERS has been mapping the SDGs to its portfolio and found “a strong degree of connectivity”, said Simpson.

She said what was missing was the means to measure impact, but indicated this was not yet a major concern.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” she said.

There was a clear consensus among the panellists that the SDGs were a positive and useful framework for their pension funds, but Cbus’ West highlighted that integrating the goals into the fund’s investment approach was a challenging task.

“It’s very difficult to come up with an investment strategy based on the SDGs,” she said.

Indeed, shortly after the panel discussion, a representative of a French pension fund told IPE they wanted to align their approach with the SDGs, but were finding this difficult to do.

Conversations on the sidelines of the conference revealed a slightly more reserved stance on the SDGs than that expressed by the panellists.  

A representative from an Antipodean pension fund, for example, said it would feel “disingenuous” to somehow retrospectively map the goals onto a fund’s portfolio and investment strategy.

The head of ESG at a UK-based asset manager, meanwhile, expressed concern that investors as well corporates were “latching on” to the SDGs too quickly. 

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

IPE QUEST

Your first step in manager selection...

IPE Quest is a manager search facility that connects institutional investors and asset managers.

  • QN-2548

    Asset class: Fixed Income, Emerging Market Debt Hard Currency (Active).
    Asset region: Emerging Markets.
    Size: CHF 300-400m.
    Closing date: 2019-07-30.

  • QN-2549

    Asset class: Fixed Income, Emerging Market Debt Hard Currency (Passive or Passive Enhanced).
    Asset region: Emerging Markets.
    Size: CHF 300-700m.
    Closing date: 2019-07-30.

  • QN-2550

    Asset class: Fixed Income, Emerging Market Debt Local Currency (Active).
    Asset region: Emerging Markets.
    Size: CHF 250-350m.
    Closing date: 2019-07-31.

  • QN-2551

    Asset class: Fixed Income, Emerging Market Debt Local Currency (Passive or Passive Enhanced).
    Asset region: Emerging Markets.
    Size: CHF 250-350m.
    Closing date: 2019-07-31.

  • QN-2552

    Asset class: Fixed Income, High Yield (Active).
    Asset region: High Yield (US).
    Size: CHF 500-600m.
    Closing date: 2019-07-29.

  • QN-2553

    Asset class: Fixed Income, High Yield (Passive or Passive Enhanced).
    Asset region: High Yield (US).
    Size: CHF 500-1'100m.
    Closing date: 2019-07-29.

  • QN-2554

    Asset class: Global Real Estate (Equity, unlisted Funds).
    Asset region: World (ex-Switzerland).
    Size: CHF 200 mn (potential for further growth).
    Closing date: 2019-08-07.

  • QN-2555

    Asset class: Real Estate.
    Asset region: European.
    Size: EUR 50 - 100 million.
    Closing date: 2019-07-22.

  • QN-2556

    Asset class: FX Hedging.
    Asset region: Global.
    Size: Mandate size of CHF 1.5 bn.
    Closing date: 2019-08-09.

  • QN-2557

    Asset class: All/large Cap Equities.
    Asset region: China A-shares.
    Size: Unit linked platform (0m USD in initial investment).
    Closing date: 2019-08-01.

Begin Your Search Here
<