Last month I attended the Principal Officers Association Winter Conference in Johannesburg. The conference touched on many subjects: trustee education, transition management, etc. But the subject that seemed to ruffle feathers the most was incorporating environmental, social and governance factors into investment practices.
Some attendees showed concern about investing for the social good but not having the returns to show for it. One attendee said this would go against his fiduciary duty. Others said they didn’t want to pay extra for ESG services.
Coming from Europe, I was surprised to see this. It seems that conferences throughout Europe and the US treat ESG as a warm and fuzzy investment practice. Providers tout the benefits of a double-bottom-line (returns and social impact) gained from responsible investment practices, and many institutional investors heartily agree.
Speakers from asset managers like the Public Investment Corporation and Futuregrowth Asset Management, made the case that you don’t have to sacrifice returns when practicing responsible investing.
Both gave examples of a more high-octane type of developmental investing that would have an immediate impact on scheme members, like rural development funds that create jobs in rural areas, for example. Job creation was of huge focus during the ESG conversations and rightly so in a country with a 25% unemployment rate.
South Africa seems to be unique in the way it looks at ESG in that much of the focus wasn’t geared towards saving the planet from global warming, or other longer-term ills. The focus was on helping members now – dealing with poverty and unemployment.
But the conference was not the only reason I flew to South Africa.
This was the third year Global Pensions partnered with the Principal Officers Association to host the Imbasa Yegolide Awards, the pension awards are aimed at recognising the hard work of service providers in the South African market.
The gala was held on 6 June at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg. As always, the event was a huge success with representatives from across the country attending.
There were 19 categories and a full list of the winners can be found here. (To read our full coverage of the South African pension market, click here.)
Congratulations to all the winners of the Imbasa Yegolide Awards 2011!
Raquel Pichardo-Allison, Editor
Richard Wohanka is to chair The Pension Superfund's trustee board, working alongside professional firm 2020 Trustees to safeguard members' benefits.
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