Pension fund fiduciaries under ERISA are “arguably required” to integrate environmental, social and corporate governance factors into their regular investment decision-making process, Paul A. Hilton, director of advanced equities research, Calvert Investments, said today at a teleconference on a new United Nations report on such fiduciary responsibility.
“These ESG issue are increasingly becoming very real and material issues that have bottom-line impacts on companies,” Mr. Hilton said at the teleconference. “And so with that understanding, it's clear, unlike (using only) a simple value approach, an approach that integrates these (factors) as part of the regular investment process is arguably required by any major fiduciary and that certainly holds true” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Mr. Hilton said at the teleconference.
“ERISA language says if it is a material issue, it needs to be considered (in the investment process), and a lot of these ESG factors are material issues,” Mr. Hilton said in an interview after the teleconference. “Within the report is a call to policymakers to be more clear on the responsibility of (fiduciary) investors.”
Mr. Hilton was co-leader of the project by the U.N. asset management working group that produced the report “Fiduciary Responsibility: Legal and Practical Aspects of Integrating Environmental, Social and Governance Issues into Institutional Investment.”
Butch Bucani, program officer-insurance and investment, United Nations Environmental Program, said at the teleconference that the report makes the case of “consultants and asset managers having a duty to proactively raise ESG issues within their advisory services to asset owners.” Mr. Bucani was the project manager and chief editor of the report.