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The Annual SRI Conference – Well Worth Your Time

“I could write a novel detailing what I learned from The SRI Conference”

By Greg Vigrass
President, Folio Institutional

It was my honor to attend The 29th Annual SRI Conference this past November 1-4 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. For those keeping score, I’ve attended the conference for more than 10 years, and they just keep getting better. That might be why Michael Kitces called it “the best conference for SRI/ESG investing!

This year's conference drew more than 600 participants — among them financial advisors, asset managers, researchers, academicians, and public servants from numerous countries, including Canada, England, and Australia.

Star Power for The Greater Good

The conference’s plenary speakers represented a veritable “who’s who” of SRI thought leadership. While each speaker had a different message and point of view, some common themes emerged; from the imminent threat from climate change, to the ways in which local and state governments are filling the void left open by the federal government when it comes to sustainability, and the power of shareowner advocacy to change corporate behavior around environmental, social, and governance issues.

In his opening plenary “The Race of our Lives”, the ever-intriguing Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist of Grantham, Mayo, & van Otterloo, painted a grim picture of the state of climate change. Climate change, he argues, is already well upon the planet, and individuals, enterprises, and governments must all take aggressive steps to mitigate its effects, now.

Later that day, Phil Weiser, newly elected Colorado attorney general and Hatfield Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School, shared his thoughts on how state’s attorneys general can use the power of their offices to advance sustainability. That power he said, can be highly effective both within their own states, while serving as a model for other states to undertake their own sustainability initiatives.

In an inspiring presentation that evening, Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, shared how the city has restructured its investment portfolio in a way that is already helping to both spur local economic development, and make an impact globally on climate change, diversity, human rights, and other pressing issues.

On Friday, Chad Meyers, CNN’s chief meteorologist, shared the story of his personal journey from climate-change skeptic to believer. That journey began when he found himself standing on land in Miami Beach that was undeniably sinking, in a city that’s already sits at a meager four feet above sea level. That moment started him on a larger personal quest to gather and review as much data on climate change as he could, and it resulted in a complete about-face in his views. Now he travels throughout the country speaking passionately on the need to acknowledge and combat climate change.

Michelle Edkins, global head of BlackRock’s investment stewardship team, took the stage later in the afternoon to share how BlackRock is asserting its considerable shareowner voting power to put forward sustainable initiatives and actively engage directly with companies on environmental, social, and governance issues.

The last plenary speaker was Dan Esty, Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, Yale Law School. Dan presented a more optimistic presentation emphasizing the role the private sector can, and must play in solving pressing global challenges that the public sector simply can’t (or won’t).

Breakout Sessions Offering Something for Everyone

A hallmark of The SRI Conference is the robust lineup of breakout sessions—particularly notable for advisors were Integrating SRI/ESG Into a Traditional Practice, SRI Advisor Best Practices, ESG Mutual Fund Ratings: What You Need to Know, and Beyond Mutual Funds: Direct Impact Investment Opportunities, each of which offered CE credit for CFP and other professionals.

This year marks the 30th annual SRI Conference. I hope you’ll join me there and see for yourself why one attendee said they could “write a novel detailing what I learned from The SRI Conference,” and another said: “This was my first SRI Conference and I’m 100% hooked…there were many times throughout the conference where I thought ‘I’m going to remember this forever!’”

Want to hear more? Join the SRI Community mailing list to receive more news from SRI 29 and be among the first to know when registration for SRI 30 opens!

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