Report from Xander den Uyl on the 2019 PRI in Person

From September 10th - 12th 2019, the PRI held is annual PRI in Person event. This year’s PRI in Person in Paris was the largest ever, with 1800 attendees in all. It was the largest and most successful responsible investment event in the world. The new format, with more time for breakout sessions and less plenary sessions, generated more in depth discussions and limited sales pitches on the panels. The theme of the third day plenary was social issues, where modern slavery received much attention.

For the first time, the leadership group of PRI was announced. Selected on the theme of ESG in manager selection in listed and private equity, ABP was one of the a 40 signatories in the Leadership group. The first ever PRI Awards were also presented and recipients included the MN platform on a living wage, which placed an important social issue in the spotlight.

I participated on a panel on climate and addressed the Investors Agenda on Climate, which was launched at the PRI in Person San Francisco last year. I took the opportunity to stress that we, as pension funds, have very long term liabilities. To fulfil them, we need long term sustainable returns that we can only achieve in a sustainable world. Climate is a systemic risk for investors. It is new ground for investors. We can either sit and talk or we can start acting. It is important that we have very concrete goals on carbon footprints and investments in renewable energy.

Climate change is not the only challenge we face. We are in the midst of a digital revolution. We need a just transition for workers and communities. And above all we need concerted actions in the financial sector. We cannot do it alone.

The PRI has been growing rapidly the last few years and now has 2500 signatories and is working to expand its regional, on the ground presence. After an extensive consultation with signatories, the board is keen to implement a new reporting framework in 2021.

For the third year in a row, a delegation of the PRI (Fiona Reynold, Sharon Hendriks and I) met with the leadership team of the CWC. In addition to the very successful cooperation between the CWC and PRI on the Just Transition, two issues need more attention: The accountability of PRI signatories on social issues and the growing focus of PRI on the “S” in ESG. The PRI now has minimum requirements on ESG for its signatories, but perhaps more important is PRI’s new Cooperation Platform, which give signatories better possibilities to cooperate on engagement on social issues. The Human Rights (including Labour Rights) work of PRI has developed slower than expected, but PRI is working on it in full force. This includes within PRI’s Asset Owners Advisory Committee, which I chair.

By Xander den Uyl, ABP/PRI Board Member