The conference represents an integral aspect of the PRI’s longstanding effort to foster research and to bridge academic and investor communities. Held in Paris, the PRI encouraged academics and investors to network and discuss the latest insights on responsible investment research.

The conference had the pleasure of welcoming two great keynotes. Professor Renée B. Adams from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, shared some of the latest research insights on gender diversity in corporate boards. In addition, Martin Spolc, Head of the Sustainable Finance and Fintech, European Commission’s Directorate General for Financial Services, gave a closing keynote covering the significant steps taken by the Commission’s Sustainable Finance initiatives.

Overall, the conference welcomed 14 academic paper presentations. The presenters came from all over the world and covered a range of responsible investment topics including institutional investor’s views on climate risk disclosure, ESG investing by mutual funds, shareholder activism and firm’s voluntary disclosure of climate change risks, amongst other topics and insights.

This conference was developed in collaboration with the Research Chair on Sustainable Finance and Responsible Investments (Chaire FDIR) at Toulouse School of Economics and École Polytechnique. A big thank you also goes to NN Group, Barings and Edmond de Rothschild who were this year’s official conference partners.

Opening keynote

Women on boards: the superheroes of tomorrow?

Many countries and policymakers seem to agree that greater gender diversity on corporate boards is fundamental for economic progress. This session:

  • Highlighted the characteristics of female and male directors and contrast the expectations that are placed on women and men, and between independent and non-independent directors
  • Examined the transformative potential of women to change corporate governance more so than independent directors
  • Included a Q&A with the audience about the research findings and what is necessary to realise opportunities
  • Presenter: Renée B. Adams, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  • Moderator: Will Martindale, Director of Policy and Research, PRI

Panel discussion: disclosure of climate change risks

  • Where is research going and are we moving fast enough on corporate climate disclosures - what else do investors and companies need to do? 
  • Since institutional demand for climate risk disclosure is prevalent, why hasn’t regulation caught up? 
  • What are the next steps, where are we going from here and what are the key outcomes of this?

Institutional investors’ views and preferences on climate risk disclosure

The results of a new comprehensive institutional investor survey on investor perceptions on firm-level climate disclosures were discussed.

  • Presenter: Emirhan Ilhan, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and Philipp Krueger, University of Geneva
  • Co-authors: Zacharias Sautner and Laura Starks  

Shareholder Activism and Firms’ Voluntary Disclosure of Climate Change Risks

This examined whether shareholder activism induces management to voluntarily disclose firm’s exposure to climate risks. Overall, the findings indicated that active shareholders can elicit greater climate risk disclosure and improve corporate governance. 

  • Presenter: Caroline Flammer, Boston University
  • Co-authors: Mike Toffel and Kala Viswanathan
  • Moderator: Edward Baker, Senior Policy Advisor, Climate and Energy Transition, PRI
  • Practitioner discussant: Michael Herskovich, Head of Corporate Governance, BNP Paribas Asset Management

Breakout 1A: investor and market responses to climate

When investors call for climate responsibility, how do mutual funds respond?

The implications of a new eco-label for mutual funds, which was introduced by Morningstar. The research found that investors were reactive to these ratings and that some mutual funds responded by readjusting their holdings. 

  • Presenter: Stefano Ramelli, University of Zurich
  • Co-authors: Marco Ceccarelli, and Alexander F. Wagner
  • Academic discussant: Bert Scholtens, University of St Andrews

Is ‘being green’ rewarded in the market?: An empirical investigation of decarbonization and stock returns

An examination of the risk-return relationship of low carbon-investment and characteristics of carbon-efficient firms. 

  • Presenter: Soh Young In, Stanford University
  • Co-authors: Ki Young Park and Ashby Monk
  • Academic discussant: Marie Briere, Dauphine University, Amundi
  • Moderator/practitioner discussant: Michael Viehs, Associate Director – ESG Integration, Hermes 

Breakout 1B: investing and engaging on carbon

Climate risk and capital structure

This research used innovative data measuring, forward-looking physical climate risk at the firm level and found that greater climate risk led to lower leverage post-2015 and that the results were influenced by both demand and supply side factors. 

  • Presenter: Edith Ginglinger, Université Paris-Dauphine, PSL
  • Co-author: Quentin Moreau 
  • Academic discussant: Vincent Bouchet, Ecole Polytechnique

Unpacking the roles of shareholder engagement intermediaries: A case study of an engagement process on carbon risk

A qualitative case study of a three-year engagement project on carbon risk where the authors identified and conceptualised four roles performed by engagement intermediaries to elicit companies’ responses. 

