SRI Funds Unhappy with World Bank’s Proposed Policy on Sustainability

From SocialFunds, news that a number of socially-responsible investing heavyweights are expressing concern over the International Finance Corporation‘s (the private lending arm of the World Bank group) draft Policy and Performance Standards on Social & Environmental Sustainability (in PDF).

Today, two days before the deadline, a group of 14 socially responsible investing (SRI) firms and organizations representing over $117 billion in assets filed a letter with the IFC, following up on a previous letter from April 2005 and an earlier letter from April 2004. …

The letter, whose signatories include Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), KLD Research & Analytics, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, MMA Praxis Funds, Progressive Asset Management (PAM), [and] Trillium Asset Management, lists six key concerns. These include strengthening IFC accountability, implementing corporate screening and minimum human rights standards, the absence of a comprehensive climate strategy, and the dilution of existing performance standards.

“The proposed new system provides IFC with increased flexibility and discretion in making lending decisions but does not call for a parallel strengthening of the IFC’s own accountability or improved system of monitoring and oversight that ensures that IFC clients are adhering to IFC’s policies,” writes [“Lauren Compere, Chief Administrative Officer and Global Advocacy Coordinator for Boston Common Asset Management, who authored the letter”].

The IFC’s responds that they’re attempting to maintain flexibility for clients, and they never intended to dilute standards. After seeing this kind of rhetoric many times in defense of wishy-washy environmental standards, I have to wonder how minimum standards on the most important environmental issues that face us constitutes being inflexible…

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