A legal framework for considering sustainability impact in investor decision making

It is crucial that assessing and accounting for sustainability impact becomes a core part of investment activity. That’s why PRI, UNEP FI and The Generation Foundation are leading our work programme “A Legal Framework for Impact.”

Firstly, we commissioned ground-breaking legal analysis, authored by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to determine the extent to which legal frameworks enable investors to consider impact in their activities across 11 jurisdictions: the EU, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Japan, South Africa, the Netherlands, UK and the US.

The report found that while there are differences across jurisdictions and investor groups, where investing for sustainability impact approaches can be effective in achieving an investor’s financial goals, the investor will likely be required to consider using them and act accordingly.

It also provides an extensive suite of options for policymakers wishing to facilitate investing for sustainability impact, including changing investors’ legal duties and discretions, such as allowing the pursuit of sustainability goals as long as financial return goals are prioritised, and a presumption in favour of investor collaboration in tackling sustainability challenges.

Options for reform presented in the report will now form the basis of a multi-year work programme from PRI, UNEP FI, and The Generation Foundation that will include policymaker engagement and supporting investors via workshops and tools to advance their practice initially in five of the markets studied: the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan and the UK.

If you would like to know more, please contact Jes Andrews, Investment lead at UNEP FI, and Margarita Pirovska, Director of Policy at PRI.

Reference Group

The project’s is supported by a Reference Group which includes experts from investment firms that have developed, or are in the process of developing, a strategy for integrating sustainability impact considerations in their firm’s core strategy and investment decision making. The group supports the research by sharing policy developments, questions, concerns and information on legal, regulatory and fiduciary implications of the management of sustainability impact in investment practice.

Members include:

  • Clara Barby, Chief Executive, Impact Management Project; Bridges Fund Management
  • Joanne Etherton, Lawyer, ClientEarth
  • Gerard Fehrenbach, Attorney at Law | Senior Advisor, Responsible Investment, PGGM Investments
  • Sean Gilbert Director, Global Impact Investing Network
  • Daniel Jackson, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM)
  • Martin Jonasson, General Counsel, AP2
  • Ryan Klausing, Director, Legal Team, Generation Investment Management
  • Libby Klein,Trustee Director, Christian Super
  • Susan Mac Cormac, Partner, Morrison & Foerster
  • Will Martindale, Group Head of Sustainability, Cardano
  • Tom Tayler, Senior Counsel, Aviva Investors
  • Tara Tilbury, Senior Counsel, RBC Global Asset Management (U.S.) Inc.
  • Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer, Associate General Counsel, Legal and Regulatory Compliance, BMO Financial Group
  • Margaret Wachenfeld, Managing Director, Themis Research; Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • Kong Wei, Partner, Zhong Lun Law Firm

The work on A Legal Framework for Impact is undertaken collaboratively between the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and The Generation Foundation.

Podcast Episodes

The episode, released 04 October 2021, features Margarita Pirovska, PRI’s Director of Policy and David Rouch, Partner at Freshfields and co-author of ‘A Legal Framework for Impact’. They discuss key takeaways and conclusions of the recently published flagship report ‘A Legal Framework for Impact’ authored by Freshfields and commissioned by UNEP FI, PRI and The Generation Foundation. Listen here.


The episode, released 13 July 2020, features Martin Jonasson, General Counsel of AP2, and Elodie Feller, former Investment Lead at UNEP FI hosted by PRI’s Olivia Mooney. They discuss what investing for sustainability impact means, why it is important, what it looks like in practice, and balancing the appropriate level of returns and real-world impact. Listen to the episode here.


The episode, released 11 May 2020, features Fiona Reynolds, CEO of PRI, in conversation with David Blood, Co-Founder and Senior Partner of Generation Investment Management. They discuss the crucial role of investors in considering the real-world impacts of their investments and how our joint project addresses this important issue. Listen here.


For more project details, visit About.