Responsible investment is an important issue for many pension plan sponsors today, but when it comes to public policy support for these initiatives, Canada has a long way to go.

This message was reinforced at the 100 Mile Dinner on Sept. 25 in Toronto in support of the Fund for Action on Investment Responsibility (FAIR), a joint initiative of the Social Investment Organization (SIO) and the TIDES Canada Foundation. FAIR’s mandate is to advance research and education on public policy to encourage investment in sustainable and socially responsible activities.

Eugene Ellmen, executive director of the SIO, opened the discussion by outlining some of the barriers to the development of responsible investing in Canada—particularly the lack of policy levers, such as tax incentives and appropriate infrastructure, to support and encourage sustainable investment activities.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair of Global Systems with the Balsillie School of International Affairs, spoke on climate change and the important role that capital markets can play in our shared environmental and economic future. “The most important thing is to get capitalism and its accompanying markets pointing in the right direction,” he remarked.

Notably, Dr. Homer-Dixon emphasized the need to move away from our conventional definition of growth, which revolves around production and consumption, to a new way of understanding this concept. “The balance of economic and social investment should shift away from efficiency toward resilience.”

For more on responsible investment, click here to see our Report on Responsible Investing from the July 2008 issue of Benefits Canada.

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