what do fiduciary duties mean as firms focus on sustainable finance, long term value, and environmental, social and governance issues?
One of the core tenants of corporate governance is that corporate executives owe fiduciary duties (including care and loyalty) to their organizations. Such duties are similarly owed by investment advisors to their investors.
Fiduciaries are appropriately asking what does this duty mean as firms focus on stakeholder capitalism, sustainable finance, long term value, and environmental, social and governance issues? Academics, lawyers, and politicians have all weighed on this issue from a variety (and sometime opposing) points of view. This debate has also played out on the policy stage – for example, with the U.S. Department of Labor recently (in November 2022) reversing its previous rule restricting the ability of ERISA fiduciaries to consider ESG factors in connection with retirement plans to now permit, and arguably encourage, such considerations.
Our panel of experts discuss such questions in ever evolving contexts and explore how focusing on ESG issues can be consistent with (and in some cases perhaps even required by) one’s fiduciary duties.
This is applicable for:
What you will learn
forewarned is forearmed
Watch to explain fiduciary duties in the context of ESG and sustainability matters, consider ESG factors consistent with one’s fiduciary duties, and understand the nature of fiduciary duties in different jurisdictions.
Watch and learn how to:
Colleen C. Davis was elected Delaware State Treasurer (United States) in November 2018 and re-elected to a second term in 2022. Since taking office, Treasurer Davis has focused on three main priorities: bolstering retirement security and readiness, creating pathways to economic empowerment, and promoting a culture of financial excellence.
Colleen is a member of the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) and was elected Eastern Region Vice President in August 2021. Treasurer Davis also sits on the Executive Board of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) and is a member of the Market Transparency Advisory Group (MTAG) of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB).
In her official state capacity locally, Treasurer Davis serves on the Cash Management Policy Board, the Plans Management Board, the State Employees Benefit Committee (SEBC), the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board (GEAR), the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC), the Agricultural Lands Preservation Board, the Delaware Council on Volunteer Fire Service, and the Board of Pardons. Treasurer Davis is also a member of the Southern Sussex Rotary Club.
In December 2021 Colleen was a featured panellist during a Pensions & Investments conference on the importance money managers place on diversity and environmental, social, and governance (ESG). In February 2022, she hosted a live town hall meeting called, “Climate Bonds: The Wave of the Future?”
Previously, Colleen served as the Treasurer for the Delaware Physician Assistant Advocacy Group (DAPA), as a board member on the Advisory Board of Forge Life Sciences, and sat on the Board of Delaware Maritime Education. In conjunction with these achievements, Colleen has also served as a financial consultant to large medical institutions, as well as small independent practices.
Over the years, she has volunteered locally, nationally, and internationally. Colleen is a proven leader in Disaster Relief, Medical-Surgical practices, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Emergency Medicine, Neurosurgery and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).
Shiva is the Kester and Byrnes Professor of Accounting at Columbia Business School. He is a leading expert on measuring how well managers serve as responsible stewards of the corporation’s resources.
Apart from conducting pioneering research on short- termism, Shiva’s extensive body of work covers a wide range of contemporary issues in financial reporting, fiscal responsibility and corporate governance.
Shiva has been internationally recognized for his scholarship on several occasions. He has a passion for bridging academic theory with policy setting and corporate practice. He publishes op-eds in the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal and Barron’s. His work is frequently cited in the popular press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, Business Week, and the Economist.
Shivaram Rajgopal was born and raised in Mumbai, India. He holds a Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Iowa. In addition, he holds a Chartered Accountancy certification and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from India. He worked at Citibank N.A. for three years before deciding to pursue his doctoral studies. Prior to Columbia, he served on the faculty of Emory University, the University of Washington and, Duke University.
Barrister At Law at Normanton Chambers
Director of Law at Protimos
Fiona specialises in Environmental Law, acting for Individuals, Companies and Local authorities across a range of regulatory and civil matters. Her practice includes Environmental Crime, (defence work), Health and Safety, and Planning. She is experienced in the following areas of Environmental Litigation:
Fiona’s Chancery Practice includes Trusts and Probate, in which she has a particular interest in capacity issues. She also works in Corporate Insolvency and Bankruptcy.
Fiona is the Founder and Director of Law at Protimos, she advises on international legal issues affecting indigenous communities in emerging economies, including:
Fiona’s Associations include:
Fiona holds an LLM from the School of Oriental and African Studies London University, CPE from Nottingham Law School and BA Hons from Kings College London University.
