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].
Sustainability Linked Bonds
What are Sustainability Linked Bonds? Sustainability Linked Bonds (SLB) are a forward-looking performance-based instrument. The Bonds financial or structural characteristics (such as the coupon rate) are adjusted depending on the achievement of pre-defined sustainability targets. The adjustment can be in both directions, e.g. an increase in coupon rate if targets are not met or a decrease in coupon rate if targets are met. Key difference with Green/Social/Sustainability Bonds is that the proceeds can be used for general corporate purposes.
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.
Regulatory Standards and COVID-19: Is Oil and Gas Being Given a Hall Pass on ESG?
Globally, oil and gas companies are weathering a storm like no other in their history. Although volatility seems to have settled somewhat since the early months of 2020 (when the Russia-Saudi Arabia oil price war experienced its most heated moments yet), cost-cutting and debt borrowing continues to plague the industry as the vast majority of COVID-19 related restrictions remain in place worldwide.
How China’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Policies have shaped the EV market
As CO2 emissions are inherent to Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs), Electric Vehicles (EVs) are widely considered to be the logical alternative towards realizing zero emissions. With the continuation of ongoing technological refinement and years’ of heavy investment, EV manufacturers have significantly upgraded the performance of their products and improved economies of scale making EV production more economically feasible allowing for EVs to become a more widely considered consumer choice. Improving economies of scale, in both the EV manufacturing and the recycling of decommissioned batteries along with the grid’s transition towards renewable energy will make the positive impacts of EVs increasingly undeniable.
Tomorrow’s Board: Challenges in a Fast-Changing World
The world is changing faster than it ever has. As a result, companies are increasingly facing numerous and complex challenges with both immediate and long-term impacts. Today, companies are facing a health crisis, a social justice crisis and a fallout economic crisis. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice crisis, calling for the end of systemic racism, have reinforced the need for more diverse boards.
Corporates leverage ESG Peer Performance Insights as a risk management tool
As the social and economic challenges of 2020 continue to unfold and markets remain in flux, the resilience of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing marks a silver lining. In the context of today’s bear market, investors are demonstrating their preference for sustainable funds over traditional ones, with Q1 2020 seeing a global influx of USD 45.6bn, compared to outflows of USD 384.7bn for the overall fund universe. Europe has continued to account for the majority of this inflow into sustainable funds, while the U.S. has picked up pace with a 100% y-o-y increase, the highest regionally. Furthermore, Morningstar reported that 89%, or 51 out of 57, of its sustainable indices outperformed their market peers in Q1 2020. For ESG practitioners, this may not come as a surprise as experience has shown that companies with robust corporate cultures and sustainable business practices are best-positioned for long term resilience and growth, leading to stickiness of ESG investments.
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.
Understanding ESG Incidents: Key Lessons for Investors
Our Thematic research report, Understanding ESG Incidents: Key Lessons for Investors, provides a complete exploration of Sustainalytics’ incidents collection framework and offers comprehensive insight into company activities that generate undesirable social or environmental effects.
The Race to Net Zero: Decarbonization Commitments in the Oil & Gas Industry
Recent reports concerning record decreases in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred hope for a “green shift” in our global economy, post-pandemic. The importance of this shift cannot be understated, given that capital investments made within the next five-to-ten years will determine the world’s carbon pathway to 2050 and beyond.
Airlines Post-COVID-19: The Challenges to a Climate-Friendly Recovery
Planes grounded, borders closed and passengers staying at home: the past months haven’t been easy for the airline industry. COVID-19 has led to the deepest crisis ever in the history of the sector.[i] Airlines are in dire need of cash to recover, while at the same time the industry is also expected to adapt and prepare itself for the more critical crisis ahead that is climate change. Despite the slowdown of air travel, long term prospects of mitigating carbon footprint of the industry are not clear. Carbon commitments supported by comprehensive programs are in place, nonetheless, our research suggests that existing measures may not be sufficient to curve down emissions and mitigate climate change.
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.