Q&A with PRI CEO Fiona Reynolds

First ever live expert panel on Twitter with PRI CEO Fiona Reynolds - the full Q&A

ESG Clarity was delighted with the success of its first ever live expert Q&A session for readers on Twitter on 14 May with the CEO of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) Fiona Reynolds

Readers of ESG Clarity were invited to pose questions to Fiona Reynolds (pictured) on the impact the covid-19 pandemic is having on responsible investing using #AskFionaReynolds and tagging @ESGClarity.

The response was fantastic with thought-provoking questions from across the industry put to Reynolds. We have collated all the questions and answers below for readers to view in one place.

The live Q&A is a new initiative from ESG Clarity to boost interaction between the in-house team and our readers, as well as connect them with ESG investing experts such as the CEO of the PRI.

We are asking readers to send further suggestions to Natalie.kenway@lastwordmedia.com on who they would like to interview in the next Live Q&A Twitter sessions. These should be experts in responsible investing space, for example a senior person at a government or trade body/organisation, charity representative, or somebody in a senior position at a think tank, campaign organisations, regulatory committees, network etc.

Live Twitter Q&A with PRI CEO Fiona Reynolds

@ESGClarity: What has surprised you the most since the covid-19 pandemic hit?

@FiReynolds: Pleasingly, I must say CV-19 has put a focus on the S in #ESG particularly on #labour rights. For far too long S issues have been the poor cousin. If you don’t have healthy people or a healthy planet you don’t have a healthy economy.

@leenafatin: Can you share your views on how we can incorporate building resilience against pandemics and how this has to be addressed in the issue of the transition towards a sustainable world?

@FiReynolds: I strongly believe that in the recovery from #cv-19 we need to #BuildBackBetter and put #sustainability at the core of the recovery roadmap otherwise we will just have more pandemics. Healthy people, healthy planet makes a healthy economy.

@trwoodfield: How does the PRI plan to tackle greenwashing by some of its members?

@FiReynolds: Put in place minimum standards and this year will be first year that we delist signatories who don’t meet them.

@WhileyAndrew: There are many calls for green finance & investment to be at the core of economic planning for recovery. Are central banks & govts listening? How can we shift the financial system in both public & private sectors towards climate & sustainability?

@FIreynolds: Today [14 May] I spent 2 hours with @topnigel [High Level Champion for Climate Action COP26] giving evidence to the UK @CommonsEAC [Environmental Audit Committee] talking about the recovery and #climate and they asked some tough questions so I do think they are listening, now they need to turn it into action.

@vgpbeethoven: PRI places strong emphasis on AMs [asset managers] + AOs [asset owners]. With increased demand for ESG among end investors. Is PRI planning to look into world of financial intermediaries (advisers, wealth managers, retail/private banks…) to provide guidance on product selection?

@FiReynolds: Intermediaries play an important role, in some cases we find @Pri_news that they are a road block to progress particularly some investment consultants in regions like the US. They just dont get #esg and give bad advice to AOs

@Andytuit: Covid-19 and #climatecrisis are deeply linked: Don’t you think a shift from ‘sustainable’ to #EmergencyFinance may help fight both better?

@FiReynolds: Couldn’t agree more that #CV-19 and #climate are linked and that without healthy people and a healthy planet – there is no healthy #economy. I think others are waking up to what we have both known for along time #buildbackbetter

@SarasinPartners: Turning the spotlight on the asset management sector, how are #responsibleinvestors themselves behaving when it comes to bonuses, dividends, staff support and use of government bailouts?

@FiReynolds: I can’t promise that everyone of them will behave well but I believe most walk the talk, my colleagues in asset management are in the main feeling supported by their employers.

@SarasinPartners: Are investors supportive of this shift in focus towards stakeholders, or should shareholders (and dividends) be prioritised above providing support to staff and suppliers? Has @PRI_News been able to forge a consensus among investor members of this?

@FiReynolds: Yes #responsible investors believed in a stakeholder approach well before organisations like the business round table. That is what #esg investing is all about – taking a wider view. Now @PRI_News signatories need to hold them to account

@SarasinPartners: Does covid-19 offer an opportunity to test whether companies are serious about their new found interest in stakeholder capitalism, as set out by the Business Roundtable?

@FiReynolds: Absolutely and the spotlight is on them – are their claims going to be worth more than the paper they are written on? @PRI_News signatories must hold them to account and measure their actions againt their words

@TeniEkundare: In light of #covid, what can responsible investors as stewards of capital do to help protect employees in difficult #workingconditions (eg meat processors) vs protecting returns on their investments? Are the two mutually exclusive objectives?

@FiReynolds: @PRI_News signatories are active in their engagement with companies, a key aspect is human capital management. They are expecting companies to protect their staff, and asking questions and for reporting on employee arrangements – changes to working hours, furloughs, health.

@Natural_Returns: Given the origin of today’s challenges, frameworks like TCFD [Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures] have helped investors to understand the climate impact of their investments – is measuring our broader impact on nature next?

@FiReynolds: Thanks for your question. I think measuring the impact of all the investments you make including nature is important. Too many investors don’t measure impacts at all. They don’t know if they are making a difference. We at @PRI_News are working on this in our #SDG framework

@thediversegirl: What can assets owners do about the disconnect in behaviour between ESG commitments vs board level renumeration linked to increased share price via buy backs.

@Fireynolds: In the near-term AOs need to consider carefully their vote on share buy backs. In times of crisis it should be hard for companies to justify distributing capital to shareholders in this way – so they should send clear signals that buy backs won’t be supported.

@thediversegirl: What sort of questions should asset owners be asking fund managers to improve corporate culture change and diversity without investment management firms?

@FiReynolds: Asset owners should ask about how managers are recruiting for different talent + what is their plan to retain and develop that talent to guarantee a culture of inclusion and diverse leadership.

Don’t forget to follow @ESGCLarity and @PRINews for all the latest responsible investing news, updates and analysis

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Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...