Money talks: Concern for biodiversity pressed on boardrooms by new breed of fund managers

A new breed of fund managers looking to pressure businesses to improve social, environmental and ethical performance, a phenomenon started in 1999, now wield more than $640 billion in clout in the UK alone more than 12% of all managed investments in that nation, according to experts at a United Nations forum.

One firm, Insight Investment, is using its $120 billion of managed assets specifically to leverage better corporate practices related to biodiversity among extractive industries (oil and gas, mining and minerals), part of a radically changing global landscape confronting corporations especially those in need of access to new territories and resources.

The new statistics showing the strength of fund managers pursuing socially responsible investment (SRI) represent one of several signals in boardrooms that green thinking is essential to corporate well-being.

"Meaningful engagement of the private sector in addressing biodiversity and other environmental concerns has been elusive until now and confined to isolated instances. However, this is about to change," says A.H. Zakri, Director of the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies, which co-hosted the forum with the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Parties to the CBD are meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

"Carbon trading systems, the growing number of investments needed to protect nature's water shed services, the advent of labeling schemes for genetically modified food products, the emphasis of global environmental agreements on private sector involvement, and the rise of socially responsible investment portfolios are just a some of the signs that the private sector is at last being drawn into the critical biodiversity issue."

Sam Johnston, a UNU-IAS researcher, says the first industry-wide survey, conducted in 1984, identified $40 billion in assets in funds which feature a screen of some type for social responsibility. By 1995, the figure had risen to $639

Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University

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