A number of Australian superannuation funds have been recognised for their responsible investing efforts by the UNPRI.
The inaugural PRI Awards have been presented, highlighting individually excellent projects across the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment's signatory base.
The only Australian fund to receive an award, First State Super has taken out the ESG Incorporation Initiative of the Year Award.
First State Super, along with HESTA, Cbus, Local Government Super, VicSuper and Vision Super were named in the PRI's 'Leaders' Group': 47 asset owner signatories recognised for their responsible investment work.
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The Leaders' Group showcases signatories at the "cutting edge of responsible investment" who are in the top 10% of responsible asset owners worldwide, PRI said, and highlights trends in what these signatories are doing.
While the Leaders' Group evaluates broad organisations practice, the PRI Awards recognise individual projects.
First State Super was given the award for its ESG incorporation strategy, known as SIMON (Systematic Investing Multifactor Opportunities Strategy).
The strategy is one that was developed following internal research examining the links between key ESG factors and long-term corporate performance, according to the fund's chief executive Deanne Stewart.
"Through our SIMON Strategy we are better able to consider the long-term potential of an investment which should then require less portfolio turnover," Stewart said.
'ESG issues such a diversity, workplace culture, governance and the impact of climate change can pose very real long-term risks to our investment returns," she added, "so it is critical that the fund managers we work with not only identify these risks but, put in place mechanisms to mitigate them."
HESTA chief Debby Blakey said the fund is "thrilled" to be recognised in this group of global leaders, and that it was a testament to the organisation-wide commitment to responsible investment.
"HESTA has for many years been a global pioneer in responsible investment as this ongoing stewardship underpins strong, long-term investment performance and our ability to have a positive impact on the world our members will retire into," she said.
LGS's chief investment officer Craig Turnbull also said the fund was proud to have been included in the UNPRI Leaders' Group, saying: "The main aim of the UNPRI is to encourage investors to use responsible investment not only to better manage risk, but to improve returns, and this aligns with LGS' core objective of enhancing the retirement income of our members through the responsible, long-term stewardship of their funds," he said.
"This is a great achievement for LGS," the fund's acting chief executive Donna Heffernan added.
"We've long been an industry leader in Australia, so it's very pleasing to be included in the Leaders' Group. It's a global endorsement of our achievements in responsible investment."
Finally, VicSuper said its inclusion in the group further builds on the fund's "considerable work" in the responsible investment space.
Chief investment officer Andrew Howard said being one of the 47 asset owners is a "strong recognition" of VicSuper's commitment to implementing responsible investment practices, an "integral part" of the fund's overall investment approach.
PRI's evaluation focused on listed equity and private equity, as these were the asset classes it said it had the most developed work in identifying good industry practice.
When identifying signatories to the Leaders' Group, the PRI took into account the level of transparency of reporting to the PRI, responsible investment practices across all asset classes and the asset owner's approach to strategy and governance.
The awards and Leaders' Group are part of PRI's 10-year Blueprint for responsible investment, in which it said it was committed to showcasing leadership and increasing accountability, with a view to raising standards of responsible investment across all signatories.
Its mission, it said, is to achieve an economically efficient, sustainable global financial system for long-term value creation.
"Such a system will reward long-term, responsible investment and benefit the environment and society as a whole," according to its report.
The PRI said it will work to achieve this sustainable global financial system by encouraging adoption of the Principles and collaboration on their implementation; by fostering good governance, integrity and accountability; and by addressing obstacles to a sustainable financial system that lie within market practices, structures and regulation.