At October 8, 2014, two new books – „CSR und Investment Banking“ and „Responsible Investment Banking“ – were presented at Goethe University Frankfurt. The two anthologies, edited by Karen Wendt and published in a management-series of the Springer publishing house, contain new scientific findings, innovative approaches and best practice examples. Following the basic idea of the series, renowned scholars and experts as well as bankers, managers of investment funds and representatives of NGOs contributed to the book. Some of the authors were also on the podium of one of the two panel discussions of this evening.
After a welcoming address by Prof. Rainer Klump, Professor at Goethe University and Principal Investigator at the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”, the editor, Karen Wendt, gave a short presentation of the two new volumes. She emphasized, that at the backdrop of the enormous ecological and social challenges we are facing at the moment, a sustainable and responsible approach in the investment industry is desperately needed. That could cause a new alignment of interests between economy and society, investors and investees.
The first panel was made up of CEOs from ethical banks, scholars, an emerging market expert, a diversity specialist and the head of the “Frankfurt School-United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Collaboration Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance”. The lively and insightful discussion started of with an analysis of the status quo and the post crisis developments. The panellists agreed, that despite of new regulations, there are still banks, which are “too big to fail” and managers, who are willing to take excessive risks (amongst others due to a lack of responsibility). The current low-interest-rates phase, however, should be seen as an opportunity to reconsider the basics and to put the purpose of investments centre stage once again. With a sustainable and responsible approach, the private sector could play an important role in the transformation of the economic system into a “green economy”. The emerging markets specialist agreed, but made clear, that the global implementation of ESG standards is a huge challenge. In India, for instance, only 11% of the invested money comes from companies, which apply international ESG standards. With regard to the question, what has to change in the future, the panellist mentioned a transformation of the banking culture (from accounting to diversity), a stronger focus on the purpose of investments and the question, how we want to live in the future, better ESG reporting and measurement tool, a discussion about the tension between financial and ESG performance as well as more patient capital.
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The second part of the event started with a short presentation of the Springer CSR-management-series and two video messages. The following second panel, with practitioners from the investment and investment-consulting industry, dealt with special issues in the field of sustainable and responsible investing and finance. Frank Damerow reported about the big success of climate bonds ($10 bn in 2013, $40 bn in 2014), which are an important tool for the creation of a low-carbon economy. Currently, there is a lack of supply not of demand. Gavin Duke talked about the use of ESG frameworks as value creation tool for private equity companies. Raimund Vogelsberger put the question of sustainability and responsibility into historical perspective. He argued, that in the period since the beginning of the industrial revolution (ten generations) only in the last generation awareness for sustainability has been developed, that fostered the increase of the standards. We are now at a point, where we are no more trying to mitigate harm but to support biodiversity, etc.. Alexander Cox emphasized the importance of governance systems for the implementation of an ESG framework and gave examples for green banks with very sophisticated tools to measure impact and transparent procedures.
The event ended with networking over wine and canapés.