On 27 September, Jean Raby, CEO of Natixis Investment Managers, welcomed representatives of the Réseau d’Administrateurs pour l’Investissement Responsable (RAIR)1 to Natixis for their annual conference.

Antoine Tiago and Jean Raby
Antoine Tiago and Jean Raby

RAIR, created in 2013, stands for the Réseau des Administrateurs pour l’Investissement Responsable (trustee network for responsible investment). It was set up by trade unionists and brings together the Directors of the main French pension institutions, including ERAFP, FRR, IRCANTEC, PREFON, AGIRC and ARRCO. Together, these funds manage more than a hundred billion euros in reserves or assets. RAIR's mission is to share best practice as a way to develop socially responsible investment.

90 clients and consultants attended the morning session, with its theme of a fair transition, and heard a panel of experts debate the issues affecting socially responsible investment.

After the welcome speech by Jean Raby, which stressed the commitment of Natixis group to SRI, as evidenced by the 90% of Natixis Investment Managers members who have signed up to PRI, the UN's principles for responsible investment, the conference was opened by Luc Prayssac, President of the RAIR and Director of IRCANTEC and PREFON. Luc Prayssac said that the S in ESG criteria must play a central role but not at the expense of commitment to the environment. He sees it as a moral obligation for institutional investors and, more broadly, all investors engaged in an SRI process, to consider the impact of their investments throughout the value chain and on all stakeholders, including workers at the back end of the chain.

For Pierre-René Lemas, former CEO of the Caisse des Dépôts and President of France Active, the concept of fair transition, which is not new and has long been backed by the trade union movement, is coming back strongly and is cited in the introduction to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (COP21). He currently sees 4 main transitions under way - economic/energy, digital, demographic and territorial - and these are not free of contradictions. Some may undermine employment. The energy transition, for instance, has already led to the closure of coal mines in France. Spaces for dialogue at every level - company, local, national, international - are essential if workers are to be represented and supported through these sometimes painful transitions. Some, particularly the demographic transition, can be anticipated. We need to leverage finance to get things moving, support micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs in setting up companies or encourage socially responsible saving.

RAIR Conference
A number of experts were then invited to debate the theme of a fair transition or rather transitions - energy, environmental, food and digital - in a round table discussion chaired by Béatrice Héraud, CSR editor at Novethic. For Alexis Masse, President of the Forum pour l’Investissement Responsable (forum for responsible investment, FIR), social responsibility is a good indicator of a company's health. A company where employees are happy and staff turnover is low will usually enjoy a better share price than rivals less respectful of their employees. For Romain Garcia, CFO of the SOS group, a key player in the social and solidarity economy, it is completely possible to reconcile high profitability and strong social impact. However, even if the social impact of a project being funded is strong, its profitability for the investor must not be sacrificed or sidelined. For Marie Luchet, head of PRI France, the climate is the absolutely urgent priority (ODD #13). We need to act fast now and rechannel investments to avoid drastic political measures a few years down the road. The 2,100 PRI signatories in 52 countries have undertaken to apply CSR criteria to their investments. The PRI has commissioned Nick Robins, professor of sustainable finance at the London School of Economics, to publish a guide to mobilise investors in the fight for a fair transition and against climate change. Nick Robins thinks that, in a context of environmental transition, social issues must be integrated holistically into corporate strategy and given equal priority with the environment. He also recalled the importance of first engaging in dialogue with the company, before cutting off investment in a less-than-virtuous company. Sylvain Macé, union representative for the CFDT at Carrefour and Secretary of ARASC stressed the importance of taking employees into account as well as customers to ensure a fair transition, citing the example of Carrefour's transition to a responsible food policy (Act4food), particularly when this transition involves the elimination of 7,000 jobs. Dialogue between unions and investors is just as essential.

Philippe Sebag, Director of CFE-CGC, member of the RAIR board and General Secretary of PREFON, ended the morning by reminding listeners that the definition of a fair transition, often limited to factoring in the social consequences of the environmental and energy transition, should be broadened to include all transitions that involve profound changes to corporate models and our societies. He cited Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, who said at the PRI in Person meeting, held in San Francisco in September, “investors are not responsible for everything but investors must be responsible”. Having values is not incompatible with seeking returns.

RAIR panelists
“This is the first time such an event has been held by Natixis Investment Managers” said Antoine Tiago, head of France Institutional Business & RFPs at Natixis Investment Managers. This event crystallises the need of our clients subject to Article 173 of the Energy Transition and Green Growth Law for support as they move toward more responsible investment.”
1 France Active, Groupe SOS, Novethic, PRI France, FIR

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