The annual conference of the European Sustainable Investment Forum (EUROSIF) took place in Brussels on 9th October 2014. Its core theme was Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and it was attended by some 150 delegates from various sectors related to European financial markets.
EMG CSR Consultancy has been a corporate member affiliate of EUROSIF since 2012 and was represented on this occasion by Drs Bjorn Sanders, director of EMG the Netherlands. The conference, which was held a stone’s throw from the European Parliament buildings, was chaired by the EUROSIF president Giuseppe van der Helm. Speakers included Fabio Galli (Chair Corporate Governance Working Group, Pensions Europe), Jeroen Hooijer (Head of Unit, Corporate Governance, Social Responsibility, European Commission), Signe Ratso (Director of Trade Strategy and Analysis and Market Access, DG Trade, European Commission) and Judith Sargentini (European Parliament member).
An overview of EUROSIF’s recent activities was provided, and the emergence of soft law and its implications for investors were discussed. Subsequently, delegates debated the Conflict Minerals Disclosure Directive and the EU Shareholder Rights Directive.
The highlight of the conference was the presentation of the EUROSIF European Sustainable Investment Study 2014, which indicated Socially Responsible Investing practices and trends in Europe. Exclusions, it emerged, has become a mainstream strategy, while all forms of ESG integration practices grew by 65% in the period 2011 – 2013. All SRI strategies included in the study had been growing at double-digit rates since 2011, and furthermore the European Impact investing market has now grown to an estimated €20 billion market.
Franςois Passant, EUROSIF’s executive director, stated: ‘The continuous growth of SRI practices in Europe signals a positive change in attitude towards stewardship and the materiality of Environmental, Social and Governance matters. Discussions are shifting from whether Socially Responsible Investing makes sense from a financial return standpoint to how its tangible impact can be measured. Increasingly, investors and other industry stakeholders will be pushing the market in this direction, bringing it to a new level of maturity.’
Bjorn Sanders noted that the report showed that an increasing number of organizations are becoming aware that CSR not only delivers vital social and environmental assets but also financial value. ‘We see this on a daily basis with our clients,’ he explained. ‘When a carefully crafted ESG strategy is effectively aligned with the business objectives of the organization, sustainable profit and growth inevitably follow. Another of EUROSIF’s achievements is that reporting on non-financial KPIs will become an obligation for a large number of organizations in the near future, probably as early as 2017. It’s a great opportunity to start developing a strategy now, so that companies can benchmark and come out on top in three years’ time with their CSR KPIs.’