Event Summaries

Events Anthology

A Collection of Select Event Summaries from 2009 to 2014 (pdf)
Since its founding, the IRI has provided a platform for ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogue by holding meetings of industry thought leaders in responsible investment. Our events anthology offers a selection of event summaries from IRI convenings held between 2009 and 2014. Authored by IRI staff, partners, constituents and visiting fellows, the summaries cover events ranging from conversations with policymakers around community and transit-oriented development (TOD) to the role of investment consultants in growing the responsible investment field. They include broad theoretical discussions of responsible investment theory  as well as action steps that can be taken to grow responsible investment policy and practice.

Individual Summaries

Fiduciary Duty in Support of Responsible Investment (pdf)
January 2015
On January 14, 2015, IRI Senior Fellow, Jay Youngdahl, led a convening to examine how interpretations of fiduciary duty encourage or hinder responsible investment. The agenda started with a discussion of global developments in fiduciary duty, transitioning into highlighting important ideas that are emerging in the field. The meeting ended with a discussion of the ability of a modern conceptualization of fiduciary duty to contribute to systemic understanding of how to address challenges in finance, business and society.

Investment Fees: Returns, Practices, and Consequences (pdf)
April 2014
On April 8, 2014, IRI Senior Fellow, Jay Youngdahl, brought together two dozen experts, practitioners, and stakeholders to discuss investment fees and their impact on investment returns and practices. Attendees came from a variety of sectors and represented a host of different perspectives, ensuring a fertile and complex conversation. The massive growth of financial markets and the growing societal influence of accumulated pools of capital today make investment fees an important topic of academic study and scholarly practice.

Second Annual Trustee Leadership Forum for Retirement Security Convening (pdf)
March 2013
On May 30-31, 2012 the IRI convened its second annual TLF conference to discuss issues currently impacting pension fund investment plans. The goal was to facilitate and engage in conversations regarding the specific challenges trustees face when making investment decisions given the current political and economic context. The core framing topics for the days discussions were fiduciary duty, agency issues, financialization and the real economy, as well as the conflicts and contradictions trustees face as they work to meet ‘the target return number’ for their funds.

The Problem of Growth…Is Growth: What Does Growth Mean in a Context of Sustainability? (pdf)
December 2012
On December 14, 2012, the Initiative for Responsible Investment hosted a convening at the Harvard Kennedy School to further conversation about the relationship between growth expectations and responsible investment. The premise of this convening, “The Problem of Growth…Is Growth,” was that there is a highly problematic assumption of constant and never-ending growth deeply embedded in economics and politics, as well as in business, financial models, and the general economic ethos. The purpose of this one-day convening was to bring together a group of thought leaders to broach this important, indeed, crucial, topic and see where there might be consensus on the severity of the problem and ideas about potential actions going forward.

The Societal Function of Investment Asset Classes: Implications for Responsible Investment
October 2012
On October 4, 2012, the Initiative for Responsible Investment hosted a conference at the Harvard Kennedy School presenting eight academic papers on the relationship between the societal function of investment asset classes and the theory and practice of responsible investment. The papers addressed the ways in which asset classes manifest themselves in the marketplace through investment vehicles, transactions techniques, and regulations aimed at preventing abuse and enhancing socially desirable outcomes, whilst answering the questions of what normative values specific asset classes have come to embody through regulation, case law, or custom. The research papers covered seven different asset classes and included perspectives from Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Leveraging Policy to Advance Community Development Finance: Summary of a Roundtable (pdf)
September 2012
As popularity and momentum continues to grow around responsible investment, the moment seems ripe to focus in on what can be done to direct this increased interest into the space of community investment (CI). Looking at CI through a policy lens helps to highlight both major obstacles and potential solutions to growing the community investment space. A roundtable meeting held on September 11, 2012 by the US SIF: the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, Initiative for Responsible Investment and the Milken Institute honed in on this issue of leveraging policy to advance community investment by bringing together actors in this space that can potentially put deals together through collective work in the future.

Financial Innovation, Complexity, and Agency Theory (pdf)
February 2012
On February 17, 2012, the IRI hosted a convening at the Harvard Kennedy School to examine the questions surrounding financial innovation and complexity and how they relate to agency problems between trustees and their service providers and consultants. Some 25 participants drawn from the money management, academic, nongovernmental, financial consulting and think tank worlds attended. This short paper reports on the discussion at the meeting, which covered topics such as agency theory, complexity of financial products, financial innovation, and their collective implications for pension fund trustees.

