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For asset managers, engaging in dialogue with companies in which they invest is becoming increasingly important. It is considered a means to reduce the harmful impact on our society and to defend core values and fundamental convictions. In addition, it is a way to actively contribute to the sustainability debate.
Indeed, a growing number of asset managers and publicly traded companies have become aware of the importance of ESG integration and are ready to work together. Investors will increasingly assess a range of conditions prior to including a company to their portfolios: (1) The willingness of the company to engage in sustainable dialogue; (2) acknowledgment of the significance of the sustainability issue(s); (3) willingness to improve its ESG commitment; (4) active implementation of a policy/target and evidence of tangible improvements. We have added several examples below.
Firstly, climate change features highly on everyone’s agenda. Almost all countries are committed to reaching carbon neutrality in the coming decades. Asset managers are also aiming at financing a fair, inclusive and sustainable transition to a low carbon economy. This explains asset managers’ increasing focus on climate-related challenges throughout the investment process: In fact, failure to properly consider climate risks can not only heavily impact the financial results of the portfolio, but also society as a whole. Asset managers actively engage in dialogue with companies to discuss and evaluate their concrete commitment and progress regarding the climate.
Next to climate and as part of a successful holistic approach, human rights and digital rights should also be a priority. Asset managers investing in technologies and disruptive companies should ensure that this digital transition takes place with respect for human rights in the digital sphere. Tech companies could contribute to the improvement of human rights but might also violate these in case insufficient due diligence takes place. A systematic analysis of management practices can reveal human rights issues that a company may be facing. The sectorial and geographical exposure and supply chain breadth of the company will mainly determine these human rights issues.
On the question of governance, it is key that companies increasingly discuss ESG-matters at board of directors meetings and make sure it is featured highly on the agenda. That way they take their responsibility and the importance of the mission, the “purpose” of the company will then take on its full meaning.
In summary, all companies will have to face many sustainability challenges in the coming future. Commitment and Engagement are key to evolve in the right direction as a society. ESG integration is a reality for companies and investors searching for impact. We believe that it is the way going forward for all companies, no matter their focus or sector.