CORPORATE boardrooms are facing increasing pressure for environmentally responsible practices from a new breed of fund managers wielding trillions of dollars, UN experts said last week.
Businesses are witnessing the start of a radically changing global landscape in which money talks on issues such as protecting the diversity of life on earth, according to UN University researchers at a United Nations forum in Kuala Lumpur.
Fund managers looking to pressure businesses to improve social, environmental and ethical performance now wield more than US$640bil in clout in Britain alone - more than 12% of all managed investments there, they said.
The forum, on the sidelines of a meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity, was addressed by Hamid Zakri, director of the UN Universitys Tokyo-based Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), and senior visiting fellow Kerry ten Kate.
The new statistics showing the strength of fund managers pursuing socially responsible investment (SRI) represent one of several signals in boardrooms that green thinking is essential to corporate well-being, the forum heard. Meaningful engagement of the private sector in addressing biodiversity and other environmental concerns has been elusive until now and confined to isolated instances. However, this is about to change, said Zakri.
Sam Johnston, a UNU-IAS researcher, says the first industry-wide survey, conducted in 1984, identified US$40bil in assets in funds which feature a screen of some type for social responsibility.
By 1995, the figure had risen to US$639bil and to US$2.18tril in 2003. In the United States, such SRI portfolios grew by more than 240% from 1995 to 2003.
Similar trends are evident in Europe, the researchers say. AFP
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