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talks start on creating Europe-wide SRI body

January 2001

Plans for a Europe-wide body to promote socially responsible investment (SRI) are being developed by SRI practitioners from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

The non profit body has no official name yet, but its working title is the European Social Investment Forum.

Eurosif would bring together a number of national forums modelled on the UK Social Investment Forum, which was set up in 1991 to ‘promote and encourage the development and positive impact of SRI’ throughout the UK.

It is not clear at this stage how such a body would operate, but SRI practitioners from the five countries have been working together to develop a possible model.

A German Sustainability Investment Forum is due to be launched this month. The new organization will promote the development and dissemination of sustainable investment products and has the backing of at least 12 national organizations, including financial service providers.

There are also plans to start a similar forum in Italy, although these are at a very early stage.

In France a new body, Forum Investissement Responsable, will be set up this month to promote SRI.

The Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), has been established for five years and brings together financial institutions with a special interest in SRI. It currently has a membership of 20 institutions.

Uksif executive director Penny Shepherd said the parties involved believed it was necessary to create a pan-European body because of the rapid growth of interest in SRI.

‘We see a strong demand for information and networking across Europe,’ she said.

‘We hope in the next few months to seek support from the European Commission to help us get this off the ground. And we want to talk to those who are interested as to how we move it forward’, Shepherd added.

She said Eurosif would concentrate on ‘information-gathering and dissemination, knowledge exchange among investment institutions and spreading the idea of SRI around Europe’.

It could do this by setting up a web site, organising surveys and briefings, and holding seminars and round table discussions.

The number of Belgian investment funds run on socially responsible lines more than doubled in 2000. Ethibel, a Brussels-based research organization that labels ethical financial products, says there are now 26 Belgian SRI funds, compared with 11 in 1999.

Dexia Bank, Bank van Breda and Artesia Bank were among those to launch funds in 2000.

Dirk van Braeckel, Ethibel’s research co-ordinator, said the growth had been ‘explosive’ and the 26 funds now had £1billion (€1.7bn) under management. However, he added that ‘this still represents only 0.1 per cent of the total market at the end of 1999.’

The first two Belgian SRI funds were launched in 1992 by VMS and KBC.




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