Investors have ‘prime role to play’ in ESG, Gore tells forum

ESG practices offer “unprecedented opportunities” for investors, former Vice President Al Gore told attendees at the first national conference on social investment in Washington on Thursday.

Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management and a senior partner with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, said the investor community “has a prime role to play. While (corporate leaders) are stuck worrying about next quarter’s numbers, investors can do something about it. It rewards businesses that use long-term strategies.”

With an estimated 20% of market participants engaged to some extent in sustainable capitalism, Mr. Gore said his goal is to see it reach 80% within 10 years. “I believe it is achievable,” he said.

Mr. Gore was the keynote speaker at the event hosted by the newly renamed US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. It formerly was called Social Investment Forum.

With more than $3 trillion in assets, or nearly one in eight dollars under professional management engaged in environmental, social and governance investing, “the industry has matured into a substantial sector. It has attracted good managers, and investors are really seriously looking at these issues. I think we’re at a tipping point,” said US SIF Board Chairman Michael Lent, chief investment officer of New York-based Veris Wealth Partners, in an interview.

Luis Aguilar, an SEC commissioner, told attendees in a presentation at the forum Friday he is encouraged by changes stemming from executive pay reforms mandated by Dodd-Frank. This month alone, Mr. Aguilar said, 31 corporate boards failed to get majority support for executive compensation packages. “There is real evidence that ‘say on pay’ is having the impact that was intended,” he said.