Trustee Leadership Forum Investment Strategies Conference, Meeting Summary (pdf)
December 2011
On November 30 and December 1, the Los Angeles Trustees Network and the Trustee Leadership Forum for Retirement Security (a project of the Initiative for Responsible Investment [IRI] at Harvard University) jointly hosted a meeting of labor-affiliated pension fund trustees at the LA Trade and Technical College in downtown Los Angeles. The meeting focused on the role that trustees play in defining, enacting, and evaluating investment strategies that meet the long-term needs of beneficiaries – and how trustees confront these duties in the current context of financial market turmoil and political challenges. Discussion particularly focused oninvestment beliefs statements and analyzing investments in infrastructure.

Commodities as an Asset Class: Appropriate for Responsible Investors? (pdf)
September 2011
On September 23, 2011, the IRI hosted a convening to examine the social purposes of commodities markets, how these markets have evolved as an asset class, and the ways in which investors can understand the social impact of their commodities investments. Some 25 participants drawn from the money management, academic, nongovernmental, financial consulting and think tank worlds attended. This short paper reports on the discussion at the meeting, which included a survey of human rights and environmental aspects of commodities investment, the role and consequences of speculation in commodities, and the potential for commodities investment strategies that create positive social benefits. It concludes with next steps for research and practice.

Trustee Leadership Forum for Retirement Security (pdf)
July 2011
On May 17-18, 2011, the Initiative for Responsible Investment hosted a meeting of labor-affiliated public and Taft-Hartley pension plan trustees and related service providers to explore the challenges of trustee leadership on responsible investment issues. This brief paper provides an overview of the discussion and an outline of potential steps to address the role of trustee leadership in the context of the financial crisis and the recession it engendered, as well as the political debates over the role of pension plans in providing retirement security for US workers.

The Future of CSR Reporting: Should Corporations Set and Pursue Societal-Level Goals? (pdf)
June 2011
The IRI’s second meeting of the Quarterly Convening Series in 2011 was held on June 21 at the Harvard Kennedy School to discuss whether or not corporations should be including societal-level goals in their CSR programs and reports. This paper, summarizing the day, includes the topics discussed, conclusions drawn, and possible next steps for research and practice.

Cash: Societal Level Risks and Returns (pdf)
March 2011
On March 4, 2011, the IRI hosted a convening at HKS to discuss the societal purposes of cash as it has evolved as an asset class and determine how responsible investors can best align their investments with these purposes. The discussion also included an examination of the financial and societal risks of cash investment misaligned with cash’s societal purposes of promoting financial stability and local economic development. This summary paper covers the day’s topics and potential future opportunities for research and engagement.

Transformational Concepts of the Responsibilities of Investors (pdf)
January 2011
On December 9, 2010, the IRI hosted a convening at HKS to discuss possible narratives of responsible investment that could serve as alternatives to those in the financial community today. These narratives were discussed with an eye to their usefulness in defining responsible investment polices and practices and for their potential to serve as the basis for curriculum development that helps translate theory into investment strategies and practice. This summary paper describes the topics discussed, conclusions drawn, and potential next steps for research and advocacy.

The Evolution of Responsible Investment Consulting (pdf)
September 2009
On April 2, 2009 at a daylong meeting titled “The Evolution of Responsible Investment Consulting,” a group of 35 investment consultants, asset managers and other stakeholders from across the country gathered at Boston College to discuss the state of responsible investing consulting and the potential for the emergence of responsible investment as an investment consulting discipline. This paper is a summary of the topics, challenges, and ideas to move the field forward.

Fostering Equitable and Sustainable Transit-Oriented Development (pdf)
February 2009
The five papers presented here were written as briefing papers for a meeting convened by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD), Living Cities and the Boston College Institute for Responsible Investment, hosted at the Ford Foundation in February 2009. The goal of this convening was to bring a diverse set of stakeholders together – including public agencies, investors, for-profit and non-profit developers, intermediaries, foundations, and elected officials – to assess the opportunities for promoting and bringing to scale the market for equitable and sustainable TOD in the current economic and political climate. In particular, these papers are focused on the critical roles different stakeholder groups can play both individually and collectively to catalyze opportunities for TOD implementation across the country, and to explore new models and tools that will respond to the needs of the 21st century. The briefing papers address sustainable TOD, the barriers to achieving it, and ways to promote its growth, from a variety of perspectives.