In Canada, the market for SRI is over $50 billion in institutional and mutual fund assets,(1) representing approximately 4% of total assets professionally managed and 50 funds. The SRI asset base is growing at 40% per year, compared to the non-SRI growth rate of less than 15% per year. Though growing rapidly, the Canadian SRI asset base is substantially below SRI activity in the United States, which represents over US$2.2 trillion in SRI assets (13% of total assets)/and the 300 funds in Europe utilizing SRI strategies.
Numerous studies and surveys have dearly shown that investor interest in environmental social and governance issues has increased dramatically in the past five years. In addition, it has become clear that investor sophistication has evolved beyond the relatively simple process of excluding companies that are engaged in certain "nonethical" businesses. Furthermore, the investment performance of typical negative-screened SRI funds has been inconsistent over the past ten years, causing many investors to seek more rigorous and quantitative investment strategies, such as sustainable development investing, that provide both top performance and social responsibility.
Corporate Sustainable Development
The term sustainable development was originally proposed by the United Nations in the 1987 publication Our Common Future. 3 From a corporate perspective, sustainable development refers to companies that are committed to minimizing the environmental footprint of their operations, while simultaneously contributing to the economic and social advancement of communities in which they operate.
To act upon this commitment, companies engage hundreds of sustainable development initiatives. From an environmental perspective, these may include energy conservation measures, waste reduction programs and pollution prevention initiatives. From a social perspective companies may schedule community outreach meetings, create the position of "ethics officer," reduce noise and odor pollution, and provide support for school lunch and recreation programs: Economic commitment often includes local procurement and hiring mandates, providing scholarships, for higher education and transferable skills training, and community infrastructure improvement.
Worldwide, companies representing all, industry sectors practice sustainable development. Examples of notable Canadian sustainable development Companies include Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., Dofasco Inc., Falconbridge Ltd., Noranda Inc., Nortel Networks Corporation, Royal Bank of Canada, Suncor Energy Inc., Telus Corporation, TransAlta Corporation and Westcoast Energy Inc. These companies embrace sustainable development for essentially one reason--to have a positive impact on share price.
But how specifically does sustainable development benefit a company' A summary of categories of key causal factors as to why sustainable development is "good business" follows.