The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) may introduce a tiered membership system to differentiate between members that enforce its code and those that fail to do so.

Martin Skancke, chairman of the UN-backed initiative, also signalled that an overhaul of the existing six principles – built around integration and disclosure of environmental, social and governance (ESG) information – may be considered as it approached its 10-year anniversary.

Skancke, writing in the PRI’s 2015 annual report, said the organisation’s work had focused increasingly on areas outside its initial remit, extending to matters such as fiduciary duty and principal-agent conflict.

He said the increased workload had been reflected in its written mission statement, which looked at the obstacles facing a sustainable financial system, such as market practices and regulation.

“Should this ethos,” Skancke asked, “now be incorporated into the Principles themselves?” 

He also argued that, with the introduction of measurable targets for the PRI’s nearly 1,400 signatories, the organisation would be better able to assess how asset owners were incorporating the principles into appointing and monitoring asset managers – potentially allowing it to hold signatories to account.

“We will consult with [signatories] on possible mechanisms for this, which could include new levels of membership to reflect signatories’ level of commitment to responsible investment and new criteria for delisting signatories,” he said.

Asset owners and managers have long privately voiced concerns the PRI is being used by some as a way of proving to clients they are committed to ESG, without any mechanism in place to enforce compliance.

Fiona Reynolds, the PRI’s managing director, added that work was underway to amend its reporting framework to “better differentiate” signatories.

“This will allow us to enable and then challenge asset owners to use this data in selecting and appointing their managers, and in holding them to account,” she said.