Institutions urged to follow UCC in investment pledge

By Pádraig Hoare

University College Cork has become the first Irish university to sign up to a United Nations-backed programme aimed at encouraging environmental, social, and good governance for investing funds.

The decision by UCC has now led to calls for other Irish institutions to follow suit.

UCC has joined groups such as Irish Life Investment Managers, KBI Global Investors, the National Treasury Management Agency, Davy’s, Atlantic Bridge, and NTR in signing up to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

PRI is a UN-supported initiative that encourages environmental, social, and governance factors into investment decisions, that it says will better manage risk and generate sustainable and long-term returns.

According to PRI principles, “value-destroying reputational risk from issues such as climate change, pollution, working conditions, employee diversity, corruption and aggressive tax strategies in a world of globalisation and social media” should be strongly avoided.

The Global Sustainable Investment Alliance has said nearly $23 trillion (€19.75trn) of all globally, professionally managed assets are now invested in responsible investment strategies.

In a sign that the PRI programme is gaining traction, the Central Bank in January awarded a €240m investment mandate to French asset giant Amundi, after specifying the winning tender must be a signatory to the PRI programme.

It is the first time the Central Bank has outsourced the management of its equity management services portfolio, the watchdog said.

SIF Ireland, the national body that supports such investment, said UCC’s signing up to the programme was a “tremendous boost” to bringing PRI principles to the mainstream.

SIF Ireland chairman Terence O’Rourke said: “UCC’s decision is the latest positive news from Ireland relating to the responsible investment agenda, pointing to a significant upward tick in political and capital market embrace of this agenda.

“This is a tremendous boost to the mainstreaming of the responsible investment agenda within Ireland.”

Fiona Reynolds, CEO of Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) said they “hope that other institutions in Ireland will follow their lead and see the value that can be created through sustainable investing”.

This month, the Republic became the first country in the world to decide to divest out of fossil fuels, according to SIF Ireland.

Last month, the Republic became only the 10th country in the world to publish recommendations embracing responsible investment, the body added.

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