Principles for Responsible Investment in Frankfurt

On 13 and 14 December the PRI’s Academic and German Networks convened a conference to explore the effects ESG factors can have on the risk and return profile of investment portfolios. The event was hosted by, and in co-operation with, Deutsche Bank, and supported by MSCI, the Centre for Responsible Banking and Finance at the University of St. Andrews and the University of Hamburg.

PRI Chair Wolfgang Engshuber welcomed more than 150 attendees at a reception on 13 December. This was followed by a keynote from Peter Eigen, Chair of the Advisory Council of Transparency International, about corruption and the private sector’s role in defeating it worldwide.

Wolfgang Engshuber (left) and Peter Eigen (right) at the opening of the Conference

The second day of the conference was kicked off with a Welcome Address from Sabine Miltner, the Sustainability Officer of Deutsche Bank, who introduced a panel debate on how financial markets could become more sustainable.  It was moderated by Susanne Bergius, a sustainable investment journalist with the German newspaper Handelsblatt.  Amongst the panellists Roger Urwin of MSCI showed that integration of ESG into mainstream financial management was a value driver in the long term.

Roger Urwin (Towers Watson), Solveig Pape-Hamich (German Network and KfW), Bert Scholtens (Groningen University), Susanne Bergius (Moderator), Marlehn Thieme (Chairwoman, German Council for Sustainable Development) and Christoph Biehl (St. Andrew’s University) discuss how financial markets can become more sustainable.

Afterwards, delegates were able to choose from 15 panel sessions covering the entire spectrum of ESG debates and grouped into five themes: Financial Markets and Sustainability; ESG Equity Integration; ESB Beyond Equity Integration; Activities in the ESG Space; and themes specifically relevant to Germany.

Roger Urwin, James Gifford (PRI), Anthony Wilkinson (RREEF Sustainability Advisors) and Bert Scholtens discuss sustainability issues in financial markets

The day closed with keynote addresses by Bernd Braasch, Director of Financial Stability at Deutsche Bundesbank; and James Gifford, the Executive Director of the PRI.

The conference was declared a great success by participants, providing the chance to hear from key players, and for practitioners and academics to learn from each other’s views.  Those who attended were also able to network extensively with colleagues.  Greater understanding and increased motivation were the main gains reported and a repeat event later this year is to be hoped for.

Those who didn’t have the chance to go will be pleased to know that a series of films were made during the event and will shortly be available.

Andreas Hoepner of St. Andrew’s University and the PRI Academic Network conducting interviews to be broadcast over the Web.

The event was coordinated by Robert Harding and Andreas Hoepner of the PRI Academic Network and Karin Soellner of the PRI German Network. We thank Deutsche Bank for the use of their Frankfurt offices, as well as their hospitality at the evening reception and the following conference.  We are grateful for the additional support of Nadine Abu-Ghoush, Claus Gruber and Nina Zuendorf. The PRI would also like to thank Martina Macpherson, MSCI and Agnes Neher from the Universities of Hohenheim and St Andrews for their contributions.