As the leading organization in the United States advancing sustainable investing across all asset classes, US SIF recognizes the profound impact that policymakers and regulators have on the sustainable investment environment and on the issues sustainable investors care about. Engaging policymakers is vital to the continued growth and positive impact of the industry.
The US SIF Public Policy Program supports an agenda that advances sustainable, responsible and impact investment to the federal legislative and executive branches of government. Through US SIF, the industry brings a distinct voice and set of priorities to legislative and regulatory initiatives.
US SIF's Policy Program educates our members as well as the broader public, media and policymakers. Our Public Policy Committee recommends actions that investment professionals can take and tools they can use to influence public policy debates. We work to share a compelling narrative about the sustainable investment community through the media and public education campaigns.
Moving the Sustainable Investing Field Forward – Policy Successes
US SIF and its members have achieved several major policy successes. In 2003, we successfully encouraged the Securities and Exchange Commission to require mutual funds and registered investment advisors to publicly disclose their proxy voting guidelines and the votes they cast on behalf of their clients.
In 2007, we successfully challenged what could have been a serious threat to the shareholder resolution process in a decade when the SEC proposed but ultimately failed to change shareholder resolution eligibility levels. In 2010, US SIF worked closely with its members and other partners to support the passage of the landmark financial reform legislation - Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – and its implementation.
In 2015, US SIF led the efforts that persuaded the US Department of Labor to rescind and replace a 2008 bulletin that had discouraged investors from considering environmental and social factors in the companies and funds in which they invest. Also, in 2015 US SIF actions resulted in the Thrift Savings Plan Investment Board announcement to create a mutual fund window for the federal government employee retirement system, potentially enabling federal employees' sustainable investment options.
Since 2016, our work has largely been dominated by letters and statements to protect the progress we have made for investors. In 2017, we wrote letters in opposition to Proxy Advisor Legislation (HR 4015), rolling back the Clean Power Plan and the Financial CHOICE Act (HR 10). In 2018, we petitioned for ESG disclosure and advocated for shareholder rights.
In 2020, we also mobilized against the Department of Labor's changes to ERISA regarding ESG and proxy voting resulting in a much improved but still flawed final rule. We published a policy document with recommendations for the next administration.
Throughout 2021, the Biden Administration has made significant progress on our recommendations. The SEC is led and staffed by individuals with expertise in sustainable finance, and the Acting Assistant Secretary for EBSA has a firm understanding of the role of sustainable investments in retirement plans. The DOL proposed rules allowing for ESG considerations and proxy voting in ERISA-governed retirement plans.
Additionally, the Federal Thrift Retirement Investment Board confirmed that it will begin offering ESG options through the mutual fund window in 2022, and Congress has increased CDFI funding through COVID-19 related legislation.
However, the government has yet to act on several sub-recommendations. In addition to ending fossil fuel subsidies and reversing regulatory changes to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act—on which we have seen no progress to date—we are encouraging policymakers to establish a national clean energy standard, invest in clean energy technology, and establish a tax on carbon emissions. We continue to advocate for and monitor progress on our policy agenda in 2022.
US SIF's current policy agenda, Towards a Just and Sustainable Economy, may be found here.