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Forum examines the dynamics of investing responsibly

12 Dec 2011

The extent to which a company's focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues can deliver financial outperformance in capital markets and the effect of each on stock performance was the focus of a forum held recently at the University of Sydney Business School.

Leading academics and industry figures came to together for the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) Australia and Asia Pacific Academic Network, to foster dialogue, pragmatic action and collaborative engagement to consider issues around responsible investment.

Hosted by University of Sydney Business School and Discipline of Accounting, the uniquely formatted and well-attended forum discussed the "Dynamics of investing responsibly: from screening to mainstreaming". The conference heard contributions from distinguished experts, including keynote addresses from the United Nations PRI Executive Director, Dr James Gifford (receiving his PhD from Discipline of Accounting) and two from Harvard University, Professor Michael Hiscox and Dr David Wood. The event also allowed practitioners and academics to respond and discuss latest research in the area.

The two-day forum provided an opportunity to showcase emerging academic research from across the region on responsible investment and sustainable corporate conduct. Local and international research contributors included principal academics from Harvard University, the University of Queensland Business School, Umea Business School in Sweden, Carleton University in Canada and the University of Sydney Business School. Industry practitioners presented their views on the viability of research direction, and included panels with experts from the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, Colonial First State Global Asset Management, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Investor Group on Climate Change, Jana Investment Advisers, Macquarie Securities, Mercer, and Perpetual.

Both the academics and industry practitioners in attendance commented on the invaluable insights attained from participating in discussion with individuals with broadly diverse opinions. One particular industry expert commented: "There was real authentic interactivity and airing of some very alternative views."

Other key themes of the conference included strategies for integration of ESG issues in mainstream investment analysis and practice, the promises and perils of engagement as well as consideration of future research directions, collaboration opportunities and the establishment of a regional network.

Anna Young, from the Discipline of Accounting at the University of Sydney Business School and Lead Academic of the Australia and Asia Pacific UN PRI regional academic network, said that the forum achieved its goal of successfully bridging the gap between key figures within the responsible investment field.

She said: "The forum highlighted the importance of meaningful interaction between academia and practice when exploring the challenges of responsible investment. We look forward to continuing the dialogue and collaboration as part of the regional UN PRI Academic Network at the Business School."

Further details and forum materials are available here: PRI Academic Network