PRI priorities begin with climate change actions

Q&A with Fiona Reynolds, CEO, reveals companies and investment community will both need to move to Net Zero to have the desired impact.

Fresh off the victory of Joe Biden as the U.S. President-elect, Fiona Reynolds, CEO at  Principles for Responsible Investment, is hopeful about working with the new administration next year.

But she said working towards Net Zero —  where the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere are in balance — by 2050 will require effort from every sector.

Liz Skinner: What is PRI’s top priority as we look forward to a Biden administration in the U.S.?

Fiona Reynolds: First of all I’d say we’re really excited about working with the Biden administration. There are so many priorities related to sustainable investing, it is really hard to pick just one. However, I think it’s clear that action on climate change is what is urgent. It’s needed. It’s an imperative.

On the environment, the administration really needs to pursue economic policies to address climate change. And it must set a pathway to achieve net zero by 2050. We’ve seen that President-elect Biden has committed to rejoin the Paris Agreement and that’s a really important step, but you also need to put policies in place that will drive that commitment and ensure that it’s achievable, and really does create the opportunities for green investments and jobs — that’s what we’re focused on.

LS: Are the climate change adjustments you’re looking for aimed at urging companies to do more?

FR: I think it needs to be across the whole of the sector. We need to see companies doing more. We need to see the investment community make the shift, as well as all of us moving towards net zero. We need government and we need all the different sectors. So it has to be a whole of the economy pushing if are going to actually get there.

LS: Are there other global priorities of PRI at the top of your list for 2021?

FR: In terms of climate, it’s net zero commitments. How do we get Net Zero commitments from all governments? How do we get them from business and how do we get them from investors themselves, making that commitment across their whole portfolio? The other issue that we’re very focused on is the recovery from COVID-19. So how do we ensure that that recovery is done in a way that’s green and is sustainable? That it’s a recovery that means that we’re creating the economy, the green economy and the green jobs that we need for the future. And then another priority for us is really around human rights.

I think that COVID-19 has really brought human rights much to much more to the forth. I think that for a lot of investors they’re not something that they embed and think about as much. But look at what’s happened during COVID-19. We can really see that if you want to have a healthy economy, then you’ve got to have healthy people and you’ve got to have a healthy planet. And you’ve gotta make sure that you’ve got the conditions to do that.

 We’ve seen too many people who have felt that I’ve got to go to work, even though I’m sick, because I don’t have any minimum rights. How does that happen in today’s world? We need to be able to do something about it going forward, about fixing it so that we’ve got a much fairer society and fairer economy.