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‘ethics lite’ SRI funds told to adopt Dutch standards

June 2002

Signs are emerging that a Dutch accreditation standard for socially responsible investment funds could be extended throughout Europe.

The voluntary standard was launched in March this year by the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) to encourage SRI fund managers to disclose more information on how they choose their investments.

Among other things, the 14-point Dutch standard asks investment funds to provide their clients with detailed information on the methods they use to assess companies.

It also requires an SRI fund manager to tell companies what changes they would need to make in order to satisfy the criteria adopted by the fund.

It was drawn up following discussions with SRI fund providers and has been voluntarily adopted by a number of them, including ABN Amro, Henderson Global Investors, ING, Postbank and Triodos Bank.

Support for the idea is now growing in Europe, including the UK. The UK-based New Economics Foundation think tank says it received a ‘very favourable response’ from the SRI sector to its recent call for a national or European standard overseen or initiated by the UK Social Investment Forum or the European Social Investment Forum. Uksif has privately said it is willing to host a meeting to discuss the idea.

Piet Sprengers, director of VBDO, said the Dutch standard had been well received by funds operating in the Netherlands and by others elsewhere in Europe. ‘This greatly increases the probability that Eurosif will introduce the guidelines throughout the major European nations,’ he claimed.

NEF argues that a certified standard for SRI based on the Dutch model would counter the recent trend towards what it calls ‘ethics lite’ SRI, in which fund managers ‘water down their ethical criteria while claiming to apply “strict environmental rules” to the companies they invest in.’

The Dutch standard will not come into formal use until 2003, but most Dutch funds have said they will begin to implement it this year.




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