Paul is Head of Stewardship and Sustainable Investment Strategy at Redington, the investment consultant. He is charged with building a service to assist asset owners in assessing fund managers and seeking enhanced stewardship delivery by them, as well as operationalising the firm’s promise of net zero climate investment advice across its client base among broader ESG advisory services. He also chairs the firm’s Sustainable Investment Committee.
Paul is a member of the UK Endorsement Board, which approves IFRS accounting standards for application in the UK, and engages with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) to ensure that finalised standards are of high quality.
Paul has spent two decades in stewardship and ESG investment. Most recently he was the first global Head of Governance – Stewardship at Aberdeen Asset Management; he also worked at Hermes for more than a decade, including on the Hermes Focus Funds and helping to create and build the world-leading stewardship business Hermes Equity Ownership Service (EOS). He also served for some time as Head of Investment Affairs at the NAPF (the UK’s National Association of Pension Funds).
For the last three years Paul has operated as an independent consultant, advising asset owners and fund managers on ESG integration and stewardship matters, and leading projects for major investor organisations, including a climate accounting project for the Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) and Engaging the Engagers and Governing for Growth for the Investor Forum. Paul was also a member of the secretariat for the Brydon Review of the Quality and Effectiveness of Audit.
In 2018, Paul authored best practice stewardship reporting documents for the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) and has chaired many of their working groups over the years. Among the output from these groups were the Model Mandate Initiative (2012), the Statement of Principles for Institutional Investor Responsibilities (2013; now the ICGN’s stewardship code), and the 2009 version of their Corporate Governance Guidelines.
Member of the Technical Committee
Adam Wasserman is the founder and Executive Director of Finpublica (www.finpublica.org) – a non-profit devoted to convening finance leaders interested in environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) issues and implementing such initiatives inside and outside their organizations. He also leads Finpublica’s efforts to provide easily accessible, open-source ESG information and resources to help people get up to speed on key issues in a matter of minutes.
Adam also is the managing member of August Way Law & Consulting PLLC (www.augustwaylaw.com), a boutique law firm for financial services companies, executives, and professionals looking to achieve excellence and innovation while remaining compliant with their regulatory requirements. He has more than 25 years of experience in the legal, finance, securities, and ESG spaces.
Adam most recently served as the Head of Enforcement for the New York Stock Exchange, where he helped rebuild its market regulation program from the ground up. Previously, he was a White Collar and Securities partner at Dechert LLP where, among other matters, he represented the Board of Directors of Lehman Brothers in all litigations, investigations, and corporate governance matters arising from the largest bankruptcy in history. Adam has been recognized by the Legal 500 for his “experienced, sage counsel,” selected as a New York Metro Super Lawyer, and named by Law360 earlier in his career as one of the country’s five White Collar “Rising Stars.” He is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Network and Finance Leaders Fellow and chairs the Board of Knology.
Member of the Advisory Committee
Alex Hetherington is a seasoned corporate sustainability professional with 25-years’ experience in carbon accounting, climate scenario analysis and investor insight into market-related climate risks and opportunities. He has worked with clients in Africa, USA, UK, Europe, Middle East and Australia.
Originally trained as a journalist, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Politics from the University of Cape Town (1993), Alex took a MSc in Environmental Management from Imperial College, London (2004), and recently completed a CPA in Sustainable Finance and Investment from Columbia University in the city of New York (2021).
Having established himself as an early pioneer in corporate sustainability strategy, Alex co-founded Carbon
Calculated, a carbon management and climate change consultancy, which has worked with over thirty companies and brands across multiple geographies. He currently consults on investor understanding of climate risk and response.
Member of the Technical Committee
Advisory Committee Co-ordinator
William is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s African Leadership Initiative (a network of business, development and government leaders in East, West and Southern Africa, which are all chapters of the Aspen Institute). He has a Professional Governance Practitioner certification from Govern for Impact and has completed his RE1 and RE5 FSCA Regulatory examinations.
William’s interests are orientated towards the ethical use of institutional funds through responsible ownership and the extension of their investment universe to sectors of the economy that can offer capital preservation and returns, while generating employment and improved social and environmental welfare. His preference is for bottom-up approaches that empower and enable people to contribute to improving their own lives and those in their community.
As a generalist, William understands that there are many approaches, dynamics and issues that need to be understood to enable this to take place. His understanding of governance, investment, business management, legal systems, planning, community issues, labour, environmental issues, eco-system services, institutional structures, politics and development assists him in formulating his views.
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