The year saw a record level of sustainable assets under management recorded in 2019, with some notable milestones and achievements. It marked the 20th anniversary of launching our first sustainable equities fund in 1999. A lot has changed since then, and as the sustainable investing capabilities of Robeco have grown exponentially, we decided to reclassify our range of strategies to give clients a clearer choice in the level of sustainability they prefer to adopt.
This led to the creation of three categories of fund: Sustainability Inside, Sustainability Focused, and Impact Investing. Assets under management in SI Inside strategies grew to EUR 132 billion, while Sustainability Focus and Impact Investing strategy assets reached EUR 16.5 billion. Net inflows from clients for whom sustainability is deemed to be important in their manager selection criteria increased by 50% between 2018 and 2019.
“These are encouraging numbers, as in the journey towards more sustainable global markets, the reallocation of assets towards more sustainable strategies will make a difference,” says Peter Ferket, Chief Investment Officer of Robeco, in his introduction to the report.
“Our investment teams are also continuing to seek ways to show the impact that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) integration has on our investment decision making and performance, to enable us to prove that it works. For example, during the year we quantified the performance impact of ESG integration in our Global Stars fund, showing that key ESG factors explained about 20% of the fund’s outperformance over this time period.”
“The year also marked the 15th anniversary of the founding of our Active Ownership team, and as can be seen in this extensive report, the drive for using voting and engagement to further the ESG credentials of companies has never been more powerful.”
“As the role of stewardship and what is expected of us by clients grows ever more prominent, we believe strongly in acting as responsible stewards of the assets we manage on behalf of our clients across the globe. We do this in the belief that this adds value for our clients and other stakeholders in the long term.”
For Robeco’s Active Ownership team, 2019 saw record levels of activity, along with four new engagement themes. Robeco exercised its right to vote at almost 6,000 shareholder meetings in 2019, and conducted 255 engagement cases with companies in our clients’ portfolios. New engagement themes that we started to address were single-use plastic, the social impact of artificial intelligence, digital innovation in healthcare, and unsustainable palm oil.
“Climate change will remain a core topic in our engagements,” adds Carola van Lamoen, Head of the Active Ownership team. “Continuous discussions with companies on their decarbonization efforts are vital to combat global warming.
“We also embraced a game-changing innovation in our new theme aiming to stop unsustainable palm oil production by partnering with Satelligence, a satellite imagery data company that monitors deforestation and other impacts of land use.”
“Meanwhile, it is important to stay abreast of newly emerging sustainability priorities. Recent wildfires have thrust the protection of biodiversity into focus globally. Increasing plastic pollution is equally a cause for concern, and is the subject of a new engagement theme launched last year.”
“Businesses are also beginning to rethink their overall place in society, and the ever clearer need for them to contribute to socioeconomic improvement, alongside the generation of financial returns.”