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Engaging with companies affected by Covid-19

Engaging with companies affected by Covid-19

30-07-2021 | Active Ownership Report
The legacy of Covid-19 is the main focus of the Robeco Active Ownership team’s Q2 report, leading with its impact on labor.
  • Carola van Lamoen
    Carola
    van Lamoen
    Head of Sustainable Investing

Speed read

  • Launch of engagement theme targeting labor practices in three key sectors
  • Updates on digitalization in health care and improving practices in mining
  • Focus on climate during AGM season and campaign for good governance  

This quarter marks the launch of a three-year engagement project focused on labor practices in the retail and hospitality sectors, along with the wider gig economy, in the aftermath of the pandemic. In a Q&A, Laura Bosch answers questions about why the team started this engagement program, and what it aims to achieve.

The pandemic emphasized the relevance of digital innovation in health care, reinvigorating dialogues in an engagement theme that began in late 2019, just before Covid-19 made health the number one priority. Anouk in ‘t Veld explains the progress she has seen and the challenges that remain.

The crisis continued to leave a mark on the annual AGM season of shareholder meetings that took place in the second quarter, most of which were conducted virtually rather than in person. Michiel van Esch provides an update on the team’s ongoing engagement theme for good governance, including the topic of board remuneration during the pandemic.

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Improving standards in mining

One issue that precedes the coronavirus is the environmental impact of mining. Clean technologies are leading to booming demand for minerals – but this soaring demand can have significant adverse impacts on ecosystems and communities. Cristina Cedillo outlines how the mining sector is adapting practices to minimize these negative impacts during her engagement.

Voting remains an important tool in the Active Ownership toolbox. As the peak of the 2021 proxy season has drawn to a close, Robert Dykstra reflects on the increasing focus on climate action during shareholder meetings. While the pandemic has dominated the headlines, tackling global warming and decarbonization remains a high priority for investors.

Finally, Japan’s Corporate Governance Code has been revised in several key areas: raising standards for board independence, promoting diversity, and including sustainability into corporate decision making. Carolina Vergroesen highlights reactions to the changes and what it means for investors in Japan.

Shadow of uncertainty

“The Covid-19 pandemic lingers and continues to cast a long shadow of uncertainty on what the world will look like once it is over,” says Carola van Lamoen, Head of Sustainable Investing at Robeco in the introduction to the report. 

“The crisis has once again exposed the fact that certain groups of workers remain vulnerable and require strong labor rights to ensure their continued safety, security and well-being. Additionally, the pandemic underlined the importance of our continued engagement work on the digital innovation of health care.”

“And as the push for carbon neutrality is growing, so is the demand for precious minerals which are required for many renewable solutions. We are engaging with the mining industry to ensure it transitions to more responsible practices to ensure its operations have a limited environmental and social impact.”

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