2020 was a year like no other, with COVID-19 reshaping the way we live, work and invest. As the year began, we were forced to reassess how we interact with each other, how complex systems work together and how nature has more power over us than we normally like to admit.
Our approach to Responsible Investment
First Sentier Investors’ purpose is to deliver sustainable investment success for the benefit of our clients, employees, society and our shareholders. Our vision is to be a provider of world-leading investment expertise and client solutions, led by our responsible investment principles.
We recognise that the individual and collective decisions we make as investors have far-reaching implications. While our business is to protect and enhance the value of our clients’ assets, we are aware of our wider responsibilities, such as upholding the quality and integrity of the financial markets we invest in and the allocation of capital to productive purposes that contribute to a sustainable economy and society.
During the course of this unique year, the First Sentier Investors (FSI) Responsible Investment (RI) Steering Group has continued to set the direction and strategy for RI within the firm. This included extensive discussions about how RI will continue to develop in a post-COVID world.
We believe 2020 will prove to be a watershed year for RI. As we emerge from the pandemic, there will be an everincreasing focus on how companies impact the world around them and how they earn their social licence to operate (SLO). A critical, intangible corporate asset, SLO refers to the broad, ongoing social acceptance that a company has a right to do business.
Key to the SLO equation are the stakeholders who hold companies to account. Governments, regulators and customers all play a vital role, and so do investors. Every decision about where we allocate capital is a vote regarding a company’s fitness to be in business.
We take our responsibility as stewards of our clients’ capital seriously, and this is why we believe in ongoing, meaningful engagement with companies on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. We are committed to proactively engaging with management to foster better practices around issues including carbon emissions, human rights, diversity and workplace health and safety.
We believe that active managers have both an opportunity and a responsibility to be active. In a post-COVID world, we will all be searching for lessons we must take away from the pandemic. It is important that we use this opportunity to recognise the positive impact investors can make, and to continue looking at how we can work collaboratively with the companies we invest in.
Three broad issues, which we have been focusing on for some time, will take on even more importance as we emerge from the current pandemic:
1. Climate change and biodiversity
2. Human rights and modern slavery
3. Workplace diversity, health and wellbeing
In this white paper, we assess how all of these issues have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, how we anticipate they will develop, and how they align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our Approach to the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The 17 SDGs are integrated—that is, they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.
First Sentier Investors supports the SDGs. We believe that investors have an important role to play in allocating capital towards meeting these goals. In addition, we believe that the SDGs serve as a good framework for measuring how our investments and how we as an organisation contribute to sustainable development, which is a priority for us moving forward.
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This material has been prepared and issued by First Sentier Investors (Australia) IM Ltd (ABN 89 114 194 311, AFSL 289017) (Author). The Author forms part of First Sentier Investors, a global asset management business. First Sentier Investors is ultimately owned by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc (MUFG), a global financial group. A copy of the Financial Services Guide for the Author is available from First Sentier Investors on its website.
This material contains general information only. It is not intended to provide you with financial product advice and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making an investment decision you should consider, with a financial advisor, whether this information is appropriate in light of your investment needs, objectives and financial situation. Any opinions expressed in this material are the opinions of the Author only and are subject to change without notice. Such opinions are not a recommendation to hold, purchase or sell a particular financial product and may not include all of the information needed to make an investment decision in relation to such a financial product.
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