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Positioning Switzerland as a leading sustainable finance hub

onValues contributed to the recently released white paper "Path to the Sustainable Financial Centre Switzerland" that contains a range of recommendations aimed at strengthening Switzerland's position as a leading global hub for sustainable finance. The paper was co-sponsored by Sustainable Finance Geneva (SFG) and The Sustainability Forum Zürich (TSF) and is based on extensive research and dialogue with over 50 key stakeholders. Among other inputs, onValues contributed a detailed benchmarking study comparing the relative strength of financial marketplaces such as London, New York, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore and Zurich in the broad sustainable finance space.

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«Path to the Sustainable Financial Centre Switzerland» 

The link between family wealth and global resource constraints

Peter Zollinger, member of the onValues advisory board and a partner at Globalance Bank, recently co-authored "The Ecological Debt Trap: Why Understanding Global Resource Constraints Helps Protect Families' Wealth" in Family Office Global magazine. In the article, Zollinger and David Hertig cite the fact that humanity currently uses 50% more resources than our planet can provide. They argue that understanding this growing "resource gap" will be key to preserving wealth over the coming 15, 20 or 30 years.

The authors describe how resource scarcity affects all asset classes. Given current market demands for uncorrelated real returns and cash generation, plus the accelerating political and technological reaction to resource scarcity, Zollinger and Hertig conclude that "sustainable real assets marry both aspects and are poised to deliver great results to long-term investors." They offer two showcase investment examples: waste-to-energy biogas in Western Europe and sustainable agriculture in Australia, each with projected 15% real returns per annum and cash flow generation starting in 2-3 years.

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«The Ecological Debt Trap» 

Mapping sustainable finance in Switzerland

A new report by onValues provides an overview of the organizations and associations active in sustainable finance in Switzerland. The report, entitled "Mapping Sustainable Finance in Switzerland", builds on previous work by onValues benchmarking international financial centres on sustainability. It presents descriptive statistics on 220 individual actors in all segments of the financial sector, including asset management, banking, research, pensions, insurance, academia, government and the voluntary sector. The report also lists 26 associations and platforms that coordinate activities among sustainable finance actors in Switzerland.

This research confirms that Switzerland enjoys a strong ecosystem of sustainable finance organizations with a high degree of interconnection. onValues hopes that this preliminary mapping exercise will be a first step toward enhanced coordination and will support the strategic positioning of sustainability within the broader Swiss financial sector.

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«Mapping Sustainable Finance in Switzerland» 

European foundations mark the trail for mission investing

For the second year running, European foundations and foundation association representatives gathered to share their experience on "mission investing", an umbrella term that refers to the conscious consideration of mission in endowment investment decisions. The meeting was organised by onValues and co-hosted by the Mistra Foundation, EFC and SwissFoundations. Nearly 30 participants from nine European countries met in Zurich to share experiences, discuss challenges and look for practical actions to advance mission investing in the foundation sector.

The meeting report, "Putting mission investing to work", highlights a range of recommended actions for foundations, foundation associations and foundation advisors aimed at accelerating the uptake of mission investing in Europe. It summarises meeting insights on critical topics ranging from the strategic framing of mission investing as part of a foundation's post-financial crisis strategy, to advice on sourcing and implementing impact investments directly linked to a foundation's goals. The report also includes a section drawn from research on the rapidly evolving European landscape of mission investing and a section on current thinking on fiduciary duty in relation to foundation mission investment.

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«Putting mission investing to work» 

onValues calls attention to investment gold

Over the past five years, the gold price has risen by almost 20% annually. Investors account for 40% of total gold demand and have been integral in driving gold prices to their current levels. In an article in the September 2012 issue of Investments & Pensions Europe, onValues Managing Director Ivo Knoepfel calls on investors to understand the role they play and the responsibility they bear in supporting the extraction of the precious metal. "Their perception is that they are a negligible player in gold and unlike the jewellery sector, industries and central banks do not carry any major responsibility," says Knoepfel. With contributions from the World Gold Council, pension funds and asset managers, the article discusses the environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in gold production and introduces actions that investors can take to ensure an environmentally-friendly, conflict-free, socially sustainable supply of gold.

