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"Activities aiding the wellbeing of communities in which we invest are a key part of our approach"

  • "Activities aiding the wellbeing of communities in which we invest are key part of our approach"
    Lauren Owens, administrator of IFM Investors’ Infrastructure Community Grants Program

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About the entity

Aqualia
Aqualia is the water management company owned by the citizen services group FCC (51%) and by the Australian ethical fund IFM Investors (49%). Aqualia is Europe's fourth largest private water company in terms of population served.

IFM Investors, owned by a group of Australian pension funds, was established more than 25 years ago with the aim to protect and grow the long-term retirement savings of working people. It seeks to prioritise the interests of investors worldwide by focusing on assets that combine excellent long-term risk/reward characteristics with broad economic and social benefits to the community. As a signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, IFM actively engages on environmental, social and governance issues with the companies in which it invests. In this brief interview, Lauren Owens, administrator of the grant program, describes IFM Investors’ Infrastructure Community Grants Program.

Question: How did the IFM Investors Community Grants Program come about?

Answer: Global fund manager IFM Investors developed its Infrastructure Community Grants Program with the aim of supporting its portfolio companies to collaborate with local community organisations on projects that create mutual benefits. The program was launched globally in March 2020 following a pilot program among Australian portfolio companies. Applications for the 2021 program have closed and the successful grant recipients will be announced before the end of the year.

Strong local communities where we invest and operate are vital to protect and grow the long-term retirement savings of working people

Q: What aspects stand out in the selected Aqualia proposals? What are the differential points of these candidacies?

A: IFM Investors receives a range of unique project proposals. Successful proposals clearly demonstrate planned collaboration between a portfolio company and community organisation, as well as the expected environmental and/or social impacts of the project.  Projects may focus on enhancing the local environment, providing pathways to employment for underrepresented members of the community, or both. Successful proposals also demonstrate the project’s alignment to the company’s business strategy or corporate responsibility priorities to support a commercial benefit.

Q: How are the IFM Investors Community Grants Program framed within your sustainability and CSR policy agenda?

A: Activities that support the resilience and wellbeing of the communities in which we invest and operate are an important part of IFM Investors’ responsible business approach. One of the ways we contribute to the sustainability of these communities is through our Infrastructure Community Grants Program.  

Successful proposals clearly demonstrate planned collaboration between a portfolio company and community organisation

We know that strong local communities where we invest and operate are vital if we are to keep delivering on our purpose, which is to protect and grow the long-term retirement savings of working people.

Q: What was the total amount devoted to the grants program? Can you provide details about the number of projects submitted and selected?

A: The 2020 program attracted more than 20 applications from investee companies. Nine projects were selected to receive up to AU$40,000 in grant funding. Grant funding has supported projects across the globe, including a social enterprise employing people with a disability in the Czech Republic, supporting seafarers’ wellbeing at Australian ports, and environmental initiatives to improve water quality in waterways in Spain, the UK and Australia.

The 2021 program has attracted 24 project proposals. A final announcement of successful grant recipients will be made before the end of the year.

Q: Do you have quantitative or qualitative data of the impact of the grants?

A: We don’t have aggregated data for this. Each project has relevant individual impact objectives and measures.

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