Quand finance rime avec environnement

Environmental Investment Organisation (EIO) est un organisme indépendant basé en angleterre, à but non-lucratif qui recherche et met en œuvre des stratégies afin que le système financier prenne en compte les problèmes environnementaux et éthiques.

Créée en 1996, l’organisation a mis en place l’Environmental Tracking Index Series qui permet d’investir dans les entreprises ayant un moindre impact écologique. Pour y parvenir, l’organisme doit identifier ces investisseurs potentiels pour utiliser leur influence dans le monde de la finance. EIO veut persuader le maximum d’entreprises de réduire leur émission de gaz à effet de serre.

Dans cette interview, le PDG de EIO va nous présenter ses indices et le but de son organisme :

Q: Sam Gill, you are the CEO of Environmental Investment Organisation, which creates alternative indices to measure environmental efficiency of companies. How have you designed your indices?

The series of Environmental Tracking (ET) indices has been designed to provide investors with a mainstream investment product capable of influencing company share price in line with emissions.

In terms of their construction, companies are first selected for inclusion within the indices based on their market size; rather than their environmental performance. This means that the stocks within the index are comparable to equivalent traditional market capitalisiation based indices, such the CAC40 or the FTSEurofirst 300, for example. This is fundamentally different to the ‘best in class’ approach where companies are selected based on Environmental, Social or Governance criteria rather than purely market size.

Once the companies have been selected, the Environmental Investment Organisation creates an ET Carbon Carbon Ranking in order to determine each company’s position relative to its peers. The ET Carbon Rankings are based exclusively on publicly available data and their aim is to be a catalyst in the evolution of the emissions reporting landscape, encouraging lower emissions and higher levels of transparency.

Finally, each company within an ET Index is re-weighted, either positively or negatively, on a sliding scale, based on its position in the fully transparent ET Carbon Rankings. The logic being that if a sufficiently large pool of investors can be persuaded to begin tracking the index series, then capital can be shifted away from the most pollutant companies and towards those who are leading the field in terms of efficiency and transparency. At sufficient scale, this could change the demand for company shares, and therefore influence share price. The re-weighting system is designed to provide maximum incentive on the one hand, and minimum deviation from the non weight-adjusted counterpart on the other.

Q: Do you think it is possible for investment banks to effectively implement a positive discrimination policy?

It is indeed possible for investment banks and other investors to employ a screening process, choosing to invest solely in stocks that meet certain criteria, and indeed many already do. In the Socially Responsible Investment arena would generally be Environmental, Social or Governance related. Perhaps the best known might be the FTSE4good index or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

However, there are two points to consider. Firstly, once a ‘screen’ is put in place and certain companies are excluded, the performance tends to move further away from the underlying broad market which would have been captured through investing in a conventional market capitalisation based index. Given the logic of indexing is precisely to track the performance of the market without occurring the risk of trying to ‘pick winners’ or incurring additional costs in undertaking the specialised – and often subjective – research required to ascertain which companies should be excluded, we start to move further and further away from the notion of indexing. This makes it increasingly difficult to appeal to mainstream investors who may wish to track the broad market, and, therefore, attract a sufficient amount of investment to make any kind of structural impact. Secondly, by excluding certain companies which may not fit the criteria, the investor relinquishes the ability to influence them. This is problematic as it may well be that the most pollutant companies are precisely the ones which need to greatest impetus to shift towards a low carbon model.

Q: Are your indices currently being used as part of any investors’ socially responsible investment mandate? What has the feedback been like so far?

We created two pilot indices last year, the ET UK 100 and ET Europe 300, in order to demonstrate the indices’ ability to closely track their non weight-adjusted counterparts. We have had a great deal of positive feedback from within the industry and are currently lobbying the Norwegian government, which has the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Fund, to consider this initiative as part of its investment portfolio given it would be very much in line with the country’s stance of climate change. We are currently seeking further funding as an organisation which would enable us to launch further indices and maintain the ET Carbon Rankings going forward, once this funding round has been completed we will begin actively marketing the index series to the investment community. Watch this space…

Q: Have you witnessed any change in company behaviour (public disclosure, emissions reduction…) since you implemented your initiative?

As last year was the first year that we created our set of Global ET Carbon Rankings covering the world’s largest 1,200 companies we won’t be able to measure overall changes for some time yet. Although even from the changes between the initial publication of the ET Europe 300 in April 2011 and its republication in November 2011, we have witnessed improvements in the levels of disclosure and verification. We have aslo had several direct successes so far, with Randgold Resources and Carnival Corporation ($10 billion and $25 billion market cap respectively) beginning to disclose emissions data as a result of directly engaging with the Environmental Investment Organisation.
As the Rankings become more well known we expect to see them do more to encourage companies to disclose their emissions data. Although until we reach a stage where we have 100% disclosure, it will be harder to give a realistic estimate as to the level of emissions across these companies.

Q : Do you measure that responsible investments are more used? Is this progress sensible in terms of collect of assets?

There are essentially two market trends which the EIO points to in relation to its Environmental Tracking concept. Firstly, the increasing number of investors moving to passive investment strategies, i.e. investing through index funds. Secondly, the increasing number of investors incorporating environmental and other Socially Responsible criteria into investment policy. We can see a variety of different sources suggesting that Socially Responsible Investment is growing rapidly, particularly in Europe, and increasing numbers of investors are interested in environmental indicators, particularly Carbon.

FYI: Research from the Europe Social Investment Forum (Eurosif) suggests that the European market has almost doubled from €2.7 trillion of assets under management in 2007 to €5 trillion at the end of 2009.

Pour en savoir plus, http://www.eio.org.uk/

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