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CalPERS, UC Davis launch research initiative to study impact of sustainability factors on investments

January 28, 2013

students walking through gallagher hall at UC Davis' graduate school of management

Students walk through the lobby at Gallagher hall, a Graduate School of Management facility that was the first business school building in the state to earn LEED Platinum certification. (Karin Higgins & Cheng Saechao/UC)

SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) today launched, in partnership with University of California, Davis, the Sustainable Investment Research Initiative (SIRI). The initiative is an effort to drive innovative thought leadership that will inform and advance the organization’s understanding of sustainability factors and the impact they have on financial performance.

Today’s launch also marked the start of a Call for Working Papers from scholars and investment practitioners globally in the fields of finance, economics, accounting, law and business. The papers will contribute to a rigorous debate and discussion on the impact of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues on long-term value creation and capital market stability.

CalPERS will partner with the UC Davis Graduate School of Management to seek, collect and review the papers. Authors of the most distinguished papers will be invited to present their research at the inaugural Sustainability & Finance Symposium, to be hosted by UC Davis on June 7. Columbia Law School’s Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership also will assist with the call for papers.

“CalPERS has made it a priority to use sustainability factors in making investment decisions across our Fund,” said Anne Simpson, CalPERS Senior Portfolio Manager and Director of Global Governance. “This initiative will aid us in our application, and help us draw conclusions that can inform our investment strategy and beliefs.”

“We look forward to working with CalPERS on this path breaking research to provide an independent analysis to better understand the potential impact of ESG issues on capital markets, companies and intermediaries in the investment chain,” said Steven C. Currall, dean of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “This project is both theoretical and practical.”

“Improving our understanding of the relationship between ESG and long-term performance is critical for boards of directors, shareholders and indeed everyone who relies upon public companies to be responsible stewards of capital,” said Robert J. Jackson, Jr., Associate Professor of Law, Milton Handler Fellow and Co-Director of the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School. “We are delighted to be working with CalPERS on this important initiative, and look forward to valuable new conversations with academics, practitioners, and investors on these critical questions.”

In current scholarship and in the investment world, there is a lack of global consensus on how ESG factors influence investment risk and return across asset classes. ESG issues cover many topics, ranging from climate change, labor practices and human rights, to executive compensation.

In 2011, the CalPERS Board approved integrating ESG issues as a strategic priority across its investment portfolio. It is grounded in the three forms of economic capital – financial, human and physical – that are needed for long-term value creation, according to the pension fund’s 2012 report, “Towards Sustainable Investment.” SIRI will provide independent evaluation and insight for CalPERS sustainability strategy, as well as contribute to the larger debate.

For more information on SIRI and to submit working papers, see: http://gsm.ucdavis.edu/CalPERS-Symposium.

CalPERS is the largest public pension fund in the U.S. with assets totaling $251 billion. It administers retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million California State, local government, and public school employees, retirees, and their families on behalf of more than 3,000 public employers, and health benefits for more than 1.3 million enrollees. The average CalPERS pension benefit is $2,420 per month. The average benefit for those who retired in the most recent fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012, is $3,025 per month.

About the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Dedicated to preparing innovative leaders for global impact, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management is consistently ranked among the premier business schools in the United States and internationally. The school’s faculty members are globally renowned for their teaching excellence and trailblazing research in advancing management thinking. With prime locations in Northern California’s economic hubs, the school provides a bold, innovative approach to management education to about 100 full-time MBA students at the UC Davis campus, 425 part-time MBA students in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, and welcomed the charter class of Master of Professional Accountancy students in fall 2012.

The school offers open enrollment and custom executive education programs as well as many strategic opportunities for corporations, executives and entrepreneurs to connect, partner and develop talent. Centers of Excellence include the Center for Investor Welfare and Corporate Responsibility, the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Clean AgTech Innovation Center. http://www.gsm.ucdavis.edu.


About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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