David Atkin

The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is reviewing its strategy, program of work and operating model to better serve its more than 5000 signatories.

“There’s a lot of risks in the world, signatories are under a lot of pressure and how do we support signatories become better at what they do now,” chief executive David Atkin tells Investment Magazine.

“The PRI is now at a point where it needs to go to its next level of maturity, we’ve got to be able to industrialise the way we set the place up.”

Established in 2006, the PRI has now grown to over 5000 signatories, representing more than US$120 trillion ($179 trillion) of the world’s assets under management. Signatories to the principles are of the view ESG issues have a material impact on the investment and returns of their portfolios.

“Part of being a member of the PRI is joining the mission to improve your own practices, but also to work collaboratively to create enough momentum influence to change the settings so that it’s rewarding,” he says.

Atkin has been running the PRI for close to a year, having previously served as chief executive of Cbus, ESS Super and JUST SUPER. “My role as the CEO of the PRI is to ensure that we plot out a strategy that makes sense to signatories for the next phase of responsible investment,” he says.

One of the agency’s key roles is to help signatories manage the growing burden of regulation on the sustainability reporting. “We’re seeing this regulation just accelerate. There is a very important role to play for the PRI to try and harmonise that regulation to bring a practitioners’ view,” he says.

A refresh

The agency has embarked on a consultation to refresh its mission statement, program of work and operating mode. “We have a mission statement that the board was worried wasn’t fit for purpose of the next phase of the PRI’s work,” he says.

Atkin and his team have been travelling around the world to conduct workshops with signatories to explore ideas around different pathways and seeking views around six themes around accountability, the PRI’s policy work and the diversity of signatories and their different needs. A report will be tabled to the board of directors in February with recommendations.

“What we’re learning is that context matters. That the environment that you’re operating in, the geography, the regulatory environment, your customer base or your beneficiaries you’re serving, all will shape the way you approach ESG and so to believe that there’s one way is flawed.”

One of the ideas being considered is adopting a menu of pathways around zero around sustainability stewardship or around asset class. “You choose the pathway and then we would provide you with the tools, the networks, the convening groups, where you would share your experience, and then we would use the reporting and assessment to report back to you on your progression of the pathway you select,” he says.

“We will have all this rich data to work out what is the right strategy, program of work and the right target operating model to support the strategy.”

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