GLOBAL - Signatories to the Principles of Responsible Investing, drafted by two agencies of the United Nations (UN), have more than doubled so far in 2008 compared with last year to 381 participants.

The participants collectively represent $14trn (€9trn) in assets under management, and institutional investor signatories, in particular, have begun making more effort to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into their day-to-day business, according to a survey from the PRI presented today during their annual conference in Seoul, Korea.

Despite previous criticism suggesting the principles are a hollow shell, the survey, entitled Report on Progress 2008, reveals there was a 31% increase this year in the number of asset owners who have signed up to the initiative and now publish specific reference to how they integrate responsible investment or ESG issues within their investment or ownership practices.

The two agencies, the UN Environment Program Finance Initiative and the UN Global Compact, said the report also found 32% of respondents will now revisit relationships with service providers in light of RI/ESG issue-related capabilities - an 68% increase on the number of signatories willing to do this last year.

Just over three-quarters of participants reported they have engaged in dialogue with policymakers and industry regulators on ESG issues, while 70% ask companies to produce standardised reporting on their environmental, social or governance policies, practices or performance - the same figure as in 2007.

Signatories have also become more collaboration, as the number of asset owners involved in collaborative engagement rose from 38% to 47% this year, while levels of disclosure have gone up too.

The PRI programme was launched in early 2006 by the then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan - when just 20 institutional investors from 12 countries formed the original investor group and drafted the criteria.

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