Standard Life Ipsos survey: Socially responsible investing consumer driven

MONTREAL, Oct. 27, 2011 – According to a new Ipsos Reid survey conducted for Standard Life, the majority (54%) of Canadians who have discussed socially responsible investments (SRIs) with their advisor raised the topic themselves.

The study, which examined attitudes about socially responsible investing, found that Canadians are open to SRIs provided their investment returns are similar to other investment choices. However, the research also shows that awareness of SRIs is low and that investor education is required if the category is to reach its true potential.

The survey found that 10 per cent of Canadian investors have made a socially responsible investment, and that number increases to 13 per cent among higher net worth Canadians who have investments of $200,000 or more.

“This research is saying that Canadians will and have carefully considered socially responsible investments provided the returns are there,” says Anna del Balso, Associate Vice-President, Research and Intelligence of Standard Life.

“SRIs can become a much more important part of investing for both investors and advisors alike, but first investors must have more information and better accessibility to this type of investment. Advisors who take the time to understand their clients’ environmental and social values and provide investment opportunities that align with those beliefs may achieve sales and reputational gains.”

SRIs are defined as investments in companies or funds that meet certain environmental, social and governance standards. According to the Social Investment Organization, a Canadian trade association for socially responsible investing, SRI mutual funds total $25.3 billion and represent around four per cent of Canada’s retail mutual fund market.

Low awareness

Canadian investors are generally unaware of SRI.

  • Only 15 per cent indicated that they knew a lot or a fair bit about socially responsible investments.
  • Four in ten investors (42%) reported they had never heard of SRI.
  • 43 per cent said they were aware of this type of investment, but knew little or nothing about them.

Higher levels of interest with performance and capital guarantees

Canadian investors are generally favourable towards SRI.

  • A third (32%) said they are “very” or “somewhat” interested.
  • 55 per cent indicated that they would consider SRI if the return was “as good or better” than other investments.
  • Interest in SRI spikes to 91 per cent when a guarantee of some capital protection is offered.
  • The majority of investors surveyed view SRIs as “futuristic” (78%) and “a win-win for the individual and society” (77%).

How well do SRIs perform?

The study clearly indicates that investors who have already purchased SRIs are satisfied with their returns.

  • 92 per cent report being satisfied with the performance of these investments.
  • 70 per cent said they were equally satisfied with the performance of their SRIs compared to their other investments.

The survey also examined how advisors view SRIs and found that eight in ten advisors surveyed are either very satisfied (14%) or satisfied (68%) with the performance of SRIs under their management.

Capital protection options offered to Canadians

Standard Life recently added three Meritas SRI Funds to its family of retail segregated funds. They provide Canadians who would like to invest in a socially responsible manner with the option of some capital protection. Standard Life is one of the few major insurers to provide socially responsible investments in segregated funds in Canada.

About Standard Life

Standard Life plc is a leading long-term savings and investment company headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland. Standard Life has around 6 million customers worldwide and operates in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, and globally with Standard Life Investments Ltd.

In Canada, Standard Life has been doing business for 178 years. Standard Life Financial Inc., which wholly owns The Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada and Standard Life Mutual Funds Ltd., is Standard Life plc’s largest operation outside the UK. With about 2,000 employees, it provides long-term savings, investment and insurance solutions to more than 1.4 million Canadians, including group benefit and retirement plan members.

As of June 30, 2011, Standard Life plc had C$310 billion in assets under administration, including C$40 billion in Canada through Standard Life Financial.