One of the next big developments on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) scene will be the May release of the CFA Institute’s draft standards for ESG investment products.
The CFA Institute isn’t aiming to reinvent the wheel or set definitive global standards, said Brian Minns, vice-president of sustainable finance at Montreal-based Addenda Capital and member of the CFA Institute’s ESG technical committee.
Minns spoke during a panel on emerging ESG standards at the the Responsible Investment Association’s Feb. 25 symposium on proxies, policies and taxonomies. He said the CFA Institute is aiming to “weave together the different bits and pieces that we’re seeing develop around the world” in an effort to provide clarity around ESG standards.
Minns noted that the European Union and the U.S.-based Sustainability Accounting Standards Board have been advocating for ESG transparency for years.
Alongside promoting clear, consistent communication from asset managers on the ESG-related features of their products, Minns said, the CFA Institute’s end goal is “a common top-level framework with common terminology” for investors.
Another priority is ensuring that that regulators, institutions and investment firms all pull their weight when it comes to ESG transparency, Minns said.
Judy Cotte, CEO of Toronto-based ESG Global Advisors and a speaker on the same panel, warned that Canada is at risk of being overtaken by the U.S. on ESG progress. She claimed that the Canadian Securities Administrators have been “silent” on ESG, outside of initial steps taken in 2019.
Canada has a choice to make when it comes to ESG leadership, Minns said: “We can learn from [our peers] and build expertise and resources, or we can just get left behind.”
The panel also discussed other ESG initiatives happening in Canada and around the world.
- A November 2020 report from the Global Risk Institute in Financial Services said Canadian banks and pensions have ramped up efforts to disclose material climate-related risks and goals.
- The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions wants to help financial institutions and pension plans address climate risks.
- Recommendations from the Ontario Capital Markets Modernization Task Force include diversity targets for issuers and guidelines for proxy advisory firms.
- The U.S. has rejoined the Paris Agreement, set goals for a carbon pollution–free power sector by 2035 and wants a net-zero economy by 2050.
- The Biden administration will review a Department of Labor rule that made it harder for pension plans to invest in ESG funds.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission has created a senior advisor role for climate and ESG.
- New fund classification rules under the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation are coming into effect in the EU at the end of March.
- The EU Sustainable Finance Action Plan is centred on mitigating climate change and transitioning to a “circular economy” that protects ecosystems.