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AMP's new local SRI paves the way for better analysis

AMP Capital Investors' new socially responsible investing (SRI) fund for New Zealand assets has paved the way for better analysis of local firms and whether they meet acceptable levels for responsible environmental, social and governance policies.

Tuesday, August 18th 2009, 6:50AM

by Paul McBeth

The Responsible Investment Leaders Balanced Fund has opened the door for more robust measures of companies on the New Zealand stock exchange, according to Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER) chief executive Duncan Paterson.

"Since AMP fund came in, we can offer consistent research on the NZX 50" whereas prior to the fund, CAER only monitored around 10 New Zealand companies, Paterson told a conference in Wellington.

"The more (fund managers) that come in (to responsible investing) the more companies will receive requests for more disclosure" around social and environmental concerns, he said.

AMP's fund invests 60% in growth assets such as shares and property, and 40% in income assets, including cash and fixed interest, both in New Zealand and abroad. The fund aims to generate strong returns whilst maintaining responsible investment in its portfolio allocation.

Angus Dennis, senior investment specialist for the RIL fund at AMP, dismissed suggestions SRI funds didn't offer similar returns to other funds, saying responsible investing outperformed through the credit crisis.

"Our returns over three years have outperformed by 66%," Dennis told the audience of businesspeople. "The more difficult part is moving into emerging markets - it's important to have exposure there."

Although Dennis didn't expect the same level of social and environmental responsibility among companies in developing nations, he said as a shareholder, AMP would raise these matters with the companies it invested in, and attempt to implement better practices and standards.

This kind of shareholder pressure can help force companies adopt better practices, and Paterson said he expects to see an improvement among New Zealand companies as they are held accountable by funds such as the RIL.

Paul is a staff writer for Good Returns based in Wellington.

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