Untangling the Complex Threads of Modern Slavery
October 7 is World Cotton Day–an annual event created in 2019 after four cotton-producing countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) applied to the UN for special recognition of the crop. Cotton has much to celebrate–it is the primary source of livelihoods and revenue for up to a billion people. That said, the positive benefits do not extend to everyone in the value chain, as significant human rights challenges have persisted in many countries. Change, however, may be upon us. Cotton could be set to face major dislocations driven by responses to human rights violations, with significant implications for investors.
ESG at a Reasonable Price in China
Over the last decade, portfolio managers worldwide have been increasingly convinced that incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into investment decisions could provide better risk-adjusted returns. As a result, responsible investing, has moved from a niche activity to the mainstream. As more capital shifts to ESG products, there have been discussions regarding the risk of an ESG bubble as stocks with good ESG scores have enjoyed price appreciation and sometimes go beyond fundamentals[i].
The Future of Human Capital: Rising on the Agenda
This has been a year of unprecedented uncertainty and upheaval. It has also cemented the materiality of human capital and the importance of examining preparedness for future workplace challenges. Human capital management is a broad ESG issue that captures important and current matters, such as skills development, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement. It is growing in its importance due to the dynamic and uncertain management landscape. Notwithstanding the shock of the pandemic and the strengthening drive for racial equality, technology, demographics, and globalization are already driving structural change in labour markets.
Building Back Better for the Next Normal
‘Build back better’ has become the new mantra for post-COVID-19 hopes and ambitions. As people, companies and governments are coming to terms with the crisis and starting to consider the post-pandemic world, many are realizing that going back to how things were is neither possible nor desirable. Just like disruptive technologies throughout modern history have swept away what humanity thought was the best or only solution and replaced it with something superior, the disruption brought on by COVID-19 has also opened the door for making and accepting some long-overdue changes. To truly leverage the opportunity to correct the destructive course on many fronts, responses to the pandemic must involve going beyond adapting to the new normal and focus on shaping what we want the next normal to be. Investors can play an important role in this transition by aligning their strategy and active ownership with progressive long-term objectives.
Antitrust in the Digital Age
On July 27th, the chief executives of four (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook) of the world’s most prominent technology companies will appear before the US Congress as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation into their market power.[i] This is the latest in a series of developments that includes federal and state-level investigations in the US into the market practices of these companies. Back in 2018, as part of Sustainalytics publication, ESG Risks on the Horizon, our team had noted that the antitrust related scrutiny of major technology companies is likely to persist given the market concentration these companies had established within the digital economy. While there is significant uncertainty as to the ultimate regulatory response, given the outsized position of these four companies in the S&P 500 and sustainability indices, this type of regulatory and market scrutiny is an area that is important for investors to examine in terms of long-term risks to the enterprise value of these companies.
The Shift to Remote Work: Examining the Risk Landscape
This blog post is the first in a two-part series. In our initial article, we will explore cybersecurity and remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in expanding an enterprise’s attack surface. In our next blog post, we will examine privacy issues related to COVID-19 contact-tracing.
Cruising Post-COVID-19: Lessons and Challenges for the Cruise Ship Industry
In this blog, we assess the impacts of COVID-19 on the cruise ship industry by taking a closer look at the four biggest cruise companies and their COVID-19-related controversies since February 2020. We also gauge their management of product governance and human capital issues, with the aim of informing investors of each company’s preparedness to address relevant risks as well as challenges and potential hurdles in the industry’s post-pandemic operations.
Beer, Wine & Spirits in the Era of COVID-19
Companies operating in the Beer, Wine and Spirits subindustry have suffered from knock-on effects of COVID-19 lockdown measures, as governments across the globe have moved to close hotels, bars and restaurants, and ban large events and gatherings, such as festivals and sports events. Given that these venues are an important source of revenue for alcohol companies, investors within this space may benefit from a closer look at how firms have adapted to the rapidly changing market conditions.
Coronavirus: Are We Protecting the Most Vulnerable?
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe at the start of 2020, frontline medical care became a top priority in stopping the virus. Contrary to the improvement in case management at hospitals, the number of cases in long term care homes (LTCH) rose sharply. With the situation evolving by the hour at times, the number of infections and deaths rose exponentially in the US.
Coronavirus: Food Security in a Global Pandemic
As Covid-19 continues to ravage the world, governments have responded with movement restrictions and border closures. While necessary to protect public health, these stricter safety measures are disrupting food supply chains globally, forcing prices upward and increasing the risk of social unrest.
Sustainable Fund Labels: Diverse Definitions of Sustainability
Sustainable financial products are marked with an increasingly large list of tags, from green, sustainable, socially responsible to thematic ESG, water, carbon or impact funds, and not every investor might know how to make sense of these terms. Sustainable fund labels can be one way to signal to the market that the fund has a dedicated responsible investment strategy.
ESGarp Scores: In Search of Reasonably Priced, Low ESG Risk Stocks
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further amp up the market’s interest in ESG investment research. It’s not just that ESG funds and indices have generally outperformed their non-ESG counterparts since the COVID-19 sell-off began in mid-February.[i] It’s also that the pandemic itself has drawn attention to ESG issues ranging from biodiversity and habitat loss to employee relations and supply chain management.
Vehicles and Ventilators: An ESG Lens on Automakers Pivoting to COVID-19 Solutions
Automakers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with widespread plant closures, stalling demand for vehicles and mounting tensions between corporate management teams and government bodies. On the upside, several auto companies have responded to the global health crisis by pivoting parts of their business models to supply the growing demand for ventilators needed for patients suffering from severe respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.
Coronavirus: Are Companies Prepared to Take Care of Their Employees?
In April 2020, the International Labour Organisation (ILO)[i] estimated that in the second quarter of 2020 there will be a 6.7% decrease in working hours globally (approximately 195 million full-time employees), primarily in the sectors hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic: food service, manufacturing and retailing.
Climate Action, Human Health and Responsible Investing
This year, we mark Earth Day under a pandemic. To date, casualties of the novel coronavirus include more than 170,000 deaths, ongoing disruptions to healthcare systems and a deep economic downturn. As we face the first global recession in a decade, Earth Day – the theme of which this year is climate action – serves as a reminder for investors to reflect on how their investment activities relate to social and environmental health concerns.
The Quest for Supply Chain Resilience: Where Business Sense and Thriving Rural Communities Meet
In this blog post we highlight the need for living income and living wages to build resilient supply chains and resistance to shocks such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. We explore the important role that investors play and how engagement efforts contribute to progress.
Coronavirus: Human Capital Management During and After the Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has been sudden and significant. The transition from business as usual to crisis response has meant that daily routines are no long routine and future planning is in a state of constant revision. We are learning new ways to source essential goods and connect with people. The same applies to companies. While truly exceptional, the pandemic illustrates the importance of proactive business planning and robust risk management systems, with companies’ ability to respond to shocks and adapt to changing circumstances being tested profoundly.
CII Conference Reflections: Emerging Social Issues to Watch for in 2020
Following the Council of Institutional Investors Conference, we highlight two emerging social issues that were top of mind for active investors, Cyberthreats and Human Capital & the Future of Work, and discuss how partnering on engagement can drive long-term value.