At a time of heightened political and societal sensitivity, the debates that took place at the PRI Academic Network Conference 2017 were brought into sharp focus.

One such issue is economic inequality and migration. Social cohesion and inclusive growth: the investment risks and opportunities focuses on the geopolitical influences on investment decision-making, how and why they are material, and the role of investors. Social factors, the relationship with GDP growth and global trends are also under the microscope in Long-term social issues drive economic growth, so why aren’t investors behind the wheel?

The PRI is delighted to commend the winners of the PRI Award for Outstanding Research. In the winning qualitative paper, Governing responsible business conduct through financial markets? The case of French socially responsible investing, Giamporcaro, Gond and O’Sullivan consider the role of successive French governments in shaping CSR behaviour both within and through the financial marketplace, and explain why and how the country’s SRI market has grown so strongly. Food for thought for the wider European market.

The winning paper of the quantitative prize, The sustainability footprint of institutional investors is by Gibson Brandon and Kruger. The authors get to the heart of quantifying the portfolio-level sustainability of institutional investors and find that longer investment horizons (and even shorter term, quarterly) reaps risk-adjusted returns. They also investigate why institutional investors hold sustainability-oriented portfolio allocations.

Robertson, the author of the winning student paper, Responsible investment requires a proxy voting system responsive to retail investors, takes a historical approach. The paper notes that institutional investors have increasingly incorporated ESG issues into their proxy voting and corporate engagement, but at the same time retail investors have become increasingly disengaged in terms of proxy voting.

The future continues to be in our editorial line of vision in The future of RI: How and where will millennials invest? Millennials will change finance and the investment industry, but finance and investment needs to change for them. This is our central question and the PRI instigated a Call for Essays for Masters and PhD students under the age of 35 to consider: 1. The top three challenges and opportunities the investment industry has not focused on adequately; 2. How and where current investment practice needs to change to step up?; 3. How to design and tailor RI criteria? and, 4. How can RI be delivered?

What we do and how we do it – indeed how we construct our investment universe and incentivise behaviours – is the focus of Beyond modern portfolio theory. Risk and return being the guiding North Star has severe and wide-ranging consequences for investment and society. The PRI is issuing a Call for Papers on modern portfolio theory that seeks to understand the practical limitations of its application and provide a critique. The prize is £10,000.

This edition also shares early insights from our first Call for Research. Two projects were commissioned to examine the success factors, and the impact on corporate financial performance, of collaborative engagement on ESG issues on a global scale. Local leads, backed by global scale: the drivers of successful engagement and How ESG engagement creates value: bringing the corporate perspective to the fore provide a preview of the full reports that will be published in the coming months.

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    PRI RI Quarterly: Highlights from the Academic Network Conference and PRI in Person 2017

    October 2017