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Former PRI chief James Gifford joins Harvard’s sustainable investment initiative



Former Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) chief James Gifford has become a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Initiative for Responsible Investment and an adviser to venture investment firm Tau Investment Management.

Gifford, who left his role as executive director of the UN-backed PRI in November after a decade at the organisation, will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He said the new roles will allow him to “get much closer to the ground”.

He joins Harvard’s Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI) at the Harvard Kennedy School as a senior research fellow. Founded in 2003, the organisation conducts research and provides institutional support on a range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

David Wood, who leads the team, said, “We look forward to having [Gifford] researching sustainable investment in emerging markets and engaging Harvard’s students and faculty on the past and future of responsible investment, and how we can best leverage the institutional infrastructure that he helped put in place.”

Gifford’s second new role sees him join Tau’s advisory board as a senior strategic adviser. The firm works to properly value human capital and natural resources – the undervaluation of which it calls “capitalism’s worst failure”.

Alexander Soros, who is the son of the investor, businessman and philanthropist George, is among its backers. He, along with the Global Emerging Markets Group, recently invested in New York-based Tau so that it could help textile factories in places like Bangladesh overcome key social, environmental and efficiency problems.

Oliver Niedermaier, the firm’s chairman and CEO, said, “Dr Gifford’s wealth of policy experience and applied knowledge furthers Tau’s ability to offer a level of deal structuring and transformation expertise, unlike traditional investors. We’re truly fortunate to have him join our team.”

Meanwhile, speaking about his future at both Harvard and Tau, Gifford said, “I look forward to working directly with companies to really understand how factories operate, and how they can be transformed – both financially and in terms of sustainability, human capital and governance.

Through documenting these issues and processes, I also hope to provide responsible investment practitioners with additional tools that they can use to engage with retailers and apparel brands within their portfolios on best practices on the ground.”

Further reading:

James Gifford, PRI: ‘we have made responsible investment normal’

James Gifford to leave Principles for Responsible Investment after decade as top exec

Responsible investment is ‘an inevitable movement in society’

The principles for responsible investment: a round-up

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013