  • Presenters: Jean-Pascal Gond, Cass Business School, City, University of London and Emma Sjöström, Stockholm School of Economics
  • Academic discussant: Fabrizio Ferraro, IESE
  • Moderator/practitioner discussant: Tom Barron, Manager, Stewardship, PRI 

Practitioner panel: a call to action - Bridging the gap between RI practice and academic research

Academic research has the ability to inform and transform investment decision-making and practice, however academic and industry impact are often separated by a large divide. This session highlighted priority issues and challenges from investment practitioners and funding opportunities for academic research.

  • Presenter: Fiona Reynolds , CEO, PRI
  • Presenter: David Harris, Group Head of Sustainable Business at London Stock Exchange Group & Head of Sustainable Investment, FTSE Russell

How academics can access PRI data

The Reporting and Assessment Framework 

The PRI’s 2,500 signatories are required to report on their organisational structure, strategy and governance, climate change reporting and asset class specific modules. Learn about the R&A Framework and how you can use it for academic research.  

  • Presenter: Elina Rolfe, Director, Reporting & Assessment, PRI 

The Collaboration Platform

This is a unique private forum with data since 2008 that allows signatories to pool resources, share information and enhance their influence on ESG issues. Learn about the platform, current engagements, recent academic studies that have analysed the success of collaborative engagement on E, S and G issues, and how to access the data. 

  • Presenter: Nabylah Abo Dehman, Manager, Social Issues, PRI 

Breakout 2A: Regulation and legislation

Climate regulatory risks and corporate bonds

The authors find that bond riskiness and pricing appear to be jointly determined by a firm’s environmental performance and its regulatory conditions.  

  • Presenter: Laura Starks, University of Texas at Austin
  • Co-authors: Lee Seltzer and Qifei Zhu
  • Academic discussant: Pierre Chollet, University of Montpellier

Reduction in corporate greenhouse gas emissions under prescriptive disclosure requirements

The research finds there was a real reduction in emissions suggesting that prescriptive carbon disclosure regimes lead to greater reduction in emissions than voluntary regimes.

  • Presenter: Philipp Krueger, University of Geneva 
  • Co-author: Valentin Jouvenot
  • Academic discussant: Hao Liang, Singapore Management University
  • Moderator/practitioner discussant: Jean-François Boulier, President, Af2i

Breakout 2B: corporate misconduct, reputation and director discretion

How are non-financial and financial misconduct related? 

The paper finds that the relation between financial and non-financial misconduct varies both over time and by the type of violation. 

  • Presenter: Aneesh Raghunandan, London School of Economics
  • Academic discussant: Nadja Guenster, Munster University

Hacking corporate reputations

An unexpected corporate data breach is studied to investigate how firms respond to negative reputation events and finds that these breaches negatively affect firm value and that in response, firms increase their ESG investment. 

  • Presenter: Pat Akey, University of Toronto
  • Co-authors: Stefan Lewellen and Inessa Liskovich 
  • Academic discussant: Xavier Giroud, Columbia University

Stakeholder orientation and firm value

This paper analyses the relationship between enhanced director’s stakeholder orientation and firm value.

  • Presenter: Scott B. Guernsey, University of Cambridge
  • Co-authors: Simone Sepe and Martjn Cremers
  • Academic discussant: Pedro Matos, University of Virginia  
  • Moderator/practitioner discussant: Sebastien Thevoux-Chabuel, ESG Analyst and Portfolio Manager, Comgest

Panel discussion: Challenges in ESG measurement

Accurately measuring investment impact has been historically challenging. In addition, finding objective and standardised metrics for evaluating corporate ESG factors is still an ongoing task. To add clarity to this discussion, this session will:

  • Discuss how investors can identify investment opportunities which meet a high standard of sustainability and construct portfolios and monitor their impact
  • Highlight research that examined SRI labelling from a survey of French asset managers and rating agencies understanding of ESG impact measurement considering definitions, indicators, perceptions, determinants and impediments
  • Question whether more data leads to more disagreement and the effectiveness of using the same assessment language

ESG rating disagreement and stock returns

  • Presenters: Rajna Gibson Brandon, University of Geneva
  • Co-authors: Philipp Krueger, Nadine Riand and Peter S. Schmidt
  • Academic discussant: Patricia Crifo, Ecole Polytechnique
  • Moderator and practitioner speaker: Mikael Homanen, PRI and Cass Business School 
  • Practitioner discussant: Mark W. McDivitt, Managing Director – Global Head of ESG, State Street Corporation 

The PRI Award for Outstanding Research

Student prize

Does environmental performance help firms’ value to recover faster from environmental controversies: International evidence

  • Presenter: Muhammad Ullah, University of Clermont Auvergne

Quantitative prize

ESG Shareholder Engagement and Downside Risk

  • Presenter: Andreas G.F. Hoepner, University College Dublin
  • Co-authors: Ioannis Oikonomou, Zacharias Sautner, Laura T. Starks, Xiao Y. Zhou
  • Awards presented by Martin Skancke, Chair, PRI