Sustainability is a crucial part of the business of Robeco. We were a pioneer of sustainable investing as one of the first asset managers to start taking it seriously in the mid-1990s. It has come a long way since then, as environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are now integrated into the investment process for our entire fundamental equities, fixed income, quantitative and bespoke sustainability fund ranges.
Robeco’s commitment to it is outlined in our annual Sustainability Report for 2018, covering all our activities in this arena last year. It contains a wealth of facts and figures, not least in the total value of assets managed sustainably in Robeco’s core business. Sustainable assets under management and license grew 70% to almost EUR 27 billion by the end of 2018, up 70% on 2017. Despite market declines, assets with factors integrated into the investment process remained stable at EUR 100 billion, or 60% of the EUR 163,5 billion in total assets under management.
We also use active ownership extensively, using engagement and voting to seek ESG improvements at investee companies. Assets under engagement grew by almost 60% to EUR 382 billion as we added new clients for whom we take care of the dialogue with companies. We handled 240 engagement cases in 2018 on environmental issues such as climate change strategies or reducing waste. Assets under voting grew from EUR 63 billion to EUR 70 billion, and we voted at a record number of 5,291 shareholder meetings.
Robeco also believes strongly in improving the lives of people in our local communities. We do this in a number of ways. The Robeco Foundation, which began operations in 2018, aims to give something back by helping to create equal opportunities for disadvantaged children through investing in talent development through education.
Besides our work at the Robeco Foundation, we actively support projects that embrace social sponsorship, including Spinning for Sophia, a spinning marathon for the Erasmus Medical Center children’s hospital. And for the eighth year running, a team of 21 people from our Rotterdam office joined the Roparun, running from Paris (520 kilometers) or Hamburg (580 kilometers) to Rotterdam to help with cancer. Robeco also gives employees the opportunity to work as a volunteer once a year during business hours..
Finally, aiming to practice what we preach, we work in a highly sustainable headoffice in Rotterdam that has a four-star (excellent) new-building certificate from the Dutch Green Building Council.
In his introduction to the 2018 report, Robeco Chief Executive Officer Gilbert Van Hassel, who was named ‘Sustainable CEO of the Year’ at the Pan-European Global Invest Forum, says: “Over the past year, the buzz around sustainable investing (SI) has changed. More and more of our clients and prospects now have ESG requirements integrated in their investment strategies, and SI capabilities are often a key component in the tender process. Most of our competitors – including the largest in the industry – have now embraced SI, launching ESG products and integrating sustainability into their investment processes. While the SI playing field is becoming more crowded, Robeco and RobecoSAM stand out for their long experience, and how we put that into practice.”
“As demand grows for sustainable investing, in step with growing regulation and active ownership, I expect products and strategies will be held to ever higher standards. In this environment, Robeco and RobecoSAM will continue to differentiate themselves. Thanks to our history, we have the right people, the right data and world-class processes in place to help our clients meet their financial and sustainability goals.”