First Sentier sets up sustainable research group

The fund manager has partnered with its main shareholder to form the First Sentier MUFG Sustainable Investment Institute.

Backed by several academics, the institute the institute will commission and publish research on a range of sustainability and sustainable investment related topics, according to a statement.

The research aims to enhance industry awareness of sustainable investment, report on market trends and best practice, and promote a greater understanding of how such issues can impact long-term investment performance.

“Sustainability issues have an impact on society and the environment and increasingly affect the performance of companies, sectors, and economies,” said Mark Steinberg, CEO of First Sentier Investors.

First Sentier Investors, which manages $180.3bn in assets across Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas, has teamed up with its owner, Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, to establish the institute.

The group’s first report, titled “Microplastic Pollution: Causes, Consequences, and Issues for Investors”, was published on Wednesday, as part of the launch. Researched and authored by Chronos Sustainability, the report explores the critical and growing problem of microplastics and microfibers in the environment and the potential effect on human health.

The study outlines regulatory, behavioural and operational actions that should be taken to remove this pollution and prevent more from entering the environment, according to the statement.

The institute has appointed an external academic advisory board to inform its research agenda and ensure its research meets high standards of rigour. The initial members bring research expertise, along with experience in working with governments, the financial services industry and leading sustainability initiatives.

These include Alex Edmans, professor of finance at London Business School and academic director of the Centre for Corporate Governance, Norichika Kanie, professor in the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Keio University, and Dr Jake Reynolds, executive director, sustainable economy, at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

The institute plans to appoint additional academic board members in due course. To meet its goal of being an independently-led body, the institute will also appoint an external candidate to lead the organisation.

“Investors today are, more than ever, seeking independent and robust research that not only increases awareness and understanding of environmental, social and governance issues but which also drives change,” said Takayuki Yasuda, chief executive, asset management & investor services business unit at the Trust Bank.