“It’s been a fascinating week and one that clearly shows the speed with which the asset management industry will adopt ESG!”
Matt Christensen, Global Head of Responsible Investment at AXA IM, is back from the UN PRI conference in Paris and shares his views.
When we look back at 2019 and the topic of Responsible Investment (RI), I believe we will remember that this was the year when ESG mainstreaming became impossible to ignore. Whatever might be ahead of us in terms of markets, ESG is clearly expected as part of the fabric of what an asset manager offers its clients – across all asset classes. There have been many ways to witness this transformation, but if we take just this week alone and focus on the role of government in this change of expectation, it may be instructive.
The annual PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) event is an important milestone in the calendar in that it directly impacts cities and countries. Significantly, for a French asset manager such as AXA IM, this year’s PRI in Person event was held in Paris. More than 1,700 people attended the event, making it the biggest crowd of investors ever to meet and discuss trends, opportunities, and challenges surrounding RI.
I have been attending PRI events for many years, and what struck me this time around was the role governments can play as a key stakeholder. In previous years, the event has often been driven by asset owners (clients) and their growing demands for ESG integration.
This time around, the French government showed its resolve to shape the next chapter for ESG. President Macron provided a video speech that outlined France’s the commitments to the COP 21 Paris Accord, highlighting steps that the State continues to take to encourage public and private investment around the topic.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire delivered a keynote speech in which he stated that inequality and climate change are linked and without leadership from private and public sectors, the planet is at risk of civil unrest and market turmoil. He finished his remarks by stating, ‘Young people need concrete answers from all of us!’, probably echoing Greta Thunberg.
This commitment of the French government was repeated during AXA IM Private Dinner with clients last night. A panel was held on ‘how non-liberal democracies might possibly make faster progress to meaningfully address climate change challenges’ was discussed. The discussion revolved around State-led solutions, with China receiving focus from panelists and audience members about its rapid advances in climate solutions and potential to be the recipient of large scale investments from foreign investors due to its focus on innovation and cost reductions in solutions for the market.
All in all, it’s been a fascinating week and one which clearly shows the speed with which the asset management industry will adopt ESG. For AXA IM, we have a head start, but it will be incumbent on us to also innovate around the next wave which will be client demand for impact solutions across asset classes.
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