NETHERLANDS - Robeco is to offer to assist its larger customers such as pension funds to influence listed companies to meet socially responsible investment criteria.

The new service, which will be available at the end of the summer, will be based on the Tabaksblat Code and a directive from Dutch accountancy grouping the Raad voor de Jaarverslaggeving, according to Erik Breen, head of corporate governance and sustainability at Robeco. Both have urged pension funds to renew their sustainability efforts.

Discussions are being held with several of Robeco’s major existing clients, Breen said.

However, PGGM, which has a €5bn European investment portfolio that is based on sustainability principles, has indicated that it is more interested in direct negotiations with companies.

“A dialogue between the respective parties is more appropriate than screening and excluding companies,” said Breen.

He added that by combining their shareholdings institutional investors would be able to increase their overall negotiating power with a company.

The Robeco initiative coincides with a call by Alastair Ross Goobey, chairman of the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN), for a change to shareholder voting procedures. He said that current procedures limit shareholder influence, and welcomed the inclusion of shareholders’ rights in the EU Commission’s modernisation of corporate governance action plan.

ICGN members, who include Dutch pension funds ABP and PGGM and Robeco, control assets of $10trn (€7.9trn).

René Maatman, chief counsel of ABP Investments told IPE there is still room for a European-wide corporate governance code, which could be a powerful tool to stimulate convergence on corporate governance in the EU.