UNEP FI and PRI launch joint programme to boost leadership in responsible investing

1 June 2021

Geneva, Tuesday 1 June. The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) are today launching a joint programme that will accelerate leadership in responsible investment.

The Investment Leadership Programme (ILP) will bring together groups of responsible investors to work on initiatives that are considered ambitious, but not yet ready for mainstream investment adoption. They will bring these to a point where they can be taken forward by the wider investment community. PRI and UNEP FI have agreed criteria that initiatives within the programme will have to meet ensuring each one exemplifies responsible investment leadership and best practice.

“This new programme is our response to the urgent need for stronger, collaborative and accelerated action on sustainable development” said Eric Usher, UNEP FI Head. “We are taking our close relationship with PRI a step further and together providing the platform for leading responsible investors to move faster than the mainstream on delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.”


UNEP FI and PRI have already collaborated on a number of initiatives that are setting the norms for sustainable finance practitioners and driving ambition across the industry. For more than 15 years, they have worked closely together including on the landmark project, Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century – funded by the Generation Foundation – which clarified the legal responsibility investors have to include ESG matters in their decision-making. This project has contributed to the growing momentum of the sustainable finance movement, prompting a shift from a legal case to a regulatory case, with ESG being clarified in law and regulation in major jurisdictions, such as the UK and EU.

The UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance – a collective of some 40 insurers and pension funds with nearly US$6 trillion in assets which UNEP FI and PRI co-launched in September 2019 – is already demonstrating leadership and spurring action across the finance industry. The Alliance is driving real-world change by using their ownership in companies across the world to advocate and request decarbonisation targets from these companies. The group sparked the development of other net-zero alliances, demonstrating how investor leadership can catalyse action across the financial industry including the Net-Zero Asset Managers Initiative , the UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance and UN-convened Net-Zero Insurance Alliance.

“Leading investors can better effect change if they speak to policymakers and their investee companies with one powerful voice, “said PRI’s CEO, Fiona Reynolds. “The ILP will enable a collaborative, ambitious style of engagement from responsible investors and, by developing guidance and thought leadership on policy and regulatory change, it will inform investor action to help realise a truly sustainable global economy.”


Bringing together PRI and UNEP FI investment leadership initiatives consolidates action by the investment industry on sustainability and amplifies the voice of responsible investors. The ILP will also aim to connect investors to policy makers and inform policy change that will enable investors to play a key role in transforming investor behaviour. In the first instance, this will occur in five key jurisdictions of the new Legal Framework for Impact project in partnership with the Generation Foundation. Engagement with policymakers on key ‘reform areas’ will be a main objective of the 3-year project. The ability to readily bring together recognized leaders in the investment space with key policymakers will enable bold action across a range of sustainability issues. The Legal Framework for Impact and the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance are the first two initiatives that will be part of the ILP.

Working with UNEP FI’s network of banks and insurers through collaborative working groups or developing joint tools, will enable leading investors to work with others to catalyse change across the entire finance industry.

The ILP will be managed by a dedicated secretariat under the shared oversight of the two parties. It will encourage further knowledge transfer across the banking and insurance sectors with the aim of contributing to building a financial system that is equipped to act on sustainability challenges.

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About the Investment Leadership Programme

The Investment Leadership Programme is a joint initiative from UNEP FI and PRI that builds on a 15-year history of collaboration. Initiatives within the Programme will bring together groups of responsible investors to work on projects that are considered ambitious, but not yet ready for mainstream investment adoption. They will bring these to a point where they can be taken forward by the wider investment community. The Programme will play a key role in issuing guidance and policy recommendations to drive leadership and best practice for responsible investors.

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Duncan Smith, at PRI or Sally Wootton at UNEP FI.