New York City

Meketa, Willis Tower Watson and 12 other US investment consultants have joined to launch the Investment Consultants Sustainability Working Group, “a cooperative to promote and improve sustainable investment practices across the investment industry”, according to a statement from ICSWG-US.

The 14 founding members are: ACG, Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting, Callan, Cambridge Associates, Marquette Associates, Meketa Investment Group, Mercer, NEPC, RVK, Segal Marco Advisors, SEI, Willis Towers Watson, Wilshire and Verus Investments.

One of the alliance’s first actions will be to provide a joint response to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s request for comment on the climate change disclosure regulations.

“There is a lot of work across the globe and in the US on regulatory issues and creating taxonomies. Our role will not be to create our own taxonomy, but to enhance existing work and support things that work for US institutional investors,” said Sarah Bernstein, co-head of Meketa’s ESG investing committee and chair of ICSWG-US, in an interview with New Private Markets.

ICSWG-US has not yet identified additional specific targets, but has created subgroups for three core topics: stewardship, regulation and reporting. Each of these subgroups will meet later this month to establish their interest areas and goals.

Willis Towers Watson’s Christopher Thompson, lead for the stewardship subgroup, said: “There will be questions like, ‘What are asset managers doing? How consistent is that with what people believe stewardship is about?’ And then we’ll probably produce something to say what we expect asset managers in the US to be doing in terms of stewardship. That should result in an improvement in asset managers’ stewardship practices.”

The ICSWG-US was initiated by Meketa. Bernstein personally contacted sustainability chiefs from other investment consultancies to bring them into the alliance.

“We welcome others to join. We’re open to any investment consulting firm that consults to US institutional investors,” said Bernstein. She added that the change in the US administration was a significant impetus for Meketa to launch the alliance now. “We’re going to be a group with a common voice. That carries a different weight, both internally for our members and to the world. Our response to the SEC is more powerful.”

The alliance follows a parallel UK initiative, the Investment Consultants Sustainability Working Group, which launched in September 2020 as an alliance of 12 investment consultant firms for UK-based institutional investors. ICSWG-UK has since grown to 17 members and recently produced a guide to assess investment consultants’ climate competency.