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SRI proponents warned of ‘push back’

July 2006

Signs are emerging of a possible backlash against socially responsible investment in some quarters, according to a specialist in the field.

Stephen Hine, head of international relations at Ethical Investment Research Services, told an SRI summit in Stockholm last month that he had detected growing hostility to SRI, both in Europe and the US, in government circles and among some mainstream investors.

‘I’m afraid there is a bit of a backlash in certain quarters,’ he said. ‘It’s not a huge one, but it’s something we have to be aware of. It may even be a positive thing if it keeps us thinking.’

Robin Edme, president of the European Social Investment Forum, told the 5th annual summit on corporate governance and responsible investment that he agreed with Hine’s assessment, pointing to the absence of any reference to SRI in the European Commission’s second white paper as evidence that SRI supporters were in danger of losing ground.

However, Edme also felt that a backlash might be a ‘good thing’ because it would prompt proponents ‘to think of ways to accelerate the take-up of SRI’. One SRI specialist of long experience told EP: ‘The push back is coming, that’s for sure. It largely relates to the fact that mainstream institutional investors are not at all comfortable with the idea of being ‘anti-investors’ in the way that some SRI people are demanding. They can’t go underweight, or not invest, in major sectors such as oil and gas – and they are not attracted by any undue emphasis on values. ‘But they are looking for a product that is long term, so that is where SRI supporters should focus.’




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