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«Extracting the true cost of gold - I&PE September 2012» 

Impact investing for foundations – Swiss Foundations Report 2012

The annual reference document of the Swiss foundation sector (Schweizer Stiftungsreport) this year includes a guest article by onValues MD Ivo Knoepfel on ways in which foundations can better align their investments to their mission. The article discusses the spectrum of options available to foundations ranging from program related investments to venture philanthropy, impact investments, and sustainable and responsible investments. It recognises the challenges that implementing such investments can pose to smaller foundations with limited resources and proposes more collaboration between foundations to overcome this, e.g. in the context of a newly formed working group of the SwissFoundations association.

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«Swiss Foundations Report 2012» (available in German and French only)

Sustainable investments in Switzerland resilient despite difficult market conditions

onValues and Forum Nachhaltige Geldanlagen Schweiz today published the results of the regular survey of the Swiss sustainable investment market per end of December 2011, which includes sustainable assets managed in Switzerland through funds, mandates and structured products. A total of 20 managers reported their assets under management in a range of different sustainable investment styles.

According to the survey, sustainable investment volumes in Switzerland remained steady at around 42 billion Swiss francs in 2011 despite the difficult market environment. In 2011, lower investment volumes in funds and structured products were offset by growth in mandates. Institutional investors strengthened their position at the expense of private investors, leaving each group with a fifty per cent share of the market. Bonds saw their market share rise by ten percentage points to 31 per cent in 2011, while equities' share of the market fell by the same amount and now stands at 53 per cent.

Looking at market trends, Ivo Knoepfel, the managing director of onValues and co-author of the study, points to the growing significance of ESG integration and active shareholder approaches: "Investments where shareholder voting rights are being exercised with consideration of ESG issues have once again grown sharply and have now reached the impressive level of 11.4 billion francs." He goes on to say, "Providers have begun integrating sustainability aspects into their financial analyses directly, so 9.1 billion Swiss francs are now invested in line with this approach. This development could be the key to a wider use of sustainable investments by occupational pension schemes in Switzerland." 

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«Sustainable Investments in Switzerland 2011»

Mistra Foundation releases summary of 2011 review of asset managers

Mistra, The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, has published the results of its 2011 review of external asset managers. The review, which was carried out by onValues on behalf of Mistra for the seventh consecutive year, examined the progress of Mistra's asset managers in integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into investment decision-making and active ownership. Following the review, onValues presented Mistra's Asset Management Committee with results and recommendations, and provided constructive feedback to the asset managers.

In 2011 Mistra's managers made notable progress in ESG integration and the development of more-sophisticated active ownership practices, particularly in the area of company engagement. The 2011 review also focused especially on Mistra's new emerging market and private equity managers. The report, downloadable below, provides details on manager progress in these and other areas of sustainable investment.

Mistra's SEK 2.7 billion (€300 million) endowment is invested through thirteen mandates and funds managed by nine different asset managers. Mistra explicitly requires the managers to take account of ESG issues. 

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«Mistra Foundation Asset Management Review 2011»

Swiss pension fund uses onValues advice for one of the largest investments in microfinance

One of Switzerland's largest pension schemes, the Swiss Post Pension Fund, recently implemented a CHF130m microfinance debt mandate based on onValues advice. This is probably one of the largest investments in microfinance ever done by a pension fund globally. Rolf Maurer, Investment Manager at the fund, told Responsible-investor.com that the mandate had been awarded as a long-term investment: "We began taking a closer look after our investment committee directed us to do so in 2010," he added. The fund carried out the initial research on the asset class via its own internal investment team. Maurer told Responsible-investor.com: "From the beginning it was clear to us that the investment had to be worth it from a social and financial standpoint. The internal study revealed that this was the case, both in terms of risk/return and especially diversification. This is why we went ahead". The fund subsequently hired onValues, working in cooperation with Ecofin, the Zurich-based investment consultant, to carry out the manager search for the mandate.

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