What’s on at the 2021 RIA Virtual Conference

May 6th, 2021 | RIA Staff

The steady progression of responsible investment (RI) in Canada over the last decade has given way to a flood of new developments in just the last year. Fund companies have launched many new ESG-themed investment products, with fund inflows hitting record numbers. Governments have introduced new policies and support mechanisms to facilitate and encourage sustainable finance. And companies and investors alike have committed to ambitious ESG goals, such as net zero emissions targets as part of global effort to keep the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C over the preindustrial era. Topics that were very recently the subject matter domain of ESG specialists are becoming central to long term investment strategies the world over.

It is in this unique market context that we’ve organized the second RIA Virtual Conference, which will cover cutting-edge and emerging topics in ESG and sustainable finance with national and international experts. Every investment professional should be up to speed on the latest issues and trends in the field.

From Monday, June 7th to Friday, June 11th, we will host 10+ main sessions, with an introductory session for those new to RI hosted on Friday, June 4th. The conference schedule and sessions are organized around critical topics in the industry:

Opening Day – June 7th

CEO Roundtable: Leadership and Governance for a Sustainable & Inclusive Canada

We are in a moment of societal crisis. As the climate crisis continues to escalate, the pandemic has revealed and exacerbated stark inequities along racial and socioeconomic lines. The racial injustice reckoning of 2020 led the business community to make a wide range of pledges and commitments in support of a more inclusive business landscape. Key questions arise: Are corporate governance practices sufficient to drive a more sustainable and inclusive business landscape in Canada? How does governance need to evolve? And, crucially, how can business leaders leverage their position to drive sustainability and inclusion? A panel of Canadian business leaders will join this session to explore the future of Canada’s business and investment landscape, and what leaders need to do for Canada to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Keynote Address: Mark Carney

Mark Carney is the United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance and Vice Chair & Head of ESG and Impact Fund Investing at Brookfield Asset Management. Prior to his current roles, Mark served as the Governor of the Bank of Canada from 2008-13 and Governor of the Bank of England from 2013-20. He was Chair of the Financial Stability Board from 2011 to 2018, during which time he oversaw the launch of the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures. Mark is a long-time and well-known advocate for sustainability, specifically with regard to the management and reduction of climate risks. Following his keynote address, Mark will join RBC’s Valerie Chort for a candid conversation about the path forward for sustainable finance in Canada and globally.

Net Zero Day – June 8th

The Net Zero Corporation: Strategies & Practices for Corporations to Align their Operations with Net Zero

In order to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, we must keep the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C over the preindustrial era. To achieve this target, global carbon emissions must decline to net-zero by approximately 2050. As a result, a growing number of companies are making commitments to align their business with net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. In this session, representatives from Unilever and Pan American Silver will join BlackRock for a conversation about the challenges they face, and the strategies and practices they intend to leverage to put their companies on a pathway to net zero.

The Net Zero Portfolio: Strategies & Practices for Investors to Align their Portfolios with Net Zero

Following our earlier session with corporations about their strategies for net zero, this session will focus on strategies and practices for investors to align their portfolios with net zero emissions. The transition to a low or no-carbon portfolio presents many challenges. For instance, while selling a company’s shares may reduce the carbon footprint of a portfolio, it does not reduce actual emissions. And while stewardship and engagement will be important for many sectors, it’s possible that engagement will not drive emissions down to net zero for all companies. Key questions arise: What strategies and practices can investors use to align their portfolios with net zero? How will these efforts affect asset allocation? What are the implications for fiduciary duty? The panel will explore these questions and more.

Stewardship Day – June 9th

The Rise of Investor Stewardship: A Global Perspective

The concept of stewardship is gaining prominence among investors globally. But what exactly does “stewardship” mean in practice? While some market participants are using the terms “stewardship” and “engagement” interchangeably, leading researchers and practitioners believe good stewardship goes far beyond proxy voting and engagement, also including factors such as collaboration, education, and more. In this session, KKS Advisors will present research on the characteristics of stewardship based on interviews with 40 leading institutional investors. We will then learn about one European asset manager’s comprehensive stewardship policy, followed by a panel discussion on key issues, trends and best practices globally.

