United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative

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United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative
United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative
Emblem of the United Nations.svg
UNEP FI Logo.gif
Abbreviation UNEP FI
Formation 1992
Type Programme
Legal status Active
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Yuki Yasui (interim)
Website www.unepfi.org

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a public-private partnership established between the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the financial sector. It counts over 200 members among leading banks, investment funds, and insurance companies.

UNEP FI seeks to encourage the better implementation of sustainability principles at all levels of operations in financial institutions, namely through the incorporation of environmental, social and governance factors (or ESG) in risk analyses - a concept it pioneered in the 1990s.

It is known for designing and developing the acclaimed Principles for Responsible Investment (or PRI), which has now over 900 signatories.

UNEP FI counts as one of the three conveners of the Natural Capital Declaration, a statement on the value of natural capital for the financial sector to be launched at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, alongside the Global Canopy Programme and the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

UNEP FI is also a founding member of the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative along with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the UN Global Compact.


UNEP FI rose from the combined forces of a small group of commercial banks and UNEP in 1991 after having identified the need to account for environmental impacts in their operations. In 1992, the UNEP Financial Institutions Initiative was created, followed by the UNEP Insurance Initiative in 1995. Both were subsequently merged to form the current partnership in 2003.

In 1994, the first Global Roundtable, a biennial event, took place in Geneva, Switzerland. Global Roundtables have since then spanned the world from Washington, DC, to Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo.

In 2005, UNEP FI broke new ground with the so-called Freshfields report, which affirmed, for the first time, the rights of pension funds to factor in environmental, social and governace factors in their operations (ESG).

In 2006, UNEP FI played a crucial role in accelerating the momentum worldwide around sustainable finance by creating, together with the UN Global Compact, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The PRI is now the largest gathering of institutional investment committed to sustainable development action across the globe.

UNEP FI's latest breakthrough are Principles for Sustainable Insurance, or UNEP FI-PSI, which seek to align the global insurance industry on sustainability principles. The UNEP FI-PSI have received instant support from the insurance and re-insurance industry and will be launched at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.


The UNEP FI statement is the backbone of the initiative. It constitutes a list of basic guidelines that should be followed by institutions in order to adhere to sustainability principles. These statements are aspirational, and are therefore followed on a voluntary basis, decreasing accountability to the institution.

Signatories become member of the initiative by paying a nominal fee. The rationale for membership is that the development of sustainable practice in business can increase profits by catalyzing the triple bottom line principle, which acts as an incentive for lending and investors through improved CSR (Caroll, 1999).


UNEP FI's Secretariat is located in the UN Environment House, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The organization's work is carried out by three commissions (banking, insurance, and investment), which are composed of industry members as well as Secretariat staff. Commissions are tasked with delivering research and seeking best practices on sustainability within their respective industries. Their work touches upon most sustainability themes, including climate change, biodiversity, water, and property.

UNEP FI also offers training programmes, which includes an ESRA course (Environmental and Social Risk Analysis), and a Climate Change course.

Global Roundtable[edit]

Every second year, UNEP FI holds a global summit, the Global Roundtable, with the objective of triggering dialogue between public and private sector on the issue of sustainable finance. Since the success of the first Global Roundtable edition, held in 1994 in Geneva, Switzerland, Global Roundtables have matured into major global agenda-setting events. Each edition of the Global Roundtable is held in a different city.

Year Sector Location
1994 Banking Geneva
1995 Banking London
1996 Insurance London
1997 Banking New York
1997 Insurance Tokyo
1998 Banking Cambridge
1999 Banking Chicago
1999 Insurance Oslo
2000 Banking, Investment, Insurance Frankfurt
2002 Banking, Investment, Insurance Rio
2003 Banking, Investment, Insurance Tokyo
2005 Banking, Investment, Insurance New York
2007 Banking, Investment, Insurance Melbourne
2009 Banking, Investment, Insurance Cape Town
2011 Banking, Investment, Insurance Washington

The next Global Roundtable will be hosted in Beijing in 2013.

Notable contributions[edit]

UNEP FI has been responsible for authoring or editing a number of seminal publications, among which are:

  • A Legal Framework for the Integration of Environmental, Social and Governance Issues into Institutional Investment (also known as the 'Freshfields Report, 2005) [1]
  • Fiduciary Responsibility: Legal and practical aspects of integrating environmental, social and governance issues into institutional investment [2] (2009)
  • The Global state of Sustainable Insurance: Understanding and intergating environmental, social and governance factors in insurance [3] (2009)
  • The Materiality of Climate Change: How finance copes with the ticking clock [4] (2009)
  • Demystifying Responsible Investment Performance: A review of key academic and broker research on ESG factors [5] (2007)

External links[edit]