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Robeco has been engaging with companies since 2005. While, as investors, we see the use of engagement, we didn’t know how companies perceive this. Earlier this year, VDBO (the Dutch investors association for sustainable development), Robeco and University of Amsterdam researched this topic, interviewing a number of companies on how they use engagement.
Palm oil is used in many products including food and cosmetics. It is faced with several environmental and social issues that have become a reputational risk. We are engaging with companies in this industry to improve their performance on issues such as human rights, deforestation and labor standards.
As a sustainable investor, Robeco is convinced that engaging with companies on the most material sustainability issues enhances their competitiveness and profitability. In addition, it generates measurable benefits for investors and society as a whole. Our engagement with Olam is a case in point.
Following allegations of human rights and environmental breaches against the Brazilian subsidiary of Bunge, we started an enhanced engagement with this global agribusiness company in addition to our dialogue on challenges in the soy and palm oil supply chain. The company has taken decisive action, showing good progress on our engagement objectives.
More and more people across the world are adopting an unhealthy lifestyle that could lead to health problems as they get older. Excessive consumption of certain foods and drinks is a big part of this problem, so food and beverage makers are under increasing pressure to respond to this issue. Those that fail to respond, run the risk of suffering falling revenues: Changes in the regulatory and taxation systems, lawsuits, and consumer pressure are all driving the need for companies to change. Those that respond to this issue effectively will maximize their chances of achieving a sustainable, reputable operating model over the longer term.