This summer is already turning out to be a busy one for the team at CBERN. Having attended the Corporate Knights gala for Canada’s top 50 Best Corporate Citizens in early June, CBERN will once again be represented at a major gathering of Canadian and international leaders in sustainable business management at the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference which will be held in Montreal at the Marriott Château Champlain between June 18-20, and which is being hosted by the Social Investment Organization (SIO).
The theme of this year’s Conference is “SRI+20 The Future of Investing,” and it will feature keynote speakers covering all areas of sustainable and socially responsible investing including renowned Canadian forecaster Richard Worzel who will discuss SRI as well as environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) on behalf of AGF Investments.
Eugene Ellman – executive director of SIO – recently stated in an interview with the ethical investment magazine Blue and Green Tomorrow that “we believe that an understanding of how environmental and social issues impact on investment is essential to understanding the hidden balance sheet risks posed by climate change, environmental liabilities, as well as social issues such as human rights and community consent.”
Items on the agenda for this year’s conference will include:
- Executive compensation
- Socially responsible investing
- Climate change and the role of the investment industry
- Challenges facing environmental, social, and corporate governance
- Impact-investing and mission-related investing
- ESG impact on pension and wealth management
- Retirement strategies using SRI
During the two-day conference, a variety of intensive workshops will be offered in both French and English for invitees with varying relationships to the world of sustainable business management including financial advisors, portfolio managers, financial analysts, high net-worth investors, family office investors, members of foundations and endowments, members of religious institutes, and impact-focused investors. Alongside the workshops, the conference will also set the stage for a number of industry trade shows which will be featured during pauses between presentations.
The workshops featured at this year’s conference will include discussions on the following items:
- Real estate investment
- Hydraulic fracturing
- How to reach latent clients (French)
- Responsible investing
- Shareholder activism and engagement
- Bribery and corruption in the extractive sector
- Global response to sustainability
- Creating change through corporate engagement
- The hidden costs of oil and gas extraction
- SRI and group savings plans
Impact investment is probably one of the most exciting and innovative ideas to rise to the fore at this year’s conference. Closely tied to SRI, impact investment is a process which although not entirely clearly defined as of yet, foresees heavy-weight corporate as well as private investors sinking money into environmentally and socially beneficial projects which also promise to be financially successful ventures. Furthermore, as Matthew Kiernan – CEO of Inflection Point Capital Management – writes, “investors are [often] willing to sacrifice some of the latter to achieve the former.” One of the issues to be explored at the conference is whether investing for impact really involves this sort of trade-off, given the performance of these investments over the long haul.
Impact investment is particularly fascinating because it is a market which has a lot of untapped potential. With the importance of socially responsible investment becoming a more mainstream idea in recent years, impact investment promises to open hitherto hidden portfolios for ethical investors who are not only interested in dollars and cents, but also in contributing to social and environmental stability. With an impressive array of keynote speakers discussing the slew of challenges facing investors today, there are sure to be some eye-opening presentations which will bring to bear even more Canadian and international companies about the importance of SRI.
Another highlight of the conference will be a presentation via video-link by Dr. Wolfgang Engshuber who serves at the Chairman of the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative (PRI). Dr. Engshuber will be speaking from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he is attending the United Nations’ Rio+20 Earth Summit, the successor to the historical 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. It is fitting that the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference is taking place in Montreal at the same time as the Earth Summit in Rio, as the simultaneous staging of these events underscores the growing international commitment to sustainable business practices.
Amongst the most exciting features of the conference of course is the opportunity for invitees to hear the expert analyses on all-things-SRI from the foremost minds in sustainable business management, including (but not limited to) the following industry insiders:
- Professor Lynn Stout, Distinguished Professor of Corporate Law at Cornell University Law School
- Bob Walker, Vice President of ESG Services at NEI
- Futurist and C.F.A. Richard Worzel
- Former Toronto mayor David Miller
- Claude Villeneuve, biologist and renowned Quebec environmental scientist
- Jacqueline Ottman, sought-after speaker and author of The New Rules of Green Marketing
- Stephen MacInnes and Dermot Foley of Vancity Investment Management
- Roland Lescure, Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
- Dr. Marguerite Mendell, Professor and Vice-Principal of the School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University
- Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada
The conference promises to be an important and informative one, providing a stage for major Canadian and international voices in sustainability to deliver their combined vision and individual appraisals of ethical business to the current and next generation of corporate leaders. One of the most crucial results of the conference for business ethics researchers will be to identify the place of ‘impact investment’ in today’s corporate environment, and set the bar for social and environmental responsibility in the corporate sector. The SIO conference will no doubt be a boon for this objective, as will the Rio + 20 UN Summit, on an international scale.