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The Tipping Point: Barbara Krumsiek addresses 2011 UNEP FI Global Roundtable

Barbara Krumsiek, Chief Executive Officer, Calvert Investments delivered the following opening remarks to key members of the financial sector across the investment, insurance, and banking industries at the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative Global Roundtable in Washington, DC.


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Good morning and welcome.  I am greeting you today wearing two hats.  I am the current Co-Chair of UNEP-FI’s Global Steering Committee, an honor that I share with my good friend Richard Burrett of Earth Capital Partners.  I am also the CEO of Calvert Investments, a global pioneer in the field of sustainable and responsible investing.  I am pleased to welcome all of you to Calvert’s hometown of Washington, DC.  Thank you all for making the journey here for what I know will be two days full of intense thinking on how tomorrow’s economy can be a smarter, more resilient one.  We look forward to gaining from your perspectives, expertise, and experience.

As we start this Global Roundtable, whose theme is “The Tipping Point,” I want to acknowledge what may be a “tipping point” here in the U.S. Over the last few weeks, a movement has taken hold which many of you may know as “Occupy Wall Street.”  There are real concerns being raised by this group– a local contingent of which, many of you may have seen on your walk over here today.  In this current economic and political climate, it is understandable that many Americans feel that regulatory and fiscal policy has failed to balance the needs of all stakeholders in our economy, particularly the needs of the poor and middle class.

What I consider the core concern raised by this movement is that the primary focus and most visible result of fiscal stimulus and economic reform has been to restore financial institutions to their previous levels of profitability and capitalization and executives to their previous levels of compensation. All of the attention seems to have gone in this direction, and many feel this is a question of fairness. Why are the middle class and the poor not receiving the same amount of attention when it comes to restoring their financial health and well being- their jobs, savings account rates, and 401(k) retirement plan balances, for example?

The real issue this movement is calling attention to is the unbalanced policy.   More work remains to be done.  And soon.

The message that our sustainable finance community is well positioned to deliver is how our network works to build governance structures and implement sound policies that will balance financial success with a more just society and sustainable economy for all.   Indeed, the “Tipping Point” that those of us gathered here today, and that the members of UNEP FI are striving towards is sustained stability.

Over the next two days, we hope to establish bridges between these two notions that influence our global financial future: stability and sustainability. While these themes have both long co-existed, their agendas have rarely been connected.

As the financial community works to restore trust in financial systems, we must together send a strong signal that demonstrates our collective capacity- across investment, insurance, and banking- to make a meaningful impact on the pressing challenges that face the world today.  This idea that finance can help build a strong sustainable future is at the heart of the company that I lead—Calvert Investments.  For over 30 years, we have used our role as investors to promote a more equitable economy, a more just society, and a more sustainable world.  

Through UNEP FI, over 200 financial institutions have made a commitment to work with the United Nations to demonstrate the linkages between finance and sustainability.  Next year is a significant one for UNEP FI.  We are hard at work preparing for the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development otherwise known as Rio+20.  This event will mark the 20th anniversary of “The Earth Summit” which was first held in Rio in 1992.  That landmark summit led to the creation of several core environmental policy frameworks including the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Forest Principles, and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.   

In fact, UNEP FI was launched in the lead up to the 1992 Rio Summit with a mission to identify and promote environmental and sustainability practices at all levels of financial institutions.  UNEP FI was the first dedicated finance and sustainability network and remains the only such network to bring together members from across the financial sector: banking, insurance, and investment and from regions across the world.

UNEP FI has worked to change the face of finance through landmark reports focused on ESG materiality, the fiduciary and legal dimensions of ESG investing, and through innovative industry partnerships such as the launch of the Principles for Responsible Investment, in partnership with the UN Global Compact, and the upcoming launch, which we are excited about, of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance.

Even with all that UNEP FI has accomplished, we recognize there is still much yet to be done.  The Rio+20 Conference and UNEP FI’s 20th anniversary offer our members a perfect opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to sustainable finance and demonstrate that we understand and welcome the role that we must play in building a stable economy.

It is not enough to simply invest in the best companies, we also need to push for public policy and global standards that create an environment which allows the best companies to succeed. We recognize that the broad environmental challenges, from resource scarcity to climate change, present both risks and opportunities.  These risks and opportunities require investors to advocate for policy frameworks which help facilitate the flow of capital to energy, climate, social, and governance solutions, enabling us to deliver the positive impacts of sustainable finance.

We look forward to all that UNEP-FI’s will accomplish over the next 20 years.  Thank you.    

Calvert Investment Management, Inc., 4550 Montgomery Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.

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