Rising to the Challenge: Exploring Key Themes in Sustainability, Regulation and Responsible Investment at the 2024 RIA Conference

July 10th, 2024 | RIA Staff

As the landscape of responsible investment (RI) continues to evolve, the theme of “Rising to the Challenge” encapsulated the industry’s unwavering commitment to progress despite unprecedented obstacles. At the 2024 RIA Conference, industry leaders and professionals gathered to address the pressing challenges and explore innovative solutions that drive sustainability forward. From regulatory shifts to geopolitical tensions, the responsible investment community demonstrated resilience and adaptability, reaffirming its dedication to fostering positive change and sustainable growth in an ever-changing world. The conference also highlighted the proactive measures and strategic insights necessary to navigate these complexities, ensuring that responsible investment remains a powerful force for good.

Held in Vancouver in May, the RIA Conference brought together over 300 responsible investment professionals from across Canada to explore the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities for the industry. Structured around several key themes, the 2024 Conference provided attendees with deep insights into sustainability practices, regulatory developments, and the future of responsible investment.

Navigating Regulatory Developments

A significant portion of the Conference was dedicated to understanding and anticipating regulatory changes. The ‘2024 Regulatory Roundtable’ session provided a comprehensive overview of proposed and current regulations around sustainability disclosures impacting the RI industry. Discussions covering topics critical to both advisors and investors, including the proposed CSA standards and disclosure rules; the duty of advisors and due diligence obligations; and fund labelling and global regulatory frameworks.

Global Challenges and Perspectives

A key session, ‘Responsible Investment in a Time of Populism’ explored the rise of populist movements and the geopolitical tensions that exacerbate uncertainties for responsible investors. The discussion delved into the latest polling data to illustrate how changing societal attitudes and dynamics could impact investment strategies, emphasizing the need for resilience and adaptability. Panelists shared actionable advice on mitigating portfolio risks and anticipating the potential repercussions of populist policies on global markets.

Keynote speakers also provided important perspectives on building a more sustainable and inclusive economic system and emphasized the role of RI principles in driving positive change and innovation. In his luncheon keynote, ‘RI in a Globalized Economy,’ Paul Clements-Hunt emphasized the important history of ESG principles, how they have evolved and the role of RI in driving positive change and innovation.

Furthermore, the conference tackled skepticism around ESG investing, including the challenges associated with ESG metrics, such as the perception of compromised financial returns and the contentious debate around the standardization of ESG criteria. Experts dispelled common myths and highlighted the importance of robust, transparent practices in fostering long-term sustainability and investor confidence.

Indigenous Rights and RI

Integrating Indigenous rights into RI practices was also significant theme at this year’s conference. The session ‘Integrating Indigenous Rights with ESG Principles’ underscored the importance of respecting Indigenous sovereignty, reconciliation and consent within investment frameworks, highlighting how such integration fosters meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities and enhances sustainable investment strategies. The focus on Indigenous rights emphasized a holistic approach to ESG, ensuring that investments contribute positively to social equity and long-term environmental stewardship.

Retail Advisors: Servicing the Client RI Gap

The opportunity for retail advisors to better service clients was thoroughly explored, focusing on the dynamics of advisor-client relationships and the role of wholesalers in promoting responsible investment. The session ‘Bridging the Client RI Gap: Innovative Practices for Advisors’ provided strategies to align client expectations with sustainable investment practices, while the discussion in ‘Driving Responsible Investment: Perspectives on the Wholesaler-Advisor Relationship’ highlighted the importance of open communication and collaboration. Together, these sessions underscored the critical role of retail advisors in advancing RI principles and enhancing client outcomes.

Transition to Net Zero

The journey to net zero was a central theme, emphasizing the crucial role of innovation and data integrity in achieving climate goals. Key sessions included:

Innovations, Developments, and Opportunities in Canada’s Energy Transition: Focused on advancements in renewable technologies, carbon capture and nuclear energy and highlighted the potential of these innovations to reduce carbon footprints.

Critical Minerals and Mining – Balancing Net-Zero Ambitions with Social Responsibilities: Discussed the need to balance economic opportunities with social and environmental responsibilities while recognizing Canada’s pivotal role in supplying minerals essential for the green economy.

Getting Accurate Sustainability Data: Addressed the challenges of current sustainability data, which is often estimated and unverified and advocated for more reliable and verified information to enhance investment decisions.

Climate Resilience – Managing Physical Risks in Your Portfolio: Explored strategies for adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change and stressed the importance of resilience in investment portfolios.

These sessions provided a comprehensive view of the path to net zero, combining technological innovation, responsible resource management and robust data practices.

Insights into Future Responsible Investment Practices

The conference concluded with a discussion on the future of RI, with insightful exchanges on evolving trends and strategic directions. The ‘Insights from Asset Owners’ session provided diverse perspectives on balancing beneficiary needs with emerging risks and opportunities, emphasizing the importance of sustainability in investment strategies. The concluding session, ‘Financial Markets as a Force for Good’, explored innovative approaches and emerging trends in harnessing finance to drive sustainable development and positive investment performance. Together, these discussions highlighted the potential of RI to build a more equitable and resilient global economy.

2025 RIA Conference Toronto

The 2024 RIA Conference was a resounding success, offering attendees a wealth of knowledge, practical strategies and opportunities for networking. The themes explored throughout the Conference underscored the importance of sustainability, regulatory awareness and innovative approaches to responsible investment. We look forward to continuing these vital conversations on June 3-4, 2025, at the 2025 RIA Conference in Toronto.


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RIA Staff

Responsible Investment Association

The Responsible Investment Association (RIA) is Canada’s industry association for responsible investment. RIA Members include asset managers, asset owners, advisors, and service providers who support our mandate of promoting responsible investment in Canada’s retail and institutional markets.