Investors ‘Amoral’, Aviva Chief Says

by | Feb 7, 2011

The head of Aviva Investors London has attacked the country’s financial system for what he called “amoral” behavior in the face of climate change.

In a Guardian story, chief executive Paul Abberley said investors were pursuing investments that clearly cause damage to the environment and society at large.

His company manages £240bn worth of investments.

Abberley said financial institutions employ many climate change skeptics, and he said most investment firms fail to properly address sustainability issues because they are unprepared to pay for effective analysis.

“Still in investment firms there is a healthy representation of people who put themselves on the skeptical side of the fence and are not convinced [climate change] will happen,” Abberley said.

“Many companies are not doing [analysis] because of costs – the more research you do into investments, the more expensive your cost case is, so people skate over the surface and hope to get away with it.”

Abberley said companies fail to provide enough information for investors to be able to judge their environmental efforts. He pointed to a recent study which found that of 20,000 publicly listed companies, fewer than one in five publicly reported even a single piece of quantitative data related to environmental, social or governance issues.

But he admitted that when companies do produce such data, most mainstream analysts ignore it.

“We have spoken to companies who say they can produce this information but they ask what guarantee is there that investors will take this seriously. We recognise that the majority of funds are not pushing for this type of information and not showing interest in it when they get it,” Abberley said.

But he also said that financial reforms require politicians to introduce tougher regulations.

Aviva claims to be the world’s leading fund manager at embedding sustainability into its votes at annual general meetings, the Guardian said. Last year it abstained or voted against 90 companies.

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