SRI+20: a responsible alternative to Rio’s Earth Summit



The building momentum of the Earth Summit, or Rio +20, this coming June has gathered considerable ground, with the Canadian Social Investment Organisation, and its partner, Finance and Sustainability Initiative, hosting an educational conference that aims to highlight the importance of socially responsible investment (SRI).

SRI+20, with the theme “The Future of Investing, will take place on the June 18-20 and aims to provide opportunities to the investment community to examine the future of SRI. This year’s theme will set the stage for discussion on looming challenges and will feature a live presentation by video conference from the Rio +20 conference site.

Blue & Green Tomorrow spoke with Eugene Ellman, executive director of the Social Investment Organization (SIO) to find out more about the distinguished “30,000-foot” look at SRI, and where it is headed.

“The conference will delve into a wide variety of themes around sustainable and socially responsible investment”, he said.

“Echoing the Rio+20 Earth Summit, we’ve themed our conference SRI +20. Many of our speakers will offer insight into what the next 20 years of SRI will look like.”

Ellman deemed the importance of responsible investment “absolutely critical”, and went on to claim that analysts who do not consider these issues are failing to play an important ethical role: “We believe that an understanding of how environmental and social issues impact on investment is essential to understanding the hidden balance sheet risks posted by climate change, environmental liberties, as well as social issues such as human rights and community consent.”

The Social Investment Organisation (SIO) is taking great liberty in ensuring the summit is promoted as a carbon neutral event. It believes there is no substitute for bringing together its own members and SRI thought leaders to discuss the most important issues of the day.

The organisation aims to encompass an ethos of sustainability in all aspects of the three day event – including travel, where the SIO is looking to work with a local organisation to provide carbon offsets.

Hotels and venues have also been chosen ‘responsibly’. In providing appropriate accommodation and hosting venues, the SIO has decided to support Marriot International, a leading lodging company, whose relentless focus on innovation and corporate, social and environmental strategies emphasises the event’s sustainability commitments.

Most recently, in SRI+ 20 news, event organisers announced that Lynn A. Stout, one of the leading theorists of the financial crisis, will be speaking out at a session on executive compensation and shareholder power.

Stout is a fierce critic of the notion that corporations are beholden to shareholders and is known mostly for her “shareholder primacy” theory.

A brief outline of the summit’s agenda is as follows:

Monday June 18

The opening day of the SRI+ 20 conference sees Stout’s approach to executive compensation take centre stage. The idea that CEOs are incentivized by this and will do what it takes to maximise shareholder value is something which former General Electric CEO Jack Welch famously deemed “the dumbest idea in the world”.

Tuesday June 19

The second day of the SRI +20 summit will present the challenges SRI poses to financial services. Independent consultant, Dominique Ferrand, will take the morning to debunk the myth of “mainstreaming” responsible investment.

Wednesday June 20

The final day of the SRI +20 conference will kick off with a talk on the importance of ESG considerations in 21st century pension management followed by an array of banking related investment proposals.

To conclude, attendees will view an informal conversation with former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, who will share his views on the role of the investment industry in meeting the social and economic challenges of the times.

Responsible investment should be the heartbeat of the Rio+20 summit, and the conference in Canada is sure to push this mantra forward. Have a look at Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Investment for more information into the possibilities behind investing with a conscience.

Further reading:

What is socially responsible investment (SRI)?

Rio+20 in the headlines


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