Mercer Investment Consulting believes institutional investors in Asia will become more interested in socially responsible investments, and has created a role to promote the concept in Asia.

ôInvestors who are aware of all factors that could affect investment performance are better placed to manage risk and generate value.ö says Jane Ambachtsheer, MercerÆs head of global responsible investments in London.

To that end it has hired Helga Birgden in Melbourne, who will promote responsible investments in Japan, China and South Korea, as well as Australia and New Zealand. She will advise institutional investors on formulating investment policies and executing management decisions related to environmental, social and corporate governance.

Birgden has managed governance and sustainable investment at UniSuper, Australia's largest superannuation fund.

Mercer established the responsible investments team in 2004 out of Toronto, the first investment consultant to do so, says Ambachtsheer. Its activities range from policy management to fund manager selection and monitoring.

Mercer's team also provides assessment criteria and monitors adoption among investors and money managers of a United Nations program called "Principles for Responsible Investments". The UN has signed up 92 institutional investors and 86 fund management companies that together manage assets of around $10 trillion. These are supposed to pursue policies that support investments that account for environmental, social and corporate-governance factors, in the belief these have a long-term impact on financial performance.

Members include Japan's Mizuho Trust & Banking and Thailand's Government Pension Fund, as well as fund managers such as Allianz Global Investors, ABN Amro Asset Management, Axa Investment Management, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole Asset Management, First State Investments, JPMorgan Asset Management and Pictet Asset Management.