Special Session – Research Spotlight: Institute for Sustainable Finance

Join this session for leading-edge academic research from Canada’s new Institute for Sustainable Finance, which is based at the Smith School of Business, Queen’s University.

Masterclass: Case Studies in Canadian Investor Stewardship

Following our earlier session on the characteristics of stewardship practices globally, this session will cover three case studies of investment stewardship in Canada. How are leading Canadian asset managers putting stewardship into practice? What are the most effective strategies for engaging with Canadian companies? What are the biggest challenges, and how can they be overcome? And, what are some key considerations for asset managers who are interested in establishing a stewardship program? Representatives from BCI, NEI, and SHARE will share insights on these questions and more.

Impact Day – June 10th

Achieving the SDGs by 2030: Leading Practices for Impact Measurement

According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), over half of impact investors use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to set their impact objectives, and a strong majority are concerned about “impact washing.” Against that backdrop, it is vital for market participants to promote the use of robust, credible impact measurement practices when seeking to align their portfolios with the SDGs. In this session, we will hear insights from impact investing specialists on their approaches to quantitative and qualitative impact measurement. A panel of experts will explore how to track progress and how to use data as a diagnostic tool for engagement. The panel will also explore how to capture primary and secondary targeted SDGs, and the role of storytelling to make impact measurement meaningful for stakeholders.

Impact Investing in Public Markets: Assessing Intentionality and Measurability

As more and more investors are looking to make an impact across asset classes, asset managers are increasingly developing impact investment products with exposure to public markets. In order to protect market integrity and mitigate “impact washing,” it is vital for market participants to ensure that impact investments are “made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return” as specified in the Global Impact Investing Network’s widely-cited definition. So, what are the best practices for assessing the intentionality and measuring the impact of impact investments in public markets? Can impacts even be measured in both public equity and public debt? If so, how? This session will explore what impact investing means in public markets, with a focus on intentionality and measurement.

Retail Advisor Day – June 11th

ESG and Client Engagement in the Pandemic Era

The pandemic has had enormous impacts on public health, the economy, and our daily lives. It has also had major impacts on the investment industry and reshaped how advisors engage with clients in a virtual world. In 2020, we also saw increased retail flows into ESG products. Against that backdrop, how are advisors engaging with clients around responsible investment? How has the conversation shifted in the last year, and how can advisors leverage RI to grow their client base in a virtual world? In this session, we will hear from two leading advisors and an asset management firm sharing insights, tips and best practices for ESG and client engagement in the pandemic era and beyond.

Special Session – CFA ESG Product Disclosure Standards: Exposure Draft

The CFA Institute is developing ESG disclosure standards for investment products, which will provide asset managers with a common language and a framework for presenting ESG-related information about an investment product. The Institute describes this as a “voluntary, global industry standard to provide greater product transparency and comparability for investors by enabling asset managers to clearly communicate the ESG-related features of their investment products.” In this session, representatives from the CFA Institute will present a draft of the standards and field questions from attendees.

Greenwashing: Addressing Retail Clients’ Concerns

There has been a rise in the number of headlines alleging “greenwashing” with respect to ESG and responsible investing. While there is no standard definition of greenwashing, it is generally understood to be an overstatement or misrepresentation of a product’s environmental or social benefits. And while there may indeed be greenwashing in the market, the complexity of responsible investing may be contributing to market confusion as well. For example, an investor may see an ESG fund that includes oil & gas stocks and conclude this is greenwashing. However, it’s possible that the fund uses ESG integration, engagement, or positive screening strategies, making no claims at all about exclusions or divestment from fossil fuels. In this case, it may be an education issue; not a greenwashing issue. How can advisors address retail clients’ concerns about greenwashing? What factors should advisors consider when discussing RI with concerned clients? What tools or resources can advisors use to prepare themselves for such conversations? A panel will explore these questions and more.


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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.