AIF Institute Launches Center for ESG, Sustainable Investing

BlackRock, Natixis Investment Managers will serve as founding faculty members.

The AIF Institute, the educational arm of economic think tank AIF Global, has launched the Center for ESG and Sustainable Investing to address priorities within the investor community and provide research in key focus areas, including climate, governance, and diversity.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and Natixis Investment Managers will serve as founding faculty members for the development of the new environmental, social, and governance (ESG) center.

It was a little over a year ago that BlackRock announced it was making sustainability the main focus of its investment strategy. BlackRock CEO and founder Larry Fink said in his annual letter to clients last year that the firm would be exiting investments such as those in thermal coal producers that present a high sustainability-related risk and would launch new investment products that screen fossil fuels. He also said the company would strengthen its commitment to sustainability and transparency in its investment stewardship activities.

“Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects. … Awareness is rapidly changing,” Fink wrote at the time, “and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

The Center for ESG and Sustainable Investing is intended to cultivate academic research and thought leadership in the public and private investment sectors. It will focus on practical application and outcomes to support institutional investors in creating and integrating ESG and sustainability policies. It is one of four so-called “centers of excellence” the AIF Institute is launching this year. The other centers it plans to open in 2021 are the Center for Insurance, the Center for Private Capital Investing, and the Center for Financial Innovation.

“The creation of the Center for ESG and Sustainable Investing comes at a time when investors are increasingly recognizing, prioritizing, and integrating ESG and sustainability in their investment programs and portfolios,” Melissa Waller, president of the AIF Institute, said a in a statement. “Cornerstone to each of the centers of excellence will be the innovation labs, where investors will actively engage with AIF Institute faculty to develop education and research that meet the evolving needs and challenges with respect to their portfolios.”

Sharmila Kassam, who was named executive director of the AIF Institute in January, will lead the development of the Center for ESG and Sustainable Investing.

“We will begin our focus in the innovation labs on critical ESG aspects still developing in the industry,” Kassam said, “including measurement and data, climate factors, benchmarking, implementation models, and ESG-focused investment policies.”

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