The Call for Research for the Reynolds & Gifford PRI Grant is now closed.

How might responsible investment contribute to a sustainable and equitable global financial system?

The UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is calling for research proposals on the ways in which responsible investment currently does or does not contribute to a sustainable and equitable global financial system, and potential paths forward to improve its contributions.

Research objectives:

We are interested in research that answers the following key areas:

  • How can investors and responsible investment better understand and address the differing contexts of Global North and Global South markets to create a sustainable financial system that benefits the environment and society as a whole?
  • What roles can responsible investment play in addressing systemic challenges including inequality, entrenched poverty, and a just transition to a low-carbon economy?
  • How can the roles and utility of responsible investment in the context of Global North/Global South challenges and power imbalances be understood to better address systemic challenges?

Funding and proposal submission:

The PRI is allocating £300,000 over five years, starting in 2024, for this research initiative. Interested parties are invited to submit an expression of interest (EoI) by 28 June 2024, with selected candidates proceeding to an interview stage to discuss their EoI with the jury, after which the successful candidate will submit a full proposal that addresses the feedback from the jury. The research is expected to produce deliverables from 2024 to 2029.

how to apply


The PRI has been an essential part of the responsible investment (RI) ecosystem since its establishment in 2006, supporting and encouraging the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks and sustainable investment practices across global markets. As of 2022, there are nearly 5,000 PRI signatories across the world have committed to sustainable investment strategies representing approximately 36% of global assets under management.[1] The growth of RI has taken place in the context of significant increases in risk to global economic, environmental, social, and political systems. Since 2015, a further six safe planetary boundaries have been breached and GHG emissions rose to record-levels in 2022.[2] Current policy commitments are aligned to a 2.4C- 2.6C rise in temperatures by the end of the century, creating critical conditions for up to half of the world’s population[3] with devastating consequences exacerbated by poverty and inequality.

Against the backdrop of such urgent challenges, important questions face the RI industry: Can RI be a path to a better financial system that positively influences the broader systems around it? If so, where and through what methods can we find evidence for existing and potential improvement? Is RI well-designed to contribute to solutions to global challenges? Is RI fit for purpose across Global North/South differences? The field needs more research that tackles such fundamental questions.

We intend for the findings stemming from this grant to inform all areas of PRI’s work and form the basis of where and how we adapt and deploy our work programmes. Inherent within this process is a desire to cultivate a systems thinking approach to responsible investment, which will be a key focus for our approach to future work.

Research questions

The PRI invites expressions of interest for research activities that address the key issues outlined below. The questions included under each key issue represent only a selection and are examples of questions that could be investigated.

The activities from this grant are expected to start in October 2024 with deliverables over the five-year period of the grant through to 2029.

The successful research proposal would envisage an analysis of some of the following questions followed by recommendations for investors and other relevant stakeholders:

  • How can investors and responsible investment better understand and address the differing contexts of Global North and Global South markets to create a sustainable financial system that benefits the environment and society as a whole?
    • What can we learn from analysing capital flows, debt levels and trends in cost of capital across global markets? Where and how do these factors influence the ability to create enabling environments for sustainable, long-term investment and/or the investor levers aimed at creating system-level impacts and sustainable economic development?
    • What is the direction and distribution of stewardship efforts across Global South markets? How are these efforts distinguished to address the particularities of differing ownership structures and mandates, particularly with regards to Asset Owner-led or Asset Manager-led efforts? What efforts can be undertaken to address the ‘engagement gap’ in asset classes outside of Listed Equity and in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs)?
    • What is the potential for stewardship to catalyse effective development activity within the supply chains of global companies? What have we learned from the study of the efficacy of development interventions that could be applied to practices within global supply chains, whether that be health, education, or other local activities supported by local companies – and catalysed through stewardship?
    • How can we better structure investment and policy cooperation between what are traditionally referred to as Developed, Developing and Emerging markets to achieve sustainability outcomes?
  • What roles can responsible investment play in addressing systemic challenges including inequality, entrenched poverty, and a just transition to a low-carbon economy?
    • What can we learn about the structure and market dynamics of Global North and Global South economies and investment value chains? Can the dominant RI approaches of the Global North be applied with positive results to the Global South? What differences do we observe in the role of Asset Owners, Asset Managers, or other intermediaries in the RI approaches across these markets?
    • What are the conditions under which finance capital supports the needs and goals of countries and people of the Global South? In what ways can the private sector and DFIs, MDBs and Central Banks better work together to leverage public and private finance to facilitate a significant scale-up of capital into frontier and emerging private market investments?
    • How can we achieve greater policy coherence between the principles of international organisations, regional, national, and local level policy and regulatory landscapes to enable channels for RI at scale?
  • How can the roles and utility of responsible investment in the context of Global North/Global South challenges and power imbalances be understood to better address systemic challenges?
    • How do the strategies of capital allocation, stewardship and policy engagement need to be reimagined to achieve a sustainable and prosperous financial system for all? This may include a deeper analysis:
      1. Frameworks for measuring system-level impacts (including in relation to established global agreements such as the Paris Agreement and Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, or frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals).
      2. Evidence-base for judging effectiveness of investor activity, including poverty alleviation, job creation, protection of human rights and sustainable development in general.

Elements and outputs of the research

The successful application will include at least two of the following:  

EoI to include 

To provide 



Knowledge creation and applied research that informs investment practitioners and practice.

Comprehensive analysis of extant academic knowledge on the research area.

Opportunities to break down barriers e.g., geographical, disciplinary, economic and between academia and practice

Research project(s) with outputs such as reports with executive summaries and recommendations, blogs, papers, articles, white papers etc with supporting dissemination and impact activities.    



Knowledge exchange.  

Greater collaboration between researchers in the Global North and South to learn and engage with each other, and with practitioners

It is anticipated that research will also stem from these activities that will benefit the advancement of the topics outlined in this call for research and for further cooperation in academia and practice.

Academic, practitioner and policymaker convenings, doctoral colloquia, roundtable series, research workshops, calls for papers etc.

PhD fellowships*

A contribution of financial support to PhD students from low-income countries and/or from underrepresented groups with their studies on the topics outlined in this call for research.

Stipends towards direct costs or supporting costs, such as living costs. 

*The successful candidate and affiliated research centre or organisation(s) will be responsible for demonstrating the governance process to achieve this, to highlight research-intensive supervisors, and to select who the fellowships are awarded to, as well as the amount of the stipends. 

Expressions of interest need:

  • To be led by a principal investigator that is a research focused academic in a Professor / Associate Professor position
  • An interdisciplinary research team to be composed of academics from a university or a consortium that includes collaborations with scholars based in the Global North and South
  • A research team that preferably includes PhD students
  • A clearly articulated research question and a detailed description of the methods and data to be used in answering the call for research
  • To be of international relevance and with societal impact
  • To have outputs directed at investors.

Deliverables from the research will be in English. 

The PRI will highlight the findings from the research and/or research-based activities to its signatories, e.g. author(s) presenting at a future PRI in Person, within the PRI itself, and to offer internship roles at the PRI to PhD students from the fellowships.


Under this initiative, the PRI has set aside up to 300,000 GBP (equivalent).  

Applicants are requested to note that:  

  • Funding is not to be used for research salaries
  • Full Economic Costs can be included but not top-up overhead costs
  • Funding will be issued via yearly invoices (to be discussed with the successful candidate and the needs of the grant activities)
  • If VAT is chargeable, it is inclusive within the grant funding, i.e. the amounts detailed within the invoices related to the grant initiative will include VAT (if appropriate)
  • There will be yearly progress meetings to discuss milestones with the PRI (online) at a minimum with any additional meetings over the five-year period as appropriate.



Deadline for submitting expression of interest 

28 June 

Shortlisted candidates notified 

By 12 July 

Interviews with shortlisted candidates 

22 July - 2 August 

Selected candidate notified 

By 9 August 

Selected candidate to submit full project proposal 

By 23 August 

Research project starts 


Jury members 

  • Dr James Gifford, Managing Director, Head Sustainability and Impact Advisory, UBS Global Wealth Management; Founding Executive Director, PRI
  • Nithya Iyer, Senior Specialist, Sustainable Financial System
  • Lloyd Kurtz, Visiting Scholar, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
  • Denisio Liberato, CEO, BB Asset Management 
  • Katherine Ng, Head, Research, PRI
  • Fiona Reynolds, Non-Executive Director – Climate and Human Rights, Chair UN Global Compact (Australia) and Finance for Peace
  • Laura Starks, Professor of Finance, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin 
  • David Wood, Senior Research Associate, Social Innovation Change Initiative and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

How to apply

Expressions of interest should be submitted using the application form which is available below. 

Enquiries and expressions of interest should be directed to: [email protected]   

The deadline for expressions of interest is 28 June 2024.