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Climate change and Covid-19 lead Stewardship Report

Climate change and Covid-19 lead Stewardship Report

29-03-2021 | Active Ownership Report
A tumultuous year that saw sustainable investing become mainstream is reviewed in Robeco’s Stewardship Report for 2020.
  • Victor  Verberk
    Victor
    Verberk
    CIO Fixed Income and Sustainability and Portfolio Manager of Robeco Global Credits
  • Carola van Lamoen
    Carola
    van Lamoen
    Head of Sustainable Investing

Speed read

  • Rise of SI to become mainstream takes center stage in report
  • Climate change, biodiversity and social risks are main focus areas
  • Newly established SI Center of Expertise drives stewardship progress

The introduction of climate-related investment products, a string of engagement successes, and Robeco’s response to Covid-19 are among the topics discussed in the annual report.

While the coronavirus pandemic dominated the world stage, Robeco’s long-standing Active Ownership team – now part of the newly created Sustainable Investing Center of Expertise – continued to drive behavioral change in companies and countries, and help clients meet their goals.

Perhaps the real highlight was the fact that the response to Covid-19 contributed to sustainable investing becoming a mainstream style for the first time.

“The sustainable investing and stewardship landscape moved rapidly in 2020, building momentum and drawing unprecedented levels of attention from investors, companies, regulators and society alike,” says Victor Verberk, Chief Investment Officer for Fixed Income and Sustainability, in the foreword to the report.

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Vision and mission

“At Robeco, we knew it was only a matter of time before sustainable investing went mainstream. Having accumulated over 20 years of experience in offering sustainable products, our vision and mission embody Robeco’s core belief that sustainable investing is better investing.”

“Climate change took center stage as the most significant systemic ESG risk, and Robeco redoubled its efforts to meet the challenge. Through our commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions across all our assets under management by 2050, the further development of our Climate Change Policy, and significant engagement successes, we made a clear statement that investors cannot fall behind in the race to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Robeco has taken a lead in meeting this challenge by becoming the first asset manager in the world to launch Paris-aligned fixed income strategies, also creating a Paris-Aligned Benchmark against which its performance can be judged.

Biodiversity task force

“We know there are even bigger challenges on the horizon,” says Carola van Lamoen, Head of Sustainable Investing. “Loss of biodiversity is potentially a more severe threat than climate change in the long term, and requires frontrunners in the investment community to step up now.”

“That is why we signed the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge in 2020, committing to setting timebound targets for managing biodiversity impacts. Our new internal biodiversity task force will lead the way, while our Active Ownership team continues the engagement on biodiversity we kicked off last year.”

The report also outlines Robeco’s policy engagement efforts on biodiversity. Engagement with policymakers is an emerging form of stewardship and of critical importance in overcoming the challenges of biodiversity loss.

Climate investing: from urgency to solutions
Climate investing: from urgency to solutions
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Responsible labor practices

Still, the response to Covid-19 remained the major feature of what was a year like no other in living memory. “The defining feature of the year, Covid-19, reminded our industry that the ‘S’ in ESG is there for a reason,” says Verberk. “The impact that the pandemic had on workers called for a renewed focus on resilient supply chains and respect for labor rights.”

Robeco’s engagement specialists present the financial materiality of engagement on labor and supply chain topics in the publication. In parallel, Robeco’s SI thought leaders shed light on how stewardship on social issues supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“Our engagement program will continue to tackle these topics head on, buoyed by new momentum from investors globally,” Verberk says. “There is no recovery without sustainability – but whether we ultimately emerge stronger remains to be seen. Robeco is committed to playing its part as a sustainable investor.”

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