Sustainable investing
4 Aug 2022

What is RIAA Certification?

Evergreen Advice’s Chelsea Traver has achieved adviser certification from the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA), the gold standard for ethical certification. Chelsea is one of only nine advisers to do so in New Zealand at the time of writing.

Responsible investing is a core part of our business. As such we have been a member of RIAA since our company began, with the goal of RIAA certification as one of our top priorities to demonstrate our commitment in this area. In this article, we describe who RIAA is, what this certification means, and what was involved in becoming RIAA certified.

Who is RIAA?

RIAA’s core mission is to ensure capital is aligned with achieving a healthy society, environment and economy. With close to 500 members representing US$29 trillion in assets under management, RIAA is the largest and most active network of people and organisations engaged in responsible, ethical and impact investing across Australia and New Zealand.

RIAA achieves its mission through:

  • Providing a strong voice for responsible investors in the region, including influencing policy and regulation to support long-term responsible investment and sustainable capital markets;
  • Delivering tools for investors and consumers to better understand and navigate towards responsible investment products and advice, including running the world’s first and longest-running fund Certification Program, and the online consumer tool Responsible Returns;
  • Supporting continuous improvement in responsible investment practice among members and the broader industry through education, benchmarking and promotion of best practice and innovation;
  • Acting as a hub for members, the broader industry and stakeholders to build capacity, knowledge and collective impact; and
  • Being a trusted source of information about responsible investment.

What does certification mean?

RIAA's Certification Programme is the longest-running responsible investment programme in the world and certification is decided by a panel of qualified professionals.

According to RIAA here is what certification means:

Your responsible investment credentials can be trusted

With the growth of interest in sustainability has come a new wave of “green” products and services. With this growth is an increasing demand for third-party verification of claims and benefits. In the case of investors, they are looking for clear and consistent information that specifically outlines how investment products and services address important environmental, social and governance issues.

Being certified by RIAA, the responsible investment industry’s peak body, means you have met the industry’s operational and disclosure requirements and this in turn means your clients can have confidence in your responsible investment credentials.

You are a leader in responsible investment practice

The operational and disclosure requirements of the Program can only be met by the organisations and individual professionals who are open to having their ESG processes, systems and performance made public – and in the case of products and superfunds, also subject to verification by an independent auditor. In the eyes of investment peers and the consuming public, this transparency leads to higher degrees of trust through increased accountability.

Becoming certified under the Program confirms the leadership position you are taking in regard to managing and disclosing environmental, social and governance issues through your investment products, services or policies.

You are committed to responsible investment

To develop and implement the leading practice in responsible investment takes effort, commitment and resources.

Securing and maintaining your status as Certification Symbol licensee demonstrates your commitment to responsible investment.

What is involved in getting certified?

For a peek behind the curtain, certification involved a review of our responsible investing philosophy, our individual investments, details on how we integrate responsible investing into our new client process, as well as case studies to show how we have put this into action.

For more information on the requirements see the below information from RIAA:

Code of Conduct

Participants commit to:

  1. Doing responsible investment well – demonstrable commitment to superior ESG and ethical investment management and advice
  2. Promotion success – an accessible narrative for the performance and impact of responsible investing
  3. Clarity and transparency – offering clear, transparent and easily accessible information for consumers and others to understand and navigate the broad array of products and services.

Eligibility and ongoing requirements

Certified responsible investment financial advisers and financial advisory groups must:

  1. Meet strict operational and disclosure requirements and make publicly available specific details of their services as laid out under the respective category of the Certification Standard
  2. Invite their members, clients and peers to hold them to account for their behaviours consistent with the Program Code of Conduct

Financial Adviser Requirements

  1. Be Licensed – Maintain authority to provide financial advice in their jurisdiction
  2. Have Professional Membership – Maintain a current membership with a professional body
  3. Be Experienced – Have completed an approved training course OR have at least two year’s relevant experience providing responsible investment advice.
  4. Be Educated – Meet the minimum ongoing education requirements by demonstrating how they stay up to date with developments in responsible investment through continuing education.
  5. Promote responsible investment services – Undertake to enquire about the environmental, social and governance preferences of ALL of their clients, as a minimum including appropriate questioning, and be able to perform an adequate client interview process.
  6. Provide responsible investment products – Can demonstrate that they can research and offer responsible investment products, having RI products on their approved products list (or equivalent).

How does RIAA monitor the certification?

The certification last two years at which time we will need to demonstrate that we have kept up to date with our Responsible Investing commitments and that we have completed 50 credits (which equates to about 10 hours) of continuing education in responsible and ethical investing.

Key takeaways

We are very proud to have Chelsea certified. We take our commitment to responsible investing seriously and believe the RIAA certification is an important component of showing this commitment to our clients.

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