SWFs and ethical investing: serving multitude of objectives

October 5, 2009

Sovereign wealth funds, eager to be accepted in the West, are increasingly interested in showing the world that they care about environment and governance by investing in socially responsible firms.

It all sounds good, but the biggest shortfall of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is that it lacks convincing performance details. Therefore, SRI or ethical investing for SWFs is not just about returns: It allows them to combine a multitude of objectives, such as portfolio diversification, enhancing transparency, meeting social goals and gaining acceptance even among critics who suspect they operate politically.

SRI, already a $2.71 trillion industry in the US, involves buying shares in companies that manage environmental, social and governance risks. For example, firms which make clean technologies are in, while businesses that pollute the environment, abuse human rights or produce nuclear arms are out.

Norway is leading the pack with its $400-billion sovereign wealth fund. It names and shames companies the fund expels for not meeting its criteria and pushes the management to be greener.

For more read the analysis here.

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Gordon Clark and Ashby Monk, Oxford University researchers and SWF experts, say that the fund-which only invests abroad-seeks to give global effect to national values and commitments with its ethical investment